A.A. Myths: The Myth of Sponsorship

No where in the first 164 pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous does it tell the newcomer or any other member of A.A. to get a sponsor.

I hear it all the time in the rooms of A.A., “Get a sponsor”, “Call your sponsor everyday”, and “Don’t make any decisions until you talk to your sponsor”.

I heard one fellow in the rooms of A.A. say, “My sponsor told me to call him everyday.” He replied, “But you’re out of town for the next two weeks?” His sponsor replied, “I said, you’re to call me everyday. I didn’t say I would talk to you everyday!”

Incredible! I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this pathetic ‘bromide’ touted as a sound strategy for helping the newcomer recover. Furthermore, I hear other “sponsees” share about how dependent they are on their sponsors for advice and counselling on medical, psychological, financial, legal, and relationship matters. “They won’t make any decisions about anything until they talk to their sponsors.” It’s no wonder why the rooms of A.A. are wrought with co-dependent members unable to function independently without being hand-held and spoon-fed their sponsor’s “pap” for some indefinite amount time in the program of A.A.

I believe one of the biggest reasons A.A. recovery rates have plummeted from its stellar 50% to 75% success rates of the 1940’s to a dismal 10% or less success rate in the rooms today is due to poor and ineffective sponsorship.

Bill W. writes: “Though three hundred thousand have recovered in the last twenty-five years, maybe half a million more have walked into our midst, and then out again. We can’t well content ourselves with the view that all these recovery failures were entirely the fault of the newcomers themselves. Perhaps a great many didn’t receive the kind and amount of sponsorship they so sorely needed. We didn’t communicate when we might have done so. So we AA’s failed them.” (AAGrapevine. The Dilemma of No Faith. 1961. Vo. 17 No. 17).

Working with Others

“Any A.A. who has not experienced the joys and satisfaction of helping another alcoholic regain his place in life has not yet fully realized the complete benefits of this fellowship.” (A.A. Sponsorship Pamphlet. 1944. Clarence S.)

Question: What does the Big Book reference 123 times in the first 88 pages? Answer: Alcoholics working with other alcoholics. And, by working with another alcoholic, the Big Book doesn’t mean a “sponsor”, it specifically means two alcoholics working together, putting the A.A. Program into action.

How it important is it for A.A. members to work newcomers? Our Big Book says:

“Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 89)

“This seemed to prove that one alcoholic could affect another as no nonalcoholic (non-addict) could. It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic (recovered member) with another (newcomer), was vital to permanent recovery.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 3rd ed. xvi)

“We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 132)

“But if you are shaky you had better work with another alcoholic instead.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 102)

“Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 97)

What is the Function of the Big Book?

“To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 3rd ed. xiii)

“Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? Well, that’s exactly what this book is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 45)

Spiritual Dependence NOT Sponsor Co-Dependence

Another thing I hear it all the time is, “Who is your sponsor?” When I reply, “I don’t have a sponsor”, I get an endless tirade of, “You know a person who sponsors them self, has a fool for a sponsor”. Now, when I came into the program, I had someone sit down with me and show me how to work the steps. After working the steps he then told me to show others how to work steps. And, that’s what I have been doing for the past several years, teaching others how to work the Twelve Steps and how to teach others to teach others to work the Twelve Steps. Occasionally, I will call the man who showed me “How It Works” to sometimes clear some Step Five work or discuss approaches on Step Nine, but mostly I call to talk about working with newcomers. And, he sometimes calls me to clear up some Step Five work or some other aspect of the program, but mostly he call me to discuss working with others.

Once again, no where in first 164 pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous does it ever recommend that I call a “sponsor”. When I need direction or guidance, the Big Book is very clear about who I should contact: “…he (Bill W.) was convinced of the need for moral inventory, confession of personality defects, restitution to those harmed, helpfulness to others, and the necessity of belief in and dependence upon God.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 3rd ed. xvi)

“But there is One who has all power that One is God. May you find Him now! (Alcoholics Anonymous.” 59) “Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director.” (Alcoholics Anonymous.” 62)

In the evening:

After making our review we ask God’s forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken. (Alcoholics Anonymous. 86)

In the morning:

We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. (Alcoholics Anonymous. 86)

During the day:

In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. (Alcoholics Anonymous. 86)

We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. (Alcoholics Anonymous. 87)

AA sponsorship styles

The role of the Big Book Sponsor is to teach the newcomer how to work a Twelve Step Program and show them how teach other newcomers to do the same.

Dr. Silkworth writes: “In the course of his (Bill W.) third treatment he acquired certain ideas concerning a possible means of recovery. As part of his rehabilitation he commenced to present his conceptions to other alcoholics, impressing upon them that they must do likewise with still others. This has become the basis of a rapidly growing fellowship of these men and their families. This man and over one hundred others appear to have recovered.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 3rd ed. xxiii)

The Big Book gives explicit instructions on how to approach and work with the newcomer:

But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished. (Alcoholics Anonymous. 18)

That the man who is making the approach has had the same difficulty, that he obviously knows what he is talking about, that his whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real answer, that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou (that means we are not saints nor are we crusaders or mission makers), nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay (that means the program is freely given to others and that there is to be no professional class of therapy or counselling), no axes to grind (we’re not here to have windy arguments or frothy debates with the newcomer), no people to please (that means no ass-kissing), no lectures to be endured (that means we are not here to judge or run your life)-these are the conditions we have found most effective. (Alcoholics Anonymous. 18-19)

In the 1940’s, the A.A. Beginners’ Meetings ‘s provided a safe and structured environment where newcomers TOOK all Twelve Steps and recovered from alcoholism, as well as a place where those who had been through the Steps learned how to sponsor those who were just starting on their spiritual journeys. The Beginners’ Meetings fostered participatory sponsorship and many newcomers were sponsored by two or more A.A. members, the sponsor and his or her apprentice(s). The term the early A.A.’s used to describe this relationship was co-sponsorship.

Key Concepts from the 1940’s Beginner’s Meetings

Wally P., author of the book, “Back to Basics: The Alcoholics Anonymous Beginners’ Mettings” and an A.A. archivist, interviewed many of the A.A. pioneers from the 1940’s about the early program of A.A.

Here is what Wally discovered about A.A. sponsorship in the 1940’s:

1. Don’t put barriers between the newcomer and Step Twelve. Help the newcomer get to Step Twelve as quickly as possible, so they can experience the life-changing spiritual awakening that occurs as the direct result of taking the Steps. Reassure the newcomer that our program of recovery will relieve their alcoholism/addiction. Show the newcomer that the process is simple, straightforward and that it really works.

The program takes only a few hours to a week at best to learn. Bill W. started working with other alcoholics as soon as he finished his last treatment which was a 5 to 7 day stay in the hospital back in the 1930s.

“My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems….I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic (addict) would save the day.” (Alcoholics Anonymous.15)

“…the broker had worked hard with many alcoholics on the theory that only an alcoholic could help an alcoholic, but he had succeeded only in keeping sober himself. He suddenly realized that in order to save himself he must carry his message to another alcoholic.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 3rd ed. xvi) “Hence the two men (Bill W. and Dr. Bob) set to work almost frantically upon alcoholics arriving in the ward of the Akron City Hospital.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 3rd ed. xvii)

Ebby T. was only 60 days sober when he passed the solution over to Bill W.

“But he (Ebby T.) did no ranting. In a matter of fact way he told how two men had appeared in court, persuading the judge to suspend his commitment. They had told of a simple religious idea and a practical program of action. That was two months ago and the result was self-evident. It worked! (Alcoholics Anonymous. 9)

2. It’s the responsibility of the Sponsor to call the newcomer! Demonstrate that you are there for the newcomer by checking in with them on a regular basis. Remember, the newcomer is very ill and needs your encouragement and support.

I’ve heard many sponsors tell their sponsees to call them everyday as a way of showing their willingness and if the fail to do so, they’re fired by their sponsors. I understand the notion of trying to gauge the newcomer’s willingness, but measuring the newcomer’s willingness by their ability to phone daily is like a doctor telling their patient, “you have a terminal disease and I need to treat you daily, so you must call on me daily to make sure I give you the remedy.” That’s not the way it works. The doctor realizes the patient is sick and it is the doctor who calls on the patient regularly to see that their remedy is administered as required. It’s the same way with the suffering alcoholic. Their minds and bodies are sick. It’s our responsibility as recovered alcoholics to call on the newcomer, to make sure the newcomer gets our common solution so that they too may recover.

3. Read the appropriate parts of the “Big Book” to the newcomer. The newcomer is in no physical or emotional condition to read, let alone comprehend, the “Big Book” by them self. Therefore, read and explain the appropriate parts of the book to the newcomer, specifically those 50 or so passages that pertain directly to taking the Twelve Steps.

This is an approach the “Muckers” of the Greater Toronto area developed in the early 1990’s. The Muckers focus is the Big Book; they use no other text. The emphasis is on the first 89 to 103 pages of the Big Book, which have not been altered since originally published in 1939. The process of one alcoholic or addict guiding another through the Book takes between 24 and 30 hours, usually done in 2 – 3 hour sessions, typically over a period of 2 – 3 weeks. In the process, the newcomer circle words and highlight passages and writes comments and notes in the margin of their Big Book. That’s way they are called Muckers, because they muck up the Book! During this period of “being booked”, the individual actually performs the first 11 steps of the program. By teaching it the “Mucker” method to other newcomers they complete Step Twelve.

4. The healing is in the sharing not in the writing. Sit down with newcomer and guide him or her through the Fourth Step inventory. If necessary, write the inventory while the newcomer does the talking. this will help relieve any anxiety or apprehension the newcomer may have about this part of the program.

So often I hear of alcoholics relapsing on Step Four. Why? Because they’re sponsors cut them loose and tell them to go do an inventory. Most alcoholics are either too jittery and sick to write out their inventory, or too afraid to look at the carnage of their past, so they relapse instead. By taking the Step Four and Five journey together, both recovered alcoholic and the newcomer can uncover the character defects and make efficient headway to Steps Six and Seven.

5. Assist the newcomer with his or her amends. Work together on the newcomer’s amends. Be the first person the newcomer sees after an amends is made. Once again, when I work with newcomers, I assist them in mapping out their list of amends and how to possibly make them.

6. Share guidance with the newcomer. Show the newcomer that you believe in and are practicing two-way prayer on a daily basis. Again, I am always doing Step Three and Seven prayers with newcomers and encouraging them to meditate on the answers rather than calling me for advice.

