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Why I Prefer Male Sponsors

Conventional wisdom dictates that the sexes should stick together when it comes to sponsorship. What happens if I’d rather do it with a guy?

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By Amy Dresner

05/13/12

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When I say that I like male sponsors better than female ones, people assume that means I don’t like women. It doesn’t. I have plenty of close women friends. I just prefer not to be sponsored by them.  

I had a very close relationship with my father growing up. My mother wasn’t always around: she was a workaholic for the early part of my life and, when I was 13, moved to Oaxaca, Mexico permanently. So my father raised me, primarily. This means that I can play poker, basketball and drink but don’t know shit about cooking, cleaning or properly fitting bras. And it means that to have a man give me direction and suggestions feels very comfortable and normal.

My very first sponsor was an older Brentwood lady who was big into prayer. I had a handful of others, but most didn’t last longer than a few months. I think they found me a hard horse to ride. Still, it’s worth noting that the longest sponsor relationship I had—three-and-a-half years—was with a woman: a strict black lesbian. And no one objected to that, even though it could be argued that lesbians are just as clueless about romantic relationships with men as straight men are about being a woman. What I’ve determined over the years of sponsor-seeking is that there will never be a perfect fit. I will never find my doppelganger. Still, sponsors are there to take us through the steps and not guide us in every life decision, so I don’t see the problem with having an opposite sex sponsor. Plenty of people have opposite sex therapists. What’s the difference?

If you want to know that you can be loved and accepted by a man—not for sex or money but for yourself—try doing a fourth step with a male sponsor.

I think doing the steps is challenging enough, so why not do them with somebody who makes you feel comfortable? And if I feel more comfortable doing the steps with a man, I figure that’s my business. The issues I bring to my sponsors, after all, are human and not female issues: fear, insecurity, a desire for love, struggles with lust, financial uncertainty, and everything else. And there’s nothing in the Big Book that says that you have to do the steps with a same sex sponsor (actually, sponsors aren’t mentioned in the Big Book at all). Besides, if you’re gay, doesn’t that bring up the same challenges as having an opposite sex sponsor if you’re straight?

I’ll admit that I have been attracted to my male sponsors. When I kept relapsing, somebody suggested a specific man in the program who had double-digit sobriety and was great with relapsers and newcomers. He was very attractive and when I met him, I told him jokingly, “You’re too sexy to be my sponsor.” But then I heard him share. And he told my story—complete with relapses, body dysmorphic disorder and depression. I put his number away since a very beautiful, successful actress was sponsoring me at the time. Unfortunately, I relapsed. Over and over and over again. During one particularly bad relapse, I was shooting coke and then having seizures immediately afterwards. Between seizures, I called this man. He showed up at my house on his motorcycle and proceeded to flush hundreds of dollars worth of cocaine down the toilet and throw away a large bag of syringes. I looked on in despair. Then he gave me a hug.

“You know I love you, right?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, feeling uncomfortable.

“And I will never have sex with you, okay?” he added.

“Okay.” I nodded, still high and dazed from my last convulsion. It all felt like an out-of-body experience.

Was I attracted to him? Absolutely. But is that any different from getting a crush on your teacher? I had a friend in the program that had such blurry boundaries between sex and love that she became attracted to her very gay male sponsor. And despite my attraction to my sponsor, I did deep, transformative work. It never got in the way. If anything, I followed his direction more because I wanted to please him. We ended up parting ways over somebody I was dating: he thought this relationship posed a threat to my sobriety and demanded that I end it. I refused. And not long after, his prediction came true and I relapsed over this relationship. 

Prior to my marriage, I had real issues with men. I had a fear that if a man truly got to know who I was, he would reject me and so I tended to pick people who were emotionally unavailable to begin with. Then, when they did reject me, I could chalk it up to the fact they were never available to begin with—to me or anyone. If you want to know that you can be loved and accepted by a man—not for sex or money but for yourself—try doing a fourth step with a male sponsor. It’s a nice testing ground. This man and I sat on his couch and I read my resentments and my sexual inventory and revealed my darkest secrets, sobbing the whole time. He just nodded and told me he loved me and that is was okay. The freedom I felt afterwards is indescribable. I felt lovable—for the very first time ever. There was an intimacy I’d never experienced with a man before—separate from sex, free of manipulations or desire. After dragging out all my scary skeletons and heavy baggage, he did not reject me or throw me away. Quite the opposite: we were closer than we had been before and just continued down the road of recovery. It was a new experience to disclose ugly truths to a man and not have the relationship disintegrate. 

I have a male sponsor now—somebody I’ve known for years. It is a great match. I deeply admire his program. He is never hesitant to call me out on my behaviour—sexual, romantic or otherwise. And I have never once felt like shouting back, “How the fuck would you know?

People give me grief about having a male sponsor all the time. “You obviously have an issue with women,” they’ll say. “You should get a female sponsor.” Or: “Why don’t you work with a woman? Why do you always pick men?” I just shrug it off. I work with people that I feel I can be honest with, and that happens to be men right now. Maybe in the future, I will choose to work with a woman. 

I even went through a brief period where I attended a weekly men’s stag. I had been complaining to a sober male comic friend that I didn’t like meetings and couldn’t find one that felt like a good fit and he suggested a small men’s stag on a Sunday at his sponsor’s house. Once he got permission from the guys for me to attend, I started showing up. Sure, you could make the argument that I liked the attention but I honestly felt more comfortable there than I did at any women’s meetings. I was just considered one of the guys and it was great. There were six of us, sitting in a circle, reading the Big Book and then sharing. The men would share that they felt they weren’t getting enough sex or about their obsession with porn and I totally identified. After, we’d all go out to eat. I was the first woman to ever join their group and I don’t believe there have been any since. Eventually, though, boundaries did get a bit crossed and my then (male) sponsor “strongly suggested” I stop attending that meeting so I did. 

The truth is that my sponsor-sponsee relationships aren’t really all that different when I have a male or female sponsor. It’s a dynamic that truly transcends gender.

Amy Dresner is a sober comedian who liberally pulls material from her depressive illness and drug addiction. She performs all over Los Angeles and is also on a national recovery tour called "We Are Not Saints." She also wrote about sex and dating in sobriety, among other topics, for The Fix. 

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