My first sponsor said to call him every day. I replied, “But you’re out of town for the next two weeks?” His reply was short and sweet. “I asked you to call me every day. I didn’t say I would talk to you every day.” It was a polite and direct way of saying, “Can you follow a simple direction?” Would I have the willingness to call him every day even if he wasn’t available? Yes, I thought I could do it. It was a simple demonstration of my willingness to get sober. He also said that moving forward, he would match my energy. If I gave him 100%, he would give 100%. If I only gave him 50%, he would only give 50%. If I put in the same amount of effort I put into scoring meth or finding my next hookup, I should be fine.
His next suggestion was to read the first 164 pages of the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous and to let him know when I was finished. I was so desperate to get some relief from my daily crystal meth use. I quickly picked up the book and began reading the archaic prose. When we met soon after I had finished reading, he asked me one simple, but searing, question, “Do you identify in those pages? If so, how?” His question hit me hard because I remembered that line from Bill’s story on page 6: “The remorse, horror and hopelessness of the next morning are unforgettable. The courage to do battle was not there. My brain raced uncontrollably and there was a terrible sense of impending calamity.” Did I identify? Hell yes I identified! “Welcome to my world,” I told my new friend.
Daily horror and hopelessness? Check.
Impending doom? Check.
Courage to do battle gone? Check.
I needed help, and if this man was actually interested in helping me get my life back, the least I could do was match his energy.
And so began nine years of a friendship and partnership through sobriety that grew deeper and more meaningful as time passed. Everyone thinks their sponsor is the best, but I really believed it! I even had a t-shirt that read “My sponsor can kick your sponsor’s ass” that I had picked up at a sober conference we went to together. Not only did he give me the tools to stay clean and sober for many years, but he passed on a simple program of action that I am able to pass along to the people I work with today.
My sponsor was the complete opposite of everything I thought a sponsor should be. I heard his qualification one night at a Crystal Meth Anonymous meeting and related to so much of what he said. Here was a man who spoke of personal things so openly that, at the time, I never would have the courage to talk about, even with my dealer who was my best (and only friend). Yes, I wanted what he had. He was serious, yet kind and supportive. I was immature, suspicious and self-centered. He was rigorously honest and deeply involved in service, and participated in life. I was a liar and had locked myself up inside this self-imposed prison of bathhouses, chatrooms, and dark, dingy apartments. How would this relationship ever work? Will I ever be able to relate to this new sponsor? Well, it worked, and my sponsor went on to become my trusted spiritual advisor, friend, brother, and loved one. I seek that same level of engaged and active sponsorship with the fellows who call me their sponsor.
I often think about how simple this tool is. It helped me stay clean and sober that first year, especially in the face of so many challenges and temptations. I remember getting those first few text messages in the middle of the night from a using buddy who said they had scored. Did I want to come over and play? I quickly played the tape out and thought of the ensuing conversation with my sponsor, and the ass-kicking that would follow! I deleted and blocked that number—problem solved. Now there are some sponsors who would have simply said “go to a meeting” or “change your phone number” or “go pick up another white chip.” That didn’t work for me. I needed to fear the consequences in the form of pointed questions that I couldn’t wiggle out of answering if I relapsed. The funny thing is he would never raise his voice or use any profanities. He would simply ask questions that really helped me play the tape through. This process of building a new construct to deal with my warped thinking, whether it was surrounding sex, intimacy, resentments or fears, helped me stay sober that first year.
What divine architecture is our Twelve Step process to include something as simple as help from another recovering addict! How blessed are we to live in a short window of time, no more than 80 years, where we are given a fighting chance to get clean and sober, and to pass along what we have learned to the next suffering addict. My trust in people and, more importantly, in myself has been restored over time. My sponsor demonstrated brotherly love, invested many, many hours, and instilled in me an unshakeable faith that gave me the strength and commitment to rebuild my life. For this, I am forever grateful.