7. Co-sponsor the next newcomer. Have the newcomer accompany you as you work with the next person. This way, the newcomer will gain confidence in his or her ability to guide others through the recovery process.

One of Cleveland, Ohio A.A. founders, Clarence S. writes in a pamphlet on A.A. sponsorship: “Additional information for sponsoring a new man can be obtained from the experience of older men in the work. A co-sponsor, with an experienced and newer member working on a prospect, has proven very satisfactory. Before undertaking the responsibility of sponsoring, a member should make certain that he is able and prepared to give the time, effort, and thought such an obligation entails. It might be that he will want to select a co-sponsor to share the responsibility, or he might feel it necessary to ask another to assume the responsibility for the man he has located.” (A.A. Sponsorship Pamphlet. 1944. Clarence S.)

Thus we grow. And so can you, though you be but one man with this book in your hand. We believe and hope it contains all you will need to begin. We know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself: “I’m jittery and alone. I couldn’t do that.” But you can. You forget that you have just now tapped a source of power much greater than yourself. To duplicate, with such backing, what we have accomplished is only a matter of willingness, patience and labor. (Alcoholics Anonymous.162-163)

Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends — this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives. (Alcoholics Anonymous. 89)

Cameron F. Toronto, ON

P.S. How do you work with newcomers? Let us know, we like to hear about your experiences working with newcomers.


Alcoholics Anonymous: the Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. New York City: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 2001.

S. Clarence. 1944. A.A. Sponsorship Pamphlet. http://silkworth.net/aahistory/aapamplet_clarences.html

Who are the Muckers in A.A. and C.A? http://www.bigbooksponsorship.org/index.cfm?Fuseaction=ArticleDisplay&ArticleID=480

Newcomers, How do you read your Big Book? 2008. http://www.bigbooksponsorship.org/blog/index.cfm/2008/7/8/Newcomers-how-do-you-read-your-Big-Book

P., Wally. Back to Basics?: the Alcoholics Anonymous Beginners’ Meetings?: “Here Are the Steps We Took– ” in Four One-hour Sessions. Tucson, AZ: Faith with Works Pub. Co., 1998. http://www.aabacktobasics.org

131 thoughts on “A.A. Myths: The Myth of Sponsorship

  1. The word sponsor is not mentioned in the first 164 pages either. I agree with most of what you say but never forget if you get 15 alcoholics in a room you will get 20 opinions. If you would like to commiserate please feel free for I can learn a lot from you.

    See you on the radio



  2. I don’t really have any quick fix early AA meeting reenactment going on and certainly don’t want this site to become a Craigslist or The Fix recovery forum cesspool of anti AA either..I don’t consider myself a threat to anyone who has the Big Book Step experience..I just speak freely of the calamity through the many years of the outlined Big Book recovery process..I would however like to make clear what has worked for me regarding the directions in the Big Book on Alcoholism also reminding myself although I have swallowed and digested some bug chunks of myself occasionally my shite still does stink……
    There is a bit of fun in it all when I let myself see it. The craziness of Alcoholism, the work involved to recover and stay that way each new day sober….

    Notice Bills story is as if we are being 12 Stepped by someone who has read Working with others and is willing to help.The first few pages are la ti da ho hum Hampshire Grenadier and then it gets into the mind of a chronic Alcoholic. I either identify and am drawn to it or not..I still get all charged up with security when I read it..Good stuff. To not acknowledge this is the first step off the Spiritual path into the intellectual cure of Big Book college..To skip Bill and put the focus on an opinion of a Dr who has not had the experience himself is no different than today trotting down to the Therapist with a bad case of emotional diarrhea aimed at the security of a diploma on the wall and leaving with a prescription for the latest solution science has. All to pay for their desktop sleepers(tweed sport jackets with suede patches on the elbows) with..( hmmm, a tad of negative opinion there?) lol..

    Humana humana (More about Alcoholism)yeah yeah good stuff( There is a solution)sure sure it’ll work for me( We agnostics)then we get to How it works, the three pertinent ideas. Stop right there!So here it is, How it works, yay or nay, what’s it going to be..

    I am Alcoholic and cannot manage my own life? Bad management? check!
    Probably no human Power can relieve my Alcoholism? Money? Mommy? Me? Mona? Melissa? Mary? Margret? Madonna? Muffy? check!
    God could and would if He were sought? My own conception of a Spiritual Power greater than myself? That’s it? That’s enough to make the approach? check!

    So I’m ready to make the decision to turn my life and will over the this Higher Power, why? Because no human power can relieve my alcoholism and I have proven myself to be a failure at life including my relationship with rational alcohol consumption. Yup, loser!..I just don’t know what to do to fix it so the facts are in..I’ve become open to Spiritual concepts..Oddly I read the third Step prayer with confidence when just weeks before I couldn’t even speak the L word or G word, something is happening..It’s like I’m high on willingness.

    So before I stand on one leg snapping my fingers and chant the third Step prayer with my Spiritual advisor I try to understand the idea of it all, making sure I am ready. What is this third Step about? Becoming a Jesus freak? Start a local Agape late night young peoples meeting? Putting a celebrate diversity sticker on my car bumper? watching the Gay pride parade instead of going to the Sober Bikers pig roast hoping to see the girl from the wednesday night groups tits? Becoming one with the universe? Accessing the power of Grey Skull? No, it’s much simpler and by far more serious than that, it’s being restored that I may better serve those like myself who suffer from Alcoholism..Seems unbelievable I am worthy of it but maybe those who have gone before me are right, a complete psychic change can apply to me if I’m willing to follow through with the rest of the work..I can solve the drink problem.

    I know a little here, I know what it’s like to be caring or thoughtful toward others I just can’t seem to do it without motive.I get the actor director thing, I’m so full of fear I’m always assuming and arranging, manipulating…The Higher Power I believe will remove all I secretly hide from the people so I no longer have anything to steal. No reason to be so paranoid and protective. Supposedly I’ll be good enough as I grow in understanding and effectiveness with the Higher Power. I then can go anywhere without fear.I no longer need others approval to secure my self esteem, I am given the gift of honesty to share with my fellows. Call it what you like, I call it a reason for living..So yeah, I’m ready for Step three, I believe..

    Next we launch out with Step four? sure thing..But what about the lint balls behind the refrigerator than haven’t been vacumed for ten years, shouldn’t I do that first before writing a fearless and thorough moral inventory? I should also seriously consider painting my house first so I have a good responsible attitude when I write, be responsible right? yes? No, launch means launch, like Cape Canaveral launch. If this is too difficult or feels like a school project then the problem is back in Step three..Many of us are ready yes but haven’t accsessed the power to feel good enough about ourselves to help ourselves, we need to start praying right away for just about everything we do, we are in trouble and we know it..May I suggest asking your God to show you a place to be quiet for a few hours so you can pray to pick up the pen and put it on the paper without major distraction…Try it once, twice, everytime you write. Humble yourself with the third Step prayer reminding yourself of your decision and willingness to move on from your life of habitual bad management….I’m not saying you can’t write during SUPERBOWL commercials or the INDY 500, I just don’t recommend it..

    This is getting long, maybe later I’ll continue with 4-12 if I’m not thrown off..

    Be good to yourself today my fellow thumpers that others may benefit.

    • Some of us just don’t have this much time to work with a newcomer to this level. I guess the newcomer will need other friends to fill in the blanks, or find someone else.

  3. I read your whole page and finally didn’t feel like a "undisciplined child"….I have been an alcoholic for 35 years, I and out of the rooms for 18 years, people (sponsors) telling me to move away from my family and get on my own to grow independently (so I would leave the rooms again), this time I got a sponsor, did the work, found something new to me (a higher power whom I call god) and I haven’t had a drink or drug in over 2 years, I am happy,joyous and free, I am sponsorless, I work with others, and I go to meetings when I have the time, life showed up and I am here for it, no matter what comes my way…my House burnt down 6 months into my sobriety and I didn’t drink, I was homeless and lost all my pets from the fire, I didn’t drink, but I did know that god had my back and I thanked him everyday for the pain.i Understand it all now, I was still running on self will til he rendered me completely powerless…he found the "chink in my armor"… I am happy, I am content, I remember vividly what my life was like and I choose never to live that way again because I no longer have the dilemma of "lack of power"… I found it and I will never let it go….and I don’t harass my sponsees, I take them thru their steps and I let them go live their lives, I think I must’ve really understood the big book, get thru the steps quickly, work with other alcoholics, and live your dam life……its fairly simple…im Not a power hungry nazi sponsor making all these ridiculous demands…been there done that…I feel confident that my life will remain long and happy…I’ve already had nothing, and now I’ve got more than I imagined…self-worth and acceptance…priceless…God Bless you

  4. I don’t know Wally P although I do know recovered sober people who’ve met him and his wife and speak highly of them both..

    I disagree with the healing is in the sharing not the writing..This is obviously not Big Book Steps and follows more toward the 12/12 read and apply with others recovery process..The whole God works through people thing..Sponsor, trail guide, mentor, Spiritual advisor whatever you want to call it..The Book is clear that both must walk the Spiritual path daily, not teacher and student but as themselves in their own Spiritual growth.. For instance if a man who is guiding another through the directions in the Book prays for guidance from his Higher Power it will not materialize unless his own house is in order and that doesn’t happen automatically, he too maintains his daily reprieve..It is clear your reliance is always on the Higher Power, your God will show you the way..

    If we were stamping out Big Book thumpers that would be a different story but we’re not..Our main objective is to show the new man how we recovered and solved the drink problem with the specific directions in the Book. Offer to show him where as self reliance has failed we were reborn to a new attitude and outlook on life on the suggested Spiritual path of AA recovery or Big Book 12 Steps..You can share how to rebuild a small block Chevy if you want..But share in his writing? absolutely not, that’s between him and his God at this point as he has made a 3rd Step decision..You are there to follow directions stay in the perimeters of the mechanics laid out in masterly detail in the Book..You may become a witness as his Spiritual advisor or Spiritual power of example in Step 5 not his counselor..You may share willingness with Step 7 as he must realize he is on his way to serving the man who suffers with his new found Spiritual freedom..Day by day as he reviews his 8 Step list and prepares to go out and clean up his past that banging on his remarried ex wife’s door claiming his new found sobriety may not be in everyone’s best intrest and even that is from your own experience and not for you to judge by arranging his moral fiber…You may become the one he talks to at once after he turns to his God for direction in Step 10..He may pause when agitated or doubtful with Step 11 and not feeling inspired will look for your input occasionally..Step 12 comes from his Higher Power not because he’s next in line to save the masses. It’s up to him to pray for direction to be of maximum service to the suffering man and himself at this point..If you’re babysitting him or in there for some twisted or justified control you’re on the wrong track..You’re being irresponsible with him and the lives of those he is helping..It’s a God thing, the more you add the farther away it gets..

