Knowing It Is Different To Showing It



I am not a very good sponsor!

There you have it!

I have come clean – I have nearly ten years recovery but still struggle to be a good sponsor.

So many  things get in the way of me being a good sponsor.

I am also an Al Anon, someone who grew up in a family consisting of an alcoholic father  (who didn’t drink but did not have a 12 step program of recovery) and a mother dependent on Valium after suffering nervous breakdowns, hence I was a Alateen too at one time.

As my dad was effectively a dry drunk at times and my mother struggled to cope there were many traumatic domestic scenes to contend with as a small child.

My mother’s behaviour was emotionally, physically and mentally abusive at times and I grew with an insecure-anxious attachments towards her and a recurrent fear of abandonment/rejection.

There was a lack of appropriate supervision by my parents and my sisters and I often ran wild. Boundaries that define me and others were completely blurred.

I know enough about alcoholism to help a recovering alcoholic and I have enough love in my heart to help another alcoholic in recovery but something always gets in the way.

Me, I get in the way!

I have a need to fix people!

I grew up as a caretaker in my own family as my parents were often lacking in their parental direction. I thought their lives and how they acted were my responsibility that I could manage their lives too and then things would be okay. They wouldn’t have violent arguments and my mother would not try to force a dozen of two pills down her throat and terrorize her children.

I somehow thought her mock or real suicide attempts were to do with me, how I behaved, they were my fault, so I acted to make sure these things did not happen again.

I grew up too soon, never had the childhood others had.

Things around we were too volatile so I sought to control by any means available. I am a world expert in controlling others.

I have a severe case of Al Anon and Adult Child of an Alcoholic (and addict) that I am now only starting to address in my life and in my recovery.

I know exactly how you can recover from alcoholism but have difficulties letting people learn their own mistakes. I am too needy. Too eager for them to recover.

I rush sponsees, scare them off, demand too much from them.

I need to deal with my Al Anon issues before sponsoring anyone else.

The most alarming thing is that this childhood trauma sets you up to re-enact rejection situations throughout your life.

Your “inner child” has learnt that people reject you so you act in a manner, or pick people, to unconsciously ensure this will occur again, this re-enactment of childhood rejection.  You kinda control the rejection that will later occur!?

The acting out of trauma occurs repeatedly throughout ones’s life until the trauma is dealt with via some therapeutic means.

I was due to start EMDR therapy for my trauma but have had to postpone this until my wife is better, she suffers PTSD and anxiety disorder herself and is off work at the moment due to these mental health issues. I am supporting her at the moment. Times are tough at present for sure!

For now I have to stew in the painful emotional residues of my many traumas and hope to see a therapist in the near future.

I constantly have to talk through emotions I have no name for, they are so deep in my implicit memory. I no longer run away from these, at times, very unpleasant physical and emotional sensations but sit with them, and talk them out. This is a change in my approach, feelings do not kill, what we do with them sometimes does.

Sensations in our body from the past also propel our behaviours often without us consciously knowing so.

More on this in a later blog.

I cannot sponsor anyone for the foreseeable future. I even set myself up for failure with the very people I most want to help. This is trauma not alcoholism.

I will fill you in with other stressful events that are occurring in my life in the next blog.

So let’s end where we came in  – the simple fact that knowing it is different to showing it.

I have to get to recover the real me more before I help  anyone else. As I need help myself, I can’t fully help others at present.

Recovery is at times a process of finding out or discovering the other disorders and problems that we have other than alcoholism and addictive behaviours, it is also in finding out and discovering what issues and disorders fulled alcoholism in the first place. The trauma, the absue, the bereavements, etc

There are many layers of this metaphorical onion to peel and they all make you want to cry!

That is the way it is, acceptance of this is the key as always.

An old guy of over thirty years recovery told me that he sponsors by showing recovery not by preaching it.

I haven”t got there yet I am afraid. I know it but…

I also want them to succeed so much I scare them off, I become too intense!

I demand too much too soon, that is my default setting. Set myself up for failure as a sponsor.

I want them to “get it!” soon as possible to reduce the risk of relapse.

This is however flawed because it is fear based thinking.

I want them to get it before they relapse again, that is the truth. At some unconscious level I want them to “be saved” so that they do not try to kill themselves again with substances like my mother used to attempt to do. That terror drives my behaviour without me knowing it.

It is not borne out of Grace but fear.

The simple truth is that I do not trust God enough at times and try to fix hings myself. I have not fully forgiven God the many many things that I somehow believe happened on his watch, I guess?

In the end, I can only share my experiencence of recovery and let the rest be, let God take it from there. I know this in my head but my heart revolts.

My Al ateen/al Anon side takes over.

I want to make sure they get better, ASAP!

My motives seem good but they are warped. There is a bad motive in a sense under a good one.

I have to learn to increase my trust in the process.

Let others make their own mistakes and have patience when they do. Having love and tolerance of others is to let them be themselves, free to make there own conclusions, come to their own understandings.

I am  but the messenger, passing on  a message that has been passed on to me.

That is my role in this, not to fix but to allow someone else the space to make the same mistakes I did.

I can’t speed along someone’s recovery, they have to go at their own pace, otherwise it is frightening.

The good can be the enemy of the best.

I have this deep seated fear that whatever I do it is not enough so I make up for this by doing too much, too much….ending up manic and off-putting.

Ten years in and still a long way to go.

More, unfortunately, will be revealed…

God goes deep!


I know It All but I am Not Good Enough

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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.