So What? I Don't Have A Sponsor

By billymanas 05/09/19

There is this prevailing theory among psychologists—both real ones and armchair amateurs—that while people are in the grips of addiction, they stop growing emotionally. In other words, if one was to, say, start smoking weed at 14 years old and finally find themselves in recovery at 38 years old, emotionally that person is not 38; they’re about 15. I don’t agree with this entirely. As a matter of fact, I’m old and crotchety enough at this point to distrust any pat and across-the-board theories like this. One of the loveliest and most frustrating things about human beings is that they are all very different and, because of this, these sort of two-dimensional beliefs, are not always accurate.

Given that very long and protracted caveat, I do have to admit that there were things that happened to me in early recovery that have stuck with me the way early events in one’s formative years of life would stay. My relationship with my first sponsor is a great example. He was doing quite well financially, and he always gave me the impression that living in a boarding house and driving a cab was going to be a fixed state for me. I always resented that and wanted to find a sponsor who would not only see my potential but help me fulfill it.

My second sponsor was a guy who once admonished me for hugging a woman in a meeting and was found a short time later drunk in a hotel room with an escort.

My third sponsor was using secretly the entire time he was working steps with me.

My fourth sponsor, a retired professor, was great for a few years—until I began to see a little success with my book proposal. Somehow, he seemed a little too invested in trying to deflate all my hopes and dreams and it was difficult for me to not see this trait as a natural outcropping of his own frustrations with publishing. The final straw came when I called him to tell him how excited I was that my agent received invitations from all the major publishers to send my proposal and his response was, “Well, that doesn’t mean anything.”

I suppose, in some way, it didn’t but that really wasn’t the point. The process of one trying to break free from the proletariat and accomplish something great, takes enormous energy, real vision and an almost delusional amount of positive thinking. All Negative Nellie’s have got to be given the heave-ho as quick as one might brush a burning ember that popped from a fire onto their clothes. I call it the final straw because he reacted similarly when I found out I was finally signing with a literary agent. His exact retort was, “That’s good…I guess.” Perhaps at one time, I may have just allowed myself to wallow in resentment, but things were changing for me and I was changing right along with them. I just pulled the plug on our relationship without explanation.

The thing was, I didn’t totally believe in myself at that point. I would say that I did out loud, but anyone who deals in the smoky world of the creative knows full well that there is a small nagging voice in our heads that keep trying to remind us that we’re not good enough. It takes an awful lot of energy to ignore that voice and push forward anyway. This guy was just helping to make that voice louder and that needed to be stopped immediately.

My ideas about the 12-step subculture have evolved through the years and much like my ideas about the psychological theory I mentioned in the opening paragraph, they are not one way or another or black and white. In one respect, I needed that ragtag group of crazy people in the beginning. I can honestly say that program saved my life. Statistically, though, that makes me somewhat of an anomaly. Most peer reviewed studies put the success rate of 12-step programs at 5-10%. Doctors had a far greater success rate with placebo surgery in arthritic patients.

There is a quote in early 12-step literature that says, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has followed our path.” This is actually not a false claim. The 90% that fail to stay sober for any length of time, don’t follow the path. It seems almost preposterous for anyone to think that this might be the only hope for someone in the grips of addiction. Preposterous, but very popular. It is the prevailing belief of those in the program.

I am keeping an open mind. As overdose deaths in our country surpass the numbers of people dying in car accidents for the first time in history, I applaud anyone who is trying to expand on a program that saves one out of every ten people.

As for myself, perhaps one day I will get back to N.A. and find another sponsor. The fifth time could very well be the charm.


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