    The Spiritual journey is set in place for the new man to grow in understanding and effectiveness with his God. This is developed as he continually prays for direction asking for relief to be of maximum service to the man who still suffers..He has gotten or understood the IDEA of Step 3 Big Book prayer and has the ability to launch out on a course of vigorous action..Yes many have never attempted and are afraid..This is where the man prays for courage and strength to pick up the pen and put it on the paper , he prays for the ability to write down and face the defects in himself that have blocked him off from the Higher Power..He faces his fear with his God and he grows..

    Anyone who has any in depth experience with this work will note the self reliance a new man has and the reliance or arrangement of people even with the best of intentions will at some point fail..No human power can relieve our alcoholism, not then not now..We pray for courage and strength, we offer it to others unconditionally, we live another day free from the bondage..Our whole attitude and outlook has changed..We no longer rely on people. This process has begun as soon as we realize willingness is indispensable..

    This is my experience and is to me the Spiritual foundation, keystone, cornerstone, proper cement mix suggested to undergo a psychic change sufficient to overcome alcoholism..To recover….

    Be good to yourself today that others may benefit..I gotta mow the lawn. No, I want to mow the lawn, yeah right..

    • And your the reason why AA has flat lined on there world wide membership population. Stuck at 2 million 28 consecutive years in a row??? Google that one for your self. AA New York Central office puts out those number every year!!!

      Stop twisting the big book into justifying the way you sponsor men. Isnt possible that your way is the reason why AA has stopped growing. Dr. Bob nr Worked the steps in 2 to 4 Hours getting over 4000 men through the steps in 15 years!!! They in turn did likewise. Hence AA had contant growth. Just Maybe convincing the newcomer to go out as fast as he can and find a newcomer to do as what was done with him just might be Gods will afterall. Stop Writing Gone with Wind novels on step work. Ive seen to many new comers take months and sadly even years to complete step work and most of them especially the Real Alcoholic actually becomes Gone with the wind never to be seen again.
      Smarten up!!! The Real Alcoholics life depends on it!!!

      Look what happend to Jim the car Salesmen. He got drunk 6 times in a row because he failed to enlarge his spiritual growth through self sacrifice and intensive work for the new alcoholic. The author Cameron has taken the time to hand deliver Gods will and words in black in white. Dont shit on that with your twisted view of Gods will!!

      YOUR PROBABLY THE SAME GUY WHO DOESENT GIVE YOUR SURNAME IN A AA MEETING BECAUSE YOU THINK IT MEANS MORE THAN “AT THE LEVEL OF PRESS RADIO AND FILM” Makers of bullshit usually are makers of messes!!! Sadly AA has become a weak shadow of what God has intended it to be.

      Numbers dont lie!! But people do to protect there position and egos!!!

      David M

  5. Gregg G you are Hilarious, Exact and powerful in your path. I Currently am on Year 5 and ever evolving in transformation daily. I believe that after the first year, most should learn to be open-minded to how their Journey with God and the principles they’ve learned are applied. Over time and working with Many, I find myself using my Sponsor for suggestion in how I take ones through the book and also setting boundaries. I think we all must use our own judgment and cater our principles and path to the newcomer and sobriety peers we meet. Adapt to personalities and so on. Some of my guys need their hand held. Some are 2 feet in and never going back. In my opinion, the most important aspect to any newcomer is that they realize this is a spiritual path that eliminates fear and provides a paramount set of principles to keep ones mentally, emotionally and spiritually aligned. I really enjoyed your strong points and humor on the common bull lol. I live within Step 10-11-12 and the second part of step one daily. With that said I Rarely see myself adding to my fourth step, I check in morning and at night With my God and work with another. The one thing I want to add in from a sponsorship stand point is that we are not to be their boss or even think they are to live the way we do. We are all different. I stress to most my guys find people who are successful in business, money management, marriage, ptsd and so on so they can better themselves in those areas. As much as I’ve grown spiritually and can offer I don’t want them to rely on my life being their life. MY MAIN GOAL IS TO TELL THEM…. KEEP BUSY, PRACTICE THE PRINCIPLES IN ALL YOUR AFFAIRS AND BE OF SERVICE. GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU IF YOU TAKE CARE OF HIS CHILDREN. LOVE EVERYTHING THIS PAGE REPRESENTS… TAKE CARE LL – JJ ;)

  6. Hey James..I would have acknowledged the kind words earlier but my last sitting on this site didn’t get posted and being the self centered( I mean cured) alcoholic I am, I assumed I had screwed up and people didn’t like me now..Plus I sorta did want to give another poster here a slap…but thought I got away with it..Why make amends when I’m better than they are right? lol…I’m the self will run riot guy that usually doesn’t think so, sober…Yikes! Anyway, good to read you, enjoy your day..

  7. I’m a member of AA as well and can explain everything you said throughout your page in one sentence: for some people their higher power works with them through a sponsor, and with others, he works in other ways. Keep it simple, don’t over think this thing.

  8. I have been saying this for a LONG time. The people who DEMAND that I have a sponsor (after having real time, like YEARS) usually are so dogmatic that I use them as an example of what NOT to do. They tell me to work my program this way, that way, or the other, I more or less do the opposite because if their way caused them to be like they are (practicing the RELIGION of AA as opposed to the SPIRITUALITY of AA), I want nothing to do with their way. Good case in point, you MUST do the fourth step in columns on a piece of paper. It does not say that anywhere in the book, the book says very clearly that this book is meant to be suggestive ONLY which cancels out all the other "musts" and "have-to’s", so I make it a point to NOT put a moral inventory in columns but paragraph form and in Microsoft word on my laptop simply cause I don’t want to be a dogmatic baffoon like that. I didn’t join AA to practice the religion of AA, I joined to get sober and find the spirituality of AA. Because if someone has been sober 20 years or so and they are still so closed minded that they are incapable of truly reading the black and not the white in the Big Book, I MUST do the opposite that they are saying (within the confines of what I know works from past sponsors who taught me and took me through the book) so I won’t be like that at 20 years sober. If that is all I had to look forward to, might as well quickly drink myself to death. The other thing is that if a person who DEMANDS that everyone MUST have a sponsor or it won’t work, it is merely a nonsensical superstition that ignores a big part of the book. When first coming in and not knowing my left from my right, do I NEED a sponsor? Damn right. After time and working steps, having good sobriety, freedom from desire to drink, do I NEED a sponsor? Not really. If I have years sober and am still so incapable of being honest that I need a babysitter just to "be sure" that I’m being honest with myself, I haven’t grown enough and holding onto this superstition is ignoring the fact that the whole point of getting sober is growing up and acting like an adult. I truly believe by what I see with my own two eyes in peoples lives around the tables is the ones who "need" a sponsor who have years sober, have nothing to offer me. The ones who choose to get one, usually have something to offer me. Perhaps I will get a sponsor someday, perhaps I won’t. Just follow the book and don’t add to it. I have also had to learn that this is something to never say openly at a meeting because there are so many people who buy into this superstition who will slam me for my honesty. So ironic, people practicing AAism as opposed to AA program who DEMAND that I practice blatant honesty, it’s only acceptable to them if they like what I say. If I’m honest and they don’t like it, I’m not being honest. The other thing is these same people demanding that we do our fifth step with a sponsor. If and when I have sponsees I’ll suggest to them to do it with a priest or therapist. They can do it with me, but no where in the book does it DEMAND that they do a fifth step with me. That is merely a nonsensical superstition of AAism. I’m no ones higher power, I won’t be anyone’s higher power, and that is that.

  9. Perhaps the success rates have fallen so dramatically from the early days is because our society has become so resistaint to accepting God. It is the key to the program…without a spiritual awakening, and left to our own, well…the rates speak for themselves.

  10. I am not in total disagreement with your concern over the quality (or necessity) of sponsorship, I do disagree with your premise that this is the reason for the decline in the success rate of AA. In the first place, AA recovery rates have not declined drastically, as the 2011 AA study shows: This most recent survey of AA members found that 36% had been continuously sober for more than 10 years, 12% had between 5 and 10 years of sobriety, 24% between 1 and 5 years, and 27% less than 1 year. Comprehensively, the average length of sobriety for all members was almost 10 years,with 51% of the membership being between 41 and 60 years of age. It must be remembered that the most of the early members of AA were "last-gaspers," people who were at rock bottom in their alcoholism. Today, young people and others who are not as seriously afflicted are coming to AA, and these are people who are most likely to leave the program before giving it a try. Even so, the so-called "dropouts" from AA have a 37% abstinence rate, while those who remain in AA have a 64% abstinence rate (NIAAA longitudinal study, 1992).

  11. I just read the article above and I could not agree more. Im working on my third year of recovery and still did not get past step three. But I read the working with others part and it seem to give me an idea… But to be honest the post #Gregg G left got me through up to step 7… I dont have a sponsor but I do work here and there with other people that suffer from the same thing… thanks a lot… I hope to finish and keep step 9 and 10 going on the regular…

  12. Treatment programs "strong-arm" patient into getting AA sponsor. Puts unnecessary pressure on newcomer to "find" sponsor. If a person wants to find a "sponsor"…that’s fine. Treatment professionals turning "sponsorship" into requirement. Do not agree with that.

  13. I am constantly amused by posts, and verbal rants for that matter, that decry "dogmatism" or "dogmatic people." Invariably they are the most dogmatic things I ever read or hear.

  14. I didn’t read the comments, just the article, maybe this has already been said, but – just because they didn’t use the WORD "sponsor" in the Big Book, doesn’t mean that wasn’t their intention. Bill W mentions the word "Sponsor" all over the 12X12, which was his/their attempt to "afford all who read it a close-up view of the principles and forces which have made Alcoholics Anonymous what it is." The 12X12 is not meant to rewrite history, but expand on what couldn’t find in the Big Book in regards to following out the 12 Steps. Let me count… 17 times in the 12X12 is how often the word Sponsor is mentioned. Bad argument.

  15. Sam: You should read the comments, it might broaden your scope on the fallacy of sponsorship as it is defined and administered in the A.A. rooms of today.

