When I was in early recovery I have major problems around telephoning my sponsor when I needed his help.
I would leave it as long as possible before calling him.
I would be such emotional distress before I finally picked up the courage to phone him. Why?
I kidded myself that he was busy, had his own life to live etc, which was partly true. I did not want to bother him.
Secondly I thought well he is just going to say this or that, I know what he will say so why bother, why bother then? I had a great gift of foretelling the future then!?
So on one hand I though why bother, I kinda know the answers all ready. So why was I in emotional pain then, if I new the answers?
This seems like arrogance on the surface but there is more to this than that.
They say in AA that we recovering alcoholics are egomaniacs with low self esteem, we are either the greatest or the worse, swinging between these two extremes with not much in between.
This is getting closer to the truth. However I do not think we are simply ego maniacs because this does not tally with the chronic low self esteem many of us have experienced.
There is certainly an emotional immaturity which goes with egomania which many of us have. In fact the low self esteem may reflect this too.
But for me, both thinking we know it all and having chronic low self esteem point to something else.
I have heard sponsors say their sponsees do not listen or do as suggested because “they know it all” or have all the answers, that they are in fact sponsoring themselves. There is some truth in this but I do not think it is based on arrogance.
If there is arrogance or a dismissiveness of a sponsor’s suggested actions it may be based on something else.
I think that there is a false pride here which is masking a deep seated sense of shame.
Sponsees, like me, often do not call on the phone sometimes because they do not think they are worthy of your time.
This is one of the main reasons I did not ring. I was not good enough, or deserving enough. Why would my sponsor want to help me!? The lowest of the low?
What appears as arrogance or dismmissiveness may actually be caused by the flip side of the false pride coin which is chronic shame.
Specifically a fear of rejection.
I and others fear the sponsor rejecting them in some way. They fear the sponsor saying “I am too busy now” “I can’t help you now” or “I’ve told you this before!” etc although in my experience this has rarely happened.
Looking back it is now clear that I was projecting my sense of worthlessness on to my sponsor. I was convinced that he will feel the same about me as I feel about myself in other words. I was rejecting me before he had the chance.
These are defense mechanisms guarding against the threat of rejection and have fears of abandonment issues at their core.
They say the alcoholic is scared of nothing more than rejection, this sense of abandonment.
It, for many, goes back to chronic insecure attachment to parents in childhood but for many it doesn’t, it is just there as a knawing hole in the soul.
The challenge is to coax a sponsee out of the dark shadow of rejection fears and fear based shame.
I had major issues with trust when I was in early recovery.
This was another reason for not calling my sponsor. I did not trust him enough.
On a couple of ocsasions I could not sleep and got into a panic attack, fearing that I would relapse. I rang him as he said ring whenever I needed to. I needed to, at 4.00am in the morning. He answered the phone and calmed me out of my panic and helped me return to my sleep. He got me through another night.
He was there whenever I needed, at whatever time, always, he was there to help. As a result I gradually grew to trust him. As a result I gradually grew to believe what he said was true to about recovery and life continuing to get better, which it has. He as telling the truth.
He is the the main reason I am alive today.
His love and tolerance was not conditional, it was there on tap whenever I needed it. it was not like my mother’s at times conditional love, dependent on this or that. It was simply there when I needed it.
Through that I came to trust in a Higher Power, in God.
Encouraging a sponsee, full of shame and rejection issues, with insecure attachment issues to trust and believe that what you are suggesting he does in order to recover as you have recovered is in his interests and is done via your sense of love and care is one of the toughest tests as a sponsor I have found personally.
I have been sponsoring a couple of people again recently – one has a comorbid condition of paranoid psychosis and the other is an alcoholic of my type.
The answer may lay in convincing the sponsee that it is we who recover not him or I individually but we together.
I would have not recovered without the help of other people in recovery, without God’s Help.
We learn a sense of trust, attachment and belonging via community groups like AA and others.
We are deserving of recovery, God believes so, and so do I and we of AA.
We are good enough is His eyes, we are special enough, we are deserving of the unconditional love that many of never fully received as children.
There is a person on the other end of the phone waiting to help you.
Helping you helps him too, helping your recovery helps him recover too. We are in this together. We are no longer alone.