  16. Thanks for the article, I know this is an old post but I had to comment. I’ve been in A.A. continuously sober almost 22 years now (God willing). The last official sponsor I had, just gradually became another friend of mine, just like the 2 sponsors I had before that. So it’s been 7 or 8 years now since I’ve had an official "sponsor," and I don’t feel the need for one. I’m a grown man in my late 40’s and the idea of having a designated babysitter doesn’t sit right w/me anymore, I prefer to meet people on a level playing field these days. What gets me is that I’ve heard lately, especially at what used to be one of my favorite meetings, a regular request for temporary sponsors to raise their hand, prefaced by a statement that to qualify as a "temporary sponsor" one must have a sponsor themselves. Where does it say that? I know surely I have as much or more experience, strength, and hope to share than anyone else in that room, and I’ve sponsored people as well. I think I’m qualified to be a "temporary sponsor." It’s ridiculous, and I really had to say this, it really irks me, thanks.

  17. I really like your site here. One short comment from me:…"it was found, to the asonishmentof everyone, that AA’s message could be transmitted in the mail as well as by word of mouth." -BB Forward to Second Edition.

    Yep, they read the book sent through the mail.

  18. Having read not only the big book and the stories in the first editions, but a bit of AA history, it seems clear that people today place far too much emphasis on sponsorship, meetings, and taking forever to get through the steps. The old timers seemed to have breezed through the (six) steps in an afternoon or so, and were teaching them to others almost immediately thereafter. From what I’ve read, before the Big Book, the inventory was purely verbal, and the accuracy of the entries in the third column superfluous — it exists merely to convince its author that one’s resentments cause self harm. The precise nature of that harm is immaterial.
    IMHO, too many today spend too much time on rhetoric and formality, and forget the all-important KISS!

  19. I have been attending meetings now for almost 40 years.I too am disturbed by this emphasis on sponsorship. There seems to be a movement now for everyone to have a sponsor. I have never had an official sponsor, just AA close friends that I can call when I feel the need.This idea of the all knowing sponsor that one has to report to regularly is totally alien to the spirit of AA as I understand it.

  20. 17 years into sobriety the message had clearly changed, watered down and complicated at the same time. A year on the steps? That’s just crazy! There is no historical evidence to support it works.a good sponsor takes a newcomer through the steps to God. It takes a day or two. The power is in the sudden blow to the ego. This is used to break through into a sudden or gradual spiritual awakening. Is in the book.

  21. Great site! I am grateful to my HP I have found it. I am in need of a BB sponsor – have had one myself, but need one free of control freak’s characteristics to get an unprejudiced and healthy insight into what BB sponsorship is all about.

  22. Good stuff. The remarks about codependency are right on point. Codependency is an addiction which centers in mind and is based on control and driven by fear. Sound familiar ? It sounds like some sponsors have switched their “stop zero”. Instead of controlling the drink or drug tomorrow (tomorrow I will stop), they will control their “sponsee” (new drug) tomorrow. Codependency is defined as a “psychological condition or a relationship in which an individual is manipulated or controlled by another who is affected with narcissism or alcoholism (drug addiction). In broader terms, it refers to the needs of or control of another.”

    The book speaks for itself. In 1955, the writers of the Second Edition, some of whom had 20 years experience at that point, had every opportunity change whatever they wanted but they humbly showed restraint because it was not broken.

    I sit with newcomers to get them going with Step 4. I will sit with them several days in a row if they want and are willing. The batteries on my crystal ball went out years ago and if Step 1 is they will drink or use drugs, then they need power Now not next week when they could be out there or dead. It also keeps me current with my own inventory by sitting with them and giving them examples of the process. It helps me because otherwise I can slack with my own inventory.

    If people get clean and sober it is not because of me and if they relapse I do not take any blame as long as I know I sat with them and showed them the design for living as laid out in the Big Book. Otherwise, I can get my ego wrapped up in their recovery in what is supposed to be an ego-deflating process and it could lead to co-dependency.

    Thanks for a great website that cuts through alot of the BS designed to put a sponsor on a pedestal.


  23. Codependency and sponsorship is a concept that has been burning in my brain. I know in my heart that this is a problem. I sponsor 3 guys. 1st guy I sponsored since he walked through the doors and he now has over a year. He and I are stuck on step 4 and he is not a good writer or reader and I have been taught that he has to struggle through this…but my gut has said to work this out with him. I made a decision to change my tactics. I have 2 other guys I work with that have relapsed and I wonder how I will continue to work with them. I always have been a “sponsor” that checks in with those I work with, but I am now going to start a fast tract approach.
    I agree much of what I read about the Mucker method. I intuitively know that this is the better path for me and the newcomer. God bless and keep you all.

  24. Hi all, the fact that I am alive and sober today is in no small part due to having the type of sponsor who

    a) helped me through my fourth step by spending a full day with me explaining and helping me understand the meaning of words and how they applied to me. My IQ had been reduced to about my shoe size. There was zero possibility that I had the mental capacity to tackle this step alone.

    b) he made sure I never became dependent upon him, always directing me to my higher power for solutuions to my daily problems.

    c) at about two years he told me I no longer needed a sponsor, but should be sponsoring.

    And 34 years later, I am still actively sponsoring and working with others, and my life couldn’t be better. In spite of some “low spots” I have not needed to take a drink.
    God bless,

    Mike H.

  25. Nice site but the Book’s methods are rarely followed e.g. never does it say quit drinking one day at a time, fake it till you make it. The guy that helped me see the Book’s methods is now gone but he is the sixth generation from Bill and Bob. The Book (Big Book) teaches us how to live in recovery and very little on being SOBER (Son of a bitch everything is real).

  26. I do believe the “word” sponsor is mentioned in the 12 x 12 more than a few times for those of us that need to have things spelled out in specifics.

    The phrase “one alcoholic working with another” suggests a one-on-one approach with emphasis added on intensive. That to me negates the leadership/group model I see so much in my own community. In fact, I would call the latter “co-dependent” behaviors.

    Step work specifically addresses our need to believe that the ideas we get are G-d given, and that someone else might be able to talk us out of our foolery and thus thwart another round of bad decisions that cause the kind of wreckage that would take many of us back to the bottle.

    Best wishes to all on your trudge!

  27. I’m glad I don’t have the “Nazi” sponsor some of you refer to. My sponsor and I are on a level playing field. She helps keep me grounded and offers her experience, strength and hope to me when I ask. I have had sponsorship for 22 years and plan on continuing with a sponsor one-day-at-a-time as long as I shall not take a drink. It’s ok to have a sponsor, it’s ok not to have a sponsor. We are all a little individual on this journey.

  28. I like the fact that it through His grace that I have my sobriety. It is for having had the spiritual awakening that I have my sobriety today.
    I am truly thankful for everyone that has posted here.It shows the care for the program. It is a program that has saved my life.

  29. Thank you for this wonderful site, I find it so very helpful in ALL of my affairs. Like any good junkie and juicer (recovering 1992) I just HAVE to toss my 2 cents in…lol…I too sponsor people. however, I refer to myself as a “touchstone” to them rather than the word “sponsor”. The word “sponsor” over the many years has developed a difficult or unpleasant connotation/meaning and so has the word “pigeon”. thus, I do not use those words. while I am sponsor-less, and have been for 12 years, I utilize the fellowship of AA and my many friends in AA as my “sponsor’s”. the fun thing is that they don’t even know it, most of them. my own HP speaks to me THRU them as well as He speaks to me thru my heart and the many paths and experiences (painful as well as joyful) He sets before me. without the fellowship of AA, the 12 steps as a guide line for my daily life/living, and my Higher Power, I would be screwed, blued and tattooed. I so go blessed and so grateful that I DO NOT have to like like I did before. all I need to do is ask God for help in the morning, do the footwork, say thank you at night in my evening prayers, do the “next right thing”, stay in the present, be humble and have an attitude of gratitude. there are many more things I need and want to do everyday to ensure my sobriety but my list is to long for this website…lol…anyway, again thank you for this wonderful website, and thank you to those that share their experience, strength and hope here. it keeps this old lady coming back!!

  30. Hi my name Carmen and I had a sponsor for 12 years which I thought was the font of all wisdom and knowledge which I was lead to believe from a vulnerable newcomer. When my partner who was also a recovered alcoholic died 2 years ago under distressing circumstances, my ‘sponsor’ started sharing information about our relationship around the rooms which destroyed me. I haven’t taken a drink, but I find myself unable to trust another sponsor and have had to put my full reliance on god. Seeing this page was like an oasis in a dessert for me as I keep hearing people say ‘you need to get a sponsor,’ so this site has encouraged me to go on now, and its OK not to have a sponsor as I have a higher power that will never let me down.

  31. I’m new at AA and have had a couple of setbacks during my start. I have had a sponsor the entire time. 90 in 90 they insist. I ask “what about the daily Mass I attend?” That doesn’t count I am told. What? Isn’t from what I have read over and over again in the BB it about spirituality? Having a higher power? I will not and ever ask a sponsor what I should or should not do. That is between me and God. I will however ask for help with the steps. When I do steps 4 & 5 my Priest has already agreed to help me with them. I have been told by people with 20+ years of sobriety if someone tells you something that’s not in the BB don’t listen to them. Also don’t these people have jobs or family. I want my sobriety and plan to keep it but I will not give up Mass, Family and work to please these AA zealots.

  32. Really like your article! A lot of people say they will sponsor, However, they will also tell someone to read the first 164 pages first. Newcomers will die before they get through 164 pgs .Page 98- As Bill sees it- Our chief responsibility to the newcomer is an adequate presentation of the program. We are to walk people through the book and the steps. Intensive work with other alcoholics does not mean tell them to read or call me or get a sponsor.The word sponsor doesn’t even appear in the first 164. Those who think you have to attend meetings in order to stay sober have something a matter with their spiritual status.

  33. not to say meetings are not beneficial. I attend them myself. God keeps me sober and he does it through the steps. Why is it? that people who attend meetings and don’t work the steps, don’t stay sober! There’s your answer to meeting makers make it! that’s crap, and I think a lot of people either go because that’s the only place they feel accepted or important, or maybe they just want to be heard or they are really sick and have really bad motives of hooking up with some one- commonly known as 13th stepping. God keeps us sober period! The steps help addicts/alcoholics find GOD and have a relationship with him. For those who are offended read your damn book and get a life! “The whole Book”-Silkworth makes that clear.

  34. ” I earnestly advise every alcoholic to read this book through and through, Perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray ” he doesn’t say if you come to scoff call your sponsor, he says pray to GOD! If you have a sponsor who hasn’t read the whole chapter Working with others or the whole book for that matter, find someone else, because they are carrying a message from a meeting or another spiritually sick individual. If that be the case, we pray for them also and find someone we can help! We cannot play GOD it doesn’t work and we can easily see why!

  35. “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.” (pg. 164 BB)

    Just because it’s not in the BB does not mean it ain’t so. God continues to disclose more to those who trudge the road of recovery. Although sponsorship is not outlined in the BB per se the principal behind sponsorship is written in the first word of the first step; “WE”.

    Sponsorship in early AA times meant those who would take care of a newcomer’s hospital detox bill while getting them on the path of the 12 steps. Hardly what we witness in the fellowship today.

    It’s still a WE thing. Together WE can do what not one of us can do alone. Bill W. sought out another drunk during his trip to Akron to share his story with- not so much as to help that drunk get sober but to stay sober himself. Thank goodness he did- or there would have been no AA.

    AA founders and the first hundred followers who participated in the authorship and publishing of the BB were wise enough to realize that they were not the say all and end all in recovery from alcoholism. Amazingly they had discovered the cornerstone of what would become the greatest altruistic movement of the 20th century: 12 step work.

    PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.”(pg. 89 BB)

  36. Dear Sir,

    While the subject of or word of ‘sponsorship’ is not in the first 181 pages (we always forget about Dr.Bob’s story, just as important as Bill Wilson’s) the example is described in the first 181 pages, Ebby had many conversations with Bill, and Bill with Dr.Bob. If you do not think Ebby to Bill and Bill to Bob were not examples of what later was called sponsorship (mentioned in the 12/12 by Bill and the Father), then you are more blind than you proclaim others are (on this subject). Then we have a litany of stories which may state the benefit of sponsorship in word or in an example of a setting/time in their walk about AA. I think your notion, and a shared one, is just a sign of another alcoholic trying to rebel, buck the system, against a very good-Tradition that may not be documented as absolute, but proven and true. Yes, of course we are told in AA Comes of AGE (p93 about Mort & Frank) that their are book-converts who do it alone….but it is rare. In His spirit of Love and Tolerance, Chris (Warren, MI)

    • Your post is true, however, in the early days, newcomers were shown quickly how to embrace and work the program of A.A. NOT the model of sponsorship that exists to day amongst the stats-quo A.A. sponsors who impose management and control over “sponsees” and meet with them in coffee shops to discuss their problems and who love to play Jr. Therapist, Jr. Financial Planner, Jr. Relationship Coach, etc. It’s no wonder why there is so much co-dependency in the Twelve Step meeting rooms today.

  37. fuck yes. thanks. Too many non professionals paying doctor and cop of AA, grew up in it since I was 12, moms sober. when I arrived to do it it was polluted, and NO I don’t have ONE person I call and NO I don’t send them off with “call me if you want what I got” WHERES IT SAY THAT??? so thank you. for the TRUTH, I’m 16 years and I help the willing, and I KNOW sitting and sharing is where its at, NOT homework…thats my experience. your great thanks

  38. Here’s an email I just received and thought I’d post it.

    I am a recovered alcoholic and live in York, UK and have just begun sponsoring my first fellow within AA.

    I am SO glad I found your website and found your article on “The Myth of Sponsorship” an amazing breath of fresh air. I have a long story about what happened to me with my sponsor and reading your piece struck so many chords. This is the first time I have ever come across an opinion so similar to mine and I have never felt able to discuss this for fear of being labeled either foolish or pompous! — H. Williams

  39. A fellow AA member called me this morning to tell me about this site. He is a former sponsee. After 2 years of sponsorship I advised him and 3 other sponsees to find a new sponsor or get along without one. There are many people in the program who don’t need to be labeled “sponsor” and who can help each other. Very few of us are outstandingly wise. It’s more about caring and sharing. The reason I “released” my sponsees was a heart condition that rendered me unlikely to be around for very long. As of now I’ve had 7 heart attacks and don’t understand why I’m still here but I’m available to anyone who wants to call me. I’ve been sober for 43 1/2 years and if it weren’t for 10 days in my first 12 years that would be 55 years. But that’s another story. My last sponsor was in 1969. I’m still being guided by my first sponsor who died 10 years ago with 52 years. He and I never mentioned the word “sponsor”.

  40. Question for Brett: Was it necessary to begin your post with an obscenity? When I came into AA there was no profanity in the meetings.

    • Guess he said it like just that…he said the word … Accept the Things we cannot Change…l have heard so many many complain and cry about hearing profanity like they are new to swearing…l can take it or leave it but frankly It is none of my business how many times a person swears as l came from a background of no swearing now called and then profanity but also came into tough crowds and we all learnt to swear from each other…there are some who swear but judge not lest you be judged for judging what and what not a person Should and should not say…do we have to take a course on eticate before entering the rooms or can we accept the serenity prayer said at the meetings For a reason … Perhaps you have like you said have never heard profanity when you entered but l have and countless others also…like do we all have to dress alike too????

  41. Concerning the attack on “dogmatism” etc. this might be just the way you heard it. AA people are like that. But many of the people in AA who really are dogmatic are the people for whom the traditions were written. People who want to make AA into what they insist it should be — a marine boot camp, a Nazi concentration camp, a fierce, fire-and-brimstone religion, etc. To say, “leave me alone, I’ve been sober for years without your orders,” is not dogmatism.

    Last week I mentioned in a meeting that if you put 20 AAs in a room and read to them a very simple line from the book or any book you’ll get at least 5 interpretations of what that line meant. It couldn’t possible just mean what it said.

    • I agree Charlie. The biggest controversies I have in the fellowship is not with “status quo” AA or meeting-makers, it’s with the “Big Book Thumpers”, they have a rigid opinion on everything and if isn’t their way, they get arrogant, indignant, in some cases even bullying.

  42. This article might be OK if it weren’t for the bollocks in the opening.

    First of all, recovery rates have NOT gone down. That is a bigger myth than the so-called “sponsorship” myth. People who ACTUALLY DO THE STEPS still have a 50-75% recovery rate today. Most of the people Bill and Bob worked with didn’t stay sober, either. It was, in fact, about a 10% success rate. (See “Dr. Bob & The Good Old-Timers” and “Pass It On”).

    Also, this quote about “sponsorship ain’t in the Sacred 164” is something I’ve been responding to for years by saying “yeah, well the word ‘toilet’ isn’t in the first 164 either. But I recommend using both since your shit has to go somewhere and you’ll get a lot of relief.”

    Yes I get not putting a sponsor on a pedestal and that the role of the sponsor is to walk someone through the program, but this article is typical of something I’ve seen in the world of Bleeding Deaconism: people picking fights that aren’t there. At the end of the day, I feel this is more fourth step material than anything else.

  43. Interesting site. Thanks for the laugh cpb!! I love “yeah, well the word ‘toilet’ isn’t in the first 164 either. But I recommend using both since your shit has to go somewhere and you’ll get a lot of relief.” That is classic and I will remember that for future “discussions”!!

    Anyway, I’m not very comfortable with the whole sponsorship discussion here. I know it doesn’t implicitly say the word “sponsor” in the Book but, if I didn’t have someone (a guide, mentor, or whatever you want to call it) “show me the way”, I would still be drinking!

    At about 8 months sober, I “fired” my first sponsor for yelling at me when I didn’t do things exactly HIS way and also for the fact that he had his own long list of defects and unmanageability in his own life that were quite glaring. But, prior to this incident, he was instrumental in my working the steps right out of the BB. So, I thanked him and went on my way…

    Very shortly thereafter, I found another “Big Book” sponsor who is really just a trusted and true friend which whom I can share just about anything with and know that I will get honest and constructive feedback. I think it is one of the things that makes AA so unique and FOR ME successful.

    Before I came to AA, the only trusted people I had who I shared with were shrinks and an occasional fellow drunk at the bar. And neither one really helped in any significant way. Its only when I came to AA and found out the “root” of my problems (ME) and also that a spiritual solution would solve ALL of my problems, did I become free. A “sponsor” pointed these things out to me…

    No one should ever be put on a pedestal in AA and we are all just fellow travelers who have found a solution and are responsible to pass it on.

    I really got directed to this site because I Google’d “How to be an AA sponsor”. I am 2 years sober and have been asked (by 3 people in the past 2 weeks) to be their sponsor. To be honest… I am freaking terrified!! After reading these posts, I am pretty convinced that there is no exact science to being a good sponsor. I will sit down with my new friends and read the Big Book. If it asks a question, we will answer it. If it says to do something, we will do it. And I will share my knowledge and experience with what I’ve learned about staying sober (and happy) over the past 2 years. After that, all I can do is leave the results up to God. No meeting, sponsor, or anything else could have gotten me or keeps me sober- only God. Although I’m nervous as hell, all I can do is put forth the effort and try my best to show others what was freely given to me.

    I will definitely keep an eye on this site for any new and enlightening information on being a sponsor. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to write! It all helps!!

    Any tips, suggestions, and/or comments about getting ego out of the way and being a “good” sponsor would be greatly appreciated!!

    Keep trudging my friends!!

    Barry M. (San Leonardo, Italy)

  44. I’ve been sober a while and I want to participate in meetings but feel like an outsider because I do not believe in sponsorship. The exception is an atheist/agnostic group I recently attended. I’m not atheist but I have a commonality with those who do not “fit in.” tradition 3, in the long form says AA membership ought not to depend on money or CONFORMITY! What was I doing in getting a sponsor as a newcomer but conforming? As a newcomer I was not capable of making a wise or informed decision as to who to take into my confidence. What I ended up with was yet another sick, co-dependent alcoholic relationship. I know this is not everyone’s experience. But I honestly think the reason my sponsor began to gradually shun me was because her sponsor, my “grand” sponsor, didn’t want to include me in her tight little sponsee-clique. This is the kind of bovine manure that goes on in AA circles all the time and I am not alone in my experience so call off any condescending attitude you might be tempted to have before asking me if I am terminally unique! AA is a fellowship, not a sponsorship and no matter how long any of us is sober, whether 24 hours or 24 years each one of us is one drink away from a relapse. None of us belong on anyone’s pedestal. I love Dr. Bob’s approach to keeping the program of recovery simple. My recovery is uncomplicated when I am sponsor-free. I can work it honestly without the ulterior motive of trying to win brownie points from a human sponsor. My Higher Power is the one I concern myself with most today.

  45. Good morning: My sponsor and I have parted ways. I was close to 9 months when I relapsed.. and needless to say, those 3 days were my worst.

    My sponsor convinced my wife to sign a civil committal to a detox and rehab center. Detox lasted 5 days, at which point I had to go to court to either be allowed out-patient or placed in in-patient care. I had mentioned to my sponsor that this was a lesson I learned because i saw the sadness of the multiple re-occurring addicts, who had been through the program many times, but continued to go back.

    I was not faulting them or their situation, only deciding that I did not want to end up in that situation. I did not want to be re-occuring.

    He took it as me not showing humility. The detox center sent a letter to the judge that I should be released to out-patient, while my sponsor at the court hearing, told the judge that i should be sent back in to learn humility. That i did not learn my lesson. Needless to say. The judge did not like his response and let me go to out-patient care and AA meetings.

    I am back into the meetings, starting over. But with no sponsor. My previous sponsor says he “did it out of love and that I must know God and humility”. I told him “he was being righteous and controlling and that I do know God… his name just isn’t the same as Your name” When I left the detox center, I left with a list of friends names and numbers. All of them re-occurring alcoholics/addicts. They saw my hope for a change, and they told me they wanted that also.

    Was my former sponsor correct in doing what he did? If I decide to find another sponsor, I don’t want a self-righteous one, for sure.

  46. While the Big Book doesn’t use the word sponsorship, it does use the word “protege”, which is the same as sponsee. The stories also clearly demonstrate a sponsor/ sponsee relationship. Bill also talks of the first meetings being secret, because, THEY WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO HANDLE THE NUMBER OF NEWCOMERS. IOWS, they didn’t have enough members to sponsor them. A newcomers using the same sick mind to get well, not a likely prospect. If after completing the 12 steps, he’s supposed to “work with others” what is that. Primarily, sponsorship of course,

  47. I have just read all of the comments and the very interesting article on sponsorship. The bottom line is this; If I don’t find another recovered alcoholic who has had a spiritual awakening as a result of the 12 steps of AA, who will take me through the steps. I WILL DIE! I WILL EITHER DIE DRUNK OR I WILL DIE SOBER, AS A RESULT OF THE SPIRITUAL MALADY AND UNTREATED ALCOHOLISM. That’s my experience. Yes be cautious and discerning, asking God to direct you to find a “sponsor” or fellow recovered alcoholic ( if your more comfortable with that title) that is sane and spiritually healthy. Don’t get caught up in the drama in AA. Trust God, clean house and help others.

  48. The key to sobriety is ‘surrender’. The problem is that many people ‘surrender with terms’ and this quite frequently fails at some point or another. Therefore the question to ask the author is ‘Why do you not want a sponsor?’

    • Did you even read the article? We’re not suggesting people don’t work with other suffering addicts/alcoholics. We’re saying the form of sponsorship that is pandered about the rooms today is NOT what the Big Book of A.A. instructs us to do.

  49. I have been continuously sober since July 1990. I have had a gentleman help work through the steps. I have never had a sponser in the modern sense of the term. Some of the old guys have ostracized me when I mentioned that I currently did not have a sponser. I was “called out on the carpet” by some of the guys that have moved to my area from the larger cities that “know how things are to be done”. I have even changed meetings because of this. I thought that GOD and not man was my most important asset in my recovery? I am glad to work and share with others and be of service. Many need to heed the advice that I was given early on: KISS= Keep it simple stupid!

  50. Sir – you know the first 163 pages of the big book very well, but you seem to have skipped, or have forgotten page 164: “We realize we know only a little.” I wonder if you realize you know only a little. You seem to think you know it all.

  51. Yes I do know only a little. Thankfully. I am willing to accept the experience strength and hope from others who have what I want. Even their experience that God has disclosed to them post 1939. God has constantly disclosed more to them and to me. Just like when Bill met Bob. Just like when Bill and Bob met Bill D, and so on. One alcoholic sharing with another alcoholic their experience strength and hope. The big book was not yet written when Bill met Bob. It was his pure ESH. Bill, the author of the big book, uses the word “sponsor” 13 times in his next masterpiece, the 12 and 12. Dr Bob sponsored thousands of alcoholics and they all called him their “sponsor”. Listen to the old audio of the first 100 and you will hear their stories of sponsorship, using that exact word. Hear their stories of how Dr. Bob took them through the steps. Each one was different, it was not a one size fits all program at all. The Great Reality found deep within each sponsee and sponsor dictated the route their step work journey would take. Everyone is different and so with each journey be different. I love the big book, I read it every day, I use it to live and it guides my life. “We realize we know only a little” is its last will and testament. Stay humble. Stay teachable. Dont just read the first 163 pages. All 164. Read, and live, all 164. God bless.

    • Jim: Did you even read the article… have you missed the point entirely? Or do I assume you’re one of those “status quo” A.A. sponsors who love codependent hands-on, micro-management of newcomers? Dr. Bob was able to work with so many people because he show them “how it works” in a rapid amount of time. And I guarantee you they didn’t call him every day to report in or whine to him about their petty problems. A.A. today is an abomination of what it use to be. That’s why A.A. is dying… all the white-hairs who did their sobriety back in the late seventies and early eighties are dying off. Their form of sponsorship, which is to spoon-feed newcomers with their treatment centre rhetoric, Meeting-makers make it pap and tired bromides, delivered in the most dogmatic way, has failed miserably when dealings with real alcoholics. Furthermore, I suspect most who did their sobriety in the 80’s are not REAL alcoholics, they’re just power drinkers who found sobriety in the A.A. rotary club—-drinking the coffee and hitting on young female newcomers. Lastly, I do know a lot. I’ve personally worked the Twelve Steps with over 1300 alcoholic/addicts from around the world. Worked at all levels within the Service structure, earned a degree in religions, studied mental health and addictions and lead a very happy life unfettered by codependent newcomers who need to suckle my ethereal tit on a regular basis because “status quo” A.A. sponsorship constructs such unfortunates. This may sound like an axe to grind, but I’m tired of overly sensitive A.A. members who take umbrage with any criticism of “status quo” A.A.

  52. I have been sober now for almost four years. I was so desperate to be in recovery I did everything my sponsor told me to do. But I had several sponsors the first two years. I could not find a sponsor that I connected with. And everyone in the room said it was my fault that addicts will find fault with everything and it’s never their fault. Well let me tell you something it was not my fault. I did everything the sponsors told me to do. When I was in a situation I had no idea how to handle I would call my sponsor. One sponsor told me not to ruin her day with my junk. She only wanted to hear good stuff. How the heck am I supposed to learn how to handle stuff and sobriety if I don’t lean on the sponsor with 10 or more years of sobriety. After 3 years I stopped going to AA. The book told me that my recovery was between me and my higher power. I’m glad the rooms exist because they gave me the foundation for my sobriety. Now it’s been over a year that I have not attended meetings and I used my principles and my steps everyday. I pray and thank my higher power which I call God everyday!! I feel my sobriety is up to me and God. Needless to say anybody from AA was concerned very much that I left the program. Occasionally I would get text messages that I should attend a meeting. But they never got into my personal life. They never came to my house and worried about why I wasn’t attending meetings. I left not because of the big book and the program I left because of the people. I didn’t think the whole thing was raised right. After meetings they would attend Cody’s or expensive restaurants. Restaurants that a newcomer could never afford on a fairly regular basis. I thought that was totally unfair to go to a meeting talk about getting drunk and instead of socializing I had to go home. They weren’t concerned with the newcomer and I believe newcomers are newcomers for several years compared to 10 20 and 30 years of sobriety which were there people I hung around. The people in the rooms told me to not hang around newcomers they had nothing I wanted. But I had more in common with them than I did though people with years and years. I could not afford to waste my money on restaurants that were expensive. So at the beginning I would just go home and cry and sit there by myself seems useless after a few years. So I followed the principles I follow the steps I follow the big book the program dr. Bob and Bill Wilson intended us to follow. Just saying

    • Wow.. I’m so sorry for you having to experience such a cold start. I hope that you are better, stronger, and wiser now. I must say that the woman GOD chose to help me, was and is awesome in including me in outside engagements, as well as, any and all other supports that GOD chose for me to grow with. As stated earlier, these people GOD chose to help me are not people that I would normally mix with, in other words I DID NOT CHOOSE THEM. I prayed and continue to pray each day for GOD to order my steps, and to place the PEOPLE HE WANTS, in my life to help me to become what HE wants me to be. I must say it was really uncomfortable in the beginning, and even sometimes today because, I have not been a custom to people being genuinely KIND,COMPASSIONATE,COMPETENT, or COURAGEOUS, toward me, for me, with me…with out MOTIVE. As they retaught me what my parents had worked so hard to instill in me, the fog began to lift, along with my own bondage of self. God began to take away my difficulties, I was better able to be of service to my self, my fellows, and most of all my GOD. As newcomers watched, and old times smiled on me, I became more approachable. There are still days and moments in a day when I’m not inspired, and trust me, once I pray and ask my GOD to take away my difficulties, because I know there is someone, a whole lot worse off than me, and I need to be able to show them just how you (GOD) move my problem, situation out of the way to be PRESENT and MINDFUL of whomever it is that I may help with thy LOVE, thy POWER and THY WAY OF LIFE, and just pray that I DO GODS WILL ALWAYS. No Matter What is going on around me. Letting GO, and Letting GOD LEAD and DIRECT me has been the very best decision I could have possible made. I say this because, a lot of times what GOD would have me to do is not by popular demand. Meaning if he directs me to help another SUFFERING person, heck I don’t always agree to it, but I try to do what he directs me to do. Just simply out of the fundamental idea of being COMPASSIONATE, and by SHOWING a newcomer HOW IT WORKS. It is a job to keep my Motives in check, however, as long as I’m prayed up, and pray through what I’m face with, Life works out a bit better each day.

  53. A couple of times in the comments, the quote “we realize we know only a little” has been used as an excuse for watering down the AA message.

    It seems a nonsense to me. One has to consider the constext of that statement.- “well there are about 100 of us and we seem to have a solution that works with us. Let’s put it in written form so it doesn’t get lost, and maybe it will help some others.”

    There must have been a feeling that they were onto something special, but at the same time, no one could know if the book would do any good at all. Logically, they considered they knew only a little.

    15 years after first publication the evidence was in. The book had been a phenomenal success. The book alone, not sponsorship, was responsible for the start of AA in my country.

    In actual fact, the authors knew a great deal more than they thought, and no one in eighty years has been able to come up with a more successful way of dealing with the alcoholic problem.

    The foreword to the second edition quantifies the success and,instead of the perfectly understandable modesty of the original authors, presents the proof that in actual fact the proposed solution really does work.

  54. Loved reading this, what anoyes me is the rooms are full off slogans and saying that are not from the book, when i here people say keep it simple i always think to my self yes lets keep it simple and stick to what the book says not what people have added into to the fellowship them selfs, so yes guys lets please keep it simple and do as the book says not what the sheep say,and if i here “if you stay away from one drink for ones self for ine day its impossible to get drunk” well if i could do that i would not need to book, trust the prosses

  55. The first 89 or 103 pages of the Big Book are not unaltered from the First Edition, as is myth. There have been changes made since the First Edition, such as step 12 initially read “having had a spiritual experience” ( now changed to awakening)

    • This is true, the first 164 pages of the original Big Book publication in 1939 has been altered in small ways, such as the one you have mentioned. Also, grammar has been changed in some cases, as well as, the numbers cited have been changed to reflect the growing fellowship over the decades. But, for the most part, the original text/instructions on taking the steps has remained basically the same.

  56. I want to thank you so much for this site. I received the blessing of sobriety in Nov 1982. I did a little personal research from February 1, 1985 to February 28 1985, on whether of not I could still drink and found out that alcohol was still not my friend.

    I really like the quotes you used regarding: Working with Others — “Any A.A. who has not experienced the joys and satisfaction of helping another alcoholic regain his place in life has not yet fully realized the complete benefits of this fellowship.” (A.A. Sponsorship Pamphlet. 1944. Clarence S.)

    Question: What does the Big Book reference 123 times in the first 88 pages? Answer: Alcoholics working with other alcoholics. And, by working with another alcoholic, the Big Book doesn’t mean a “sponsor”, it specifically means two alcoholics working together, putting the A.A. Program into action.

    How it important is it for A.A. members to work newcomers? Our Big Book says:

    “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail. Remember they are very ill.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 89)

    “This seemed to prove that one alcoholic could affect another as no nonalcoholic (non-addict) could. It also indicated that strenuous work, one alcoholic (recovered member) with another (newcomer), was vital to permanent recovery.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 3rd ed. xvi)

    “We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 132)

    “But if you are shaky you had better work with another alcoholic instead.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 102)

    “Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough.” (Alcoholics Anonymous. 97)

    My Response: My mentor showed me how to do this by the many, many hours of just listening. Others did the same for me. I needed people to help me sort out my brain and that is what I have done with many people myself over the years. In fact I am doing this by text, phone and Face time with a trucker, who went through treatment about 3 years ago. It works folks—it really does. We don’t need to tell people what to do, we just need to care, and be available.

    I have been working in the addictions field for about 30 years, 25 of which has been addiction treatment and counseling. 12 steps have always been a big part of those programs.

    I do not mean any disrespect to anyone, when I say this, but more and more AA is being watered down with varying opinions, rules, personal agendas, and traditions that are just not a part of the AA history and not in the original written material. As Joe McQ (1990, p.60) suggests in his book, The Steps We Took, (notably in reference to Step 4, but the same logic can be applied to any situation) starting off from a wrong premise will lead to a wrong conclusion. Therefore; if people do not do the research for themselves and only rely on what may be wrong information from someone else and then pass that wrong information on to the next newcomer …well, you can see where this can go.

    The history is there the directions are right there in the first 164 pages. Why add to what has worked very well for thousands of people who have received the promise of a complete recovery; that is they “recovered”. Why deny this simple truth. If you do the steps you will be recovered from a “seemingly hopeless state of mind and body” Simply, you will receive that spiritual awakening and realize that God is doing for you what you could not do for yourself—“With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start.” (Big Book, p.58)

    Thanks again for your site.
    David H. Grateful recovered alcoholic

  57. From the inception of AA and thru the 40s or early 50s when you went to your first meeting you were assigned a “sharing partner”. There was no such thing as a sponsor. This sharing partner worked the first 3 steps with you that night, if you came back the next week you then worked 4, 5, and 6 and so on. We in AA have probably killed a large percentage of people who have come to us for help.

  58. There is only one step that has to be done 100% perfect. The 1st step. No one can tell you what you have to do. It is a program of attraction not promotion. There is no right way or wrong way to do this. In my 1st 3 years of recovery I needed someone to tell me what to do. As I cleared up I saw how sick my sponsor was cheating on his wife and doing the wrong things. I did not want to be like that. I am forever grateful for this man helping me until I could help myself. I believe he saved my life in spite of myself.

    Well I am coming up on 27 years sober now and do not want to have a sponsor. I will help anyone who asks for help but I will not force this program on them. I have always had a problem with people of authority and controlling individuals. I feel that the contol of a sponsor compensates for all the years of his lack of control drinking. However there is an old saying in AA.

    “If you want to practice control drink a quart of prune juice and try to stay out of the bathroom”. Yes people put me down because I do not have a sponsor. I do not need to be controlled. My sponsor is God and has more power and wisdom than any alcoholic.

    Most are followers not leaders. I never liked clicks or social circles. I come here to share my experience with AA over the last 27 years. There were many years I did not go to meetings and did not relapse because I invested time between my last drink and now.

    So now I just recently started to go back to meetings to tune in so I can tune out again.

    Its a great program. Try to stay with open minded people who have the wisdom to know the difference what good character building is. This is a way back to life and not your whole life.

  59. Two types of people come to AA — The ones like myself who surrendered and got a big book and a sponsor to show me the way, and the others who for 23 yrs now I have been watching. They try to figure out why they don’t have to do the steps or get a sponsor or what have you, Clancy called it the half measures balcony.

    It always happens, when the half measures balcony has only enough people who cannot get honest on it, they enjoy their sobriety until they get enough people to believe them and the half measures balcony gets so full that it collapses and they always all get drunk. It’s your choice: blame AA or the members in AA or sponsors or what have you or just get honest and surrender.

    I did not have to have that bust that these days they are saying at AA meetings you have to have simply because i was honest enough to surrender. Good luck my fellow ‘alkies,’ I wish you all recovery.

  60. Good post, exactly as I view things (so it must be right )

    One primary aspect that I like to think of is humility. I have only ever been attracted to recovery by humble people – when someone starts shouting from the rooftops that the big book says this or that, and “I did the suggested things – got a home group, a sponsor and did the twelve steps” then I become suspicious.

    There is something that is trust enhancing about a humble person who simply tells a little of their story with and recovery, with a tacit (unspoken) impression that what they have could be available to a newcomer.

    I am strongly attracted by this sort of personal honesty and recovery and strongly repelled by a speech-making, big book quoting sort of recovery – the latter seems to me to demonstrate a lack of humility and an unwillingness to show oneself, preferring big book quotes to personal stories.

    Anyway, just my impressions. Thanks for your article p

  61. “Sponsor” is a word, as is “sponsee”. In the beginning, when Bill and Bob went to hospitals to council alcoholics, they were de facto sponsors. And the sponsee talked to others, and so on, and so on. Nothing new here. But it became the backbone of outreach.

    They took a lot more liberties back then, and hats off to them. Today we are full of thou shalt nots. We sound like a bunch of nasty old women.

    Sponsorship is love in action. It’s worked for me for 26 years continuously. My sponsors are the best!

  62. I’ve been clean and sober since 12/1984. I managed to stay sober in spite of very bad advice from several different sponsors. I went to AA for 31 years. The last couple years there were very bad for me. I was taken advantage of and felt like I was preyed on by desperate people. The last time I picked up my 31 year medallion I heard praises given to a man I knew was ripping of newcomers at his very financially successful sober houses and praises for another AA member (a former pastor) who relapsed and ripped off the person he was guardian for, in addition to stealing from his ministry. In addition I was being stalked by an AA member. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I have been very happy since I left and I don’t have to deal with the drama or chaos anymore. My sponsors couldn’t help it… they were not very self aware and they had a lot of jealousy and issues they hadn’t dealt with. It’s all worked together for good. I’m happy with my life today and I still love helping others and enjoy forgetting myself by thinking of others needs. I’m still learning to also love myself and think of my needs too and not just be a doormat for desperate power hungry people.

  63. Clancy said when he met Bill W. he asked him why he didn’t mention sponsorship int eh first 164 pages and Bill said, “We hadn’t thought of it yet.” However, taking what I can and leaving the rest there is some good advice in the experience you share. I would enjoy having an alkie with your approach working with me in my group because I’m sure there are newcomers who might be as helped by this approach as others are helped by the more mainstream approaches.

  64. BRAVO, Your method is spot on! there are many things wrong with the Program today. I tried aa more than 10 and less than 20 times. So I settled on 13 times. Would you believe if i told you that my first 12 or so attempts to attend AA that not one person walked up to me to meet me or ask who i was. It may seem strange but not any of those members from twelve different groups, different cities had read the chapter “There is a Solution”. You know the part were it says The man who has solved the drink problem, properly armed with the facts about himself can win the confidence of another alcoholic in just a few hours. Than go’s on to say that the man making the approach has had the same difficulty, that he whole deportment shouts out at the new prospect. I am paraphrasing but you get the idea. How many meeting have you seen the newcomer greeted as if they were dinner to a vampire. It is rarely seen in the rooms today. I love your article and am slowly trying to turn the aa battleship in the right direction by teaching and serving God. Bill and the pioneers wrote this book to kill two birds with one stone. Teach the alcoholic how to get and stay sober and to teach the alcoholic how to teach another alcoholic. Its is a bit frustrating to watch 95 percent of the old timers sitting on there laurels. Or worse yet mis informing new comers and actually killing new comers as well as people that new comers kill because they relapse thanks to misinformation. I have been talking about this topic in meetings and most old timers really don’t care for my view on Original AA. Don’t forget Dr. Bob had 16 day’s sober when he sponsored his first sponsee Bill Dobsen number#3.

    How do you hide a hundred dollar bill from a recovered member of AA.

    You put it in his Big Book! And thats not funny!!!

    Thanks again

    David McCasey Recovered Alcoholic
    702 237 0561 available to anyone who needs help for there drink or drug problem

  65. I would just like to state I love this take on the steps and sponsorship. My sponsor has about 45 years sober and he made it clear to me about 20 years ago, that his job was to help me through the steps and share his experience, strength and hope. Not to babysit me for the next 10 years. And we developed a relationship, he calls me now and then, and i call him. I remember him and another old timer saying 20 years ago, “that they don’t see how People sponsor a dozen people, if they are actually sitting down and going through the book and steps with each person. I have used a couple of other sponsors at times to work on a Particular issue. But when I had a Sponsor that expected “ME” to call only, there was no reciprocating relationship, I Moved on. As if HE is a higher power or something, or when told to do something not in the BB, I just follow what my old sponsor says. There is Way To Much Ego, these days involved in “So called Sponsorship, where Men are actually practicing being a therapist, psychologist etc., without a license.Thank you for pointing out something that gets lost today in the Waterdowned AA Recovery that is so prevalent. Terry P.Springfield MO

  66. I agree with a lot of what you stated throughout this blog but you included addict which is not Alcoholics Anonymous responsibility. Our primary purpose is to help the Alcoholic, we have no opinion on outside issues. The addict should be directed to an NA meeting, so if your going to write a blog discrediting a lot of sponsorship stuff then don’t be a hypocrite to the traditions.

    • If you note the subject of this website, its about Big Book Sponsorship and its application to any and all addictions. Your response is typical of the narrow-mindedness of some members of A.A. Furthermore, it indicates your inability to think outside your dogmatic rhetoric.

  67. Why have an 11th step, where we are to seek God’s guidance and listen to him, if we “bail” on it and call our sponsors….3, 4 times a day, or about every decision? There is too much false scuttlebutt floating around A.A. that isn’t the recovery program (the recovery program is contained within the first 164 pages of the Big Book. Stick with God, your Higher Power. Allow the answers to come without becoming impatient and relying on outside human answers.

  68. The best advice I ever got in AA was, “AA agreed one time to a method of how to become a recovered alcoholic. Read the first 164 pages of the big book and do what it says,and you don’t ever have to drink again. Everything else you read or hear in AA is advice, take it or leave it.” I asked the man to be my sponsor, we went through the big book together, I recovered in a couple of weeks. In my 31 years of recovered living in AA, I have never heard better advice. Way too many control freaks in AA to simply accept any whack job as a sponsor. I suggest listening to Joe and Charlie big book study before getting a sponsor.

  69. The reason I Googled about Sponsorship resulted from a conversation I had after the Meeting tonight with a member who is coming up on 47 years of sobriety. I told him that when I came into AA nobody even talked about Sponsors and Sponsorship evolved later. He disagreed and said there were Sponsors then. My sobriety date is 5/30/66 and I never have had a Sponsor. I am not against Sponsorship and if the New Comer finds one that fits….good for him/her. I do not like the way you are combining Alcoholism with Drug Addiction. Drug addiction is an addiction within in itself and should be treated as such. I am not as naive to think the Alcoholics coming into AA today probably have dual addictions, particularly the young people and is the reason we read at the start of each Meeting that all discussion should be related to Alcoholism only. Also, I am not into Wally P. (Like who the hell is he?) I feel he has been making money by selling his books off the New Comers in AA. In addition, his book is not approved AA Literature.

    • Have you ever read “The Jaywalker” story. It’s pretty much an all-inclusive argument for any and all addictions. And Paul, I have some earth-shattering news for you… ALCOHOLIC is a DRUG!

  70. Paul D.

    I agree with Brian Chamberlin and your Admin Reply was uncalled for and tells me a lot about the person who wrote it.

    Show me in the first 164 pages of the Big Book where it talks about Sponsorship!

    • Did you even read the article or you just one these A.A. bleeding deacons who like to pontificate on how many alcoholics can dance on the head of pinhead?

  71. The problem in AA is the first drink. GOD is the only defense against the first drink. I called my sponsor everyday in order to show discipline of actually demonstrating discipline of understanding the process of fully conceding to my innermost self that I am an ALCOHOLIC. Once an ALCOHOLIC, always an ALCOHOLIC. I am very grateful that my sponsor knows exactly what the problem is. The remaining steps are designed for me to connect with a higher power and have equal access to and learn how to think for myself and learn from my own mistakes and learn to let go and to let God. My pigeons that I carry the message to are also equal to me because they also know what their problem is and continue to call me everyday so we can take the steps together as equals. The reason why they call me everyday is because we are equal and on the same page and are taking the steps together because we together are still powerless over ALCOHOL together and together we both need God’s help to provide a defense against the first drink which is the problem in AA. The idea of step 4 is that nothing counted but honesty and thoroughness is by far the main reason in my experience that identifying the causes and conditions of why I’m not happy joyous and free takes time. Time takes time and that’s the whole idea of calling everyday and knowing the truth that there is no crash course in AA. It’s always one day at a time, asking God for help staying away from the first drink, doing an inventory of why I am not happy joyous and free and saying thank you at the end of every day exactly and unequiveitely works every day, every time, and in every situation because I am powerless over ALCOHOL and I need God’s help to stay away from the first drink in order to SURVIVE. I hope you all live 300 years and the last thing you hear me say is that with one hand on God and the other on another alcoholic, you don’t have a third hand to pick up the first drink.

  72. I also agree that drug addicts in NA ALWAYS stay clean as good as ALCOHOLICS always stay sober in AA. It’s two completely different things and it’s because only an ALCOHOLIC had the allergy that alcohol in any form causes the phenomenon of craving and because it’s hard enough for an ALCOHOLIC to be willing to admit that they are alcoholic, that by allowing drug addicts to block the pure message designed specifically for the unwilling alcoholic in the first place, drug addicts and everyone else that states alcoholic and a should clearly be asked to not share and directed to another meeting that matches their experience. As far as Sally p and everyone else making money off of AA including treatment centers and halfway houses, it is my experience that they are all ERRONEOUS and are designed as a scam and complete horse malarkey and have no place whatsoever in AA. Connecting with God has NOTHING to do with money as the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking…not to have insurance or money for an erroneous treatment center, halfway house or wally p himself. Page 98 states…It is not the matter of giving that is in question, but when and how to give. That often makes the difference between failure and success. The minute we put our work on a service plane, the alcoholic commences to rely upon our assistance rather than upon God. He clamors for this or that, claiming he cannot master alcohol until his material needs are cared for. Nonsense. Some of us have taken very hard knocks to learn this truth: Job or no job – wife or no wife – we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.

    Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.

  73. Hello to one and all. In regards to do with the word and purpose of the word namely that word we call “Sponsorship.”

    I am full disagreement as to the word or useage of the word sponsorship is not being used or implied or mentioned in its context in the 164 pages of the big book.

    If you know anything to do with how any language is set up it always uses such devices as rhetoric, descriptions, analogies, and direct quotes and direct uses of the word entailed in the conversation.

    If you look up the word sponsorship in a web site you might come up with “NIKE” or “World Vision.” And you would het a description of their sponsorship proven programs and its costs before and after you sign the dotted line to hopefully become a world champion of one kind or of another kind.

    But in our case in our handed down 12th step recovery program, it first of all includes the compliance of the applicant “YES this thing I must have too.” Or, Then you are ready to take certain steps (the word here certain, means, absolutely with out divergence from it).

    The wording and the situation is also described in the words “We, are more than one hundred alcoholics who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless “STATE” of mind and body. Precisely how we recovered is the purpose of this text (the word precisely also means absolutely do this and you will never fail to recover). ”

    And in the doctors opinon and again in Bill’s own story from pages 10-16. Again the use and description of the application of the word sponsor is stated clearly enough “IF” you have had a spiritual experience along with the work of a sound A.A. sponsor in tow pointing them out to his or her sponsee as he or she puts his or her sponsee to the Steps and directs them in how to understand them and their meaning and re-application in their lveis after they have understood how they were victims of a deadly disease, of how they were puppets on a string and had no ability over themselves what so ever, even when we thought we had. Hence the words on page 61… That God could and would if He were sought” and on page thirteen of bills story “I would enter upon a new relationship with my creator,” I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems”….”it meant the….” And so on.

    What Bill did in writing out the drafts of the original Big book was too emphatic for an alcoholic to swallow,at the time so he had to be asked to “sell it softly,” to the sick and suffering alcoholic.

    This is the primary reason behind it all of what he learned from the OXFORD GROUPS, RECOVERY PROGRAM,” before he met was introduced via God’s intervention in their lives between himself, Ebby T, and then between Bill and Dr. Bob and then to the Oxford group again and again and of “How two members of the Oxford Christian religious group stood up for Ebby T, in court and asked the judge to appoint them as “Sponsors,” to him for the benefit of him and society as well. So the judge agreed, and then Ebby ent to bill to pass their recovery program onto Bill “If He Would have It, as it was delivered unto him (Ebby).”

    You can read through Bills story of how willing he soon became to take it on root and branch. So the word and practice of sponsorship is well proven in the big book as well as in all of our other fellowships books and pamphlets. You can also read A.A. number three to see how effecive it worked for number three….

    So when ever anyone says the word and application of the word “Sponsorship,” is not mentioned in the 164 pages in the front of our Big book, is lying due to spiritual blindness and fear of actual recovery as we have to have it granted to us in the practice of it. Our A.A recovery program is not yours and mine, it is owned by God, delivered through Ebby, to Bill, to Bob and from then with their own isght and modifications onto us.

    So please stop these debates and just do it any way.

    You will find the word and application of the meaning of the word “Sponsor,” mentioned throughout the rest of the 164 pages of the big book as well as in the other A.A literature, such as in the “As Bill Sees It,” book. And as it is stated in the A.A. General Service Manual and here in the Australian A.A. Service Manual, and in out Three Legacies and 12 Concepts.

  74. If you are new or coming back-KISSunshine. ask God for help everyday and thank him/her at night. dont drink. Go to meetings. Find a group you connect with. Do the steps with someone that is doing them and will take you through them as soon as you can. Do not delay, do the steps. Write down your dreams and set goals. Clean house. Help others. Thank god. Pray to the power that you believe helped you get this far and continue to your ass off. I got prayed and meditated into AA/NA – im praying for you now. Its not an easy program but its very simple, dont let anyone fool you or convolute. Especially yourself.

  75. I had one sponsor, for one year, in which we throughly did all twelve steps, to whom I am eternally grateful.
    Before and beyond that, my experiences with sponsorship has been decidedly poor. I call people I have an affinity to when something comes up, and I always work it out. Sometimes friends in the program ask me, ‘have you talked to your sponsor about this?’ I’m not in AA to debate though, so Ii just evade the question. Whether I have a sponsor or not is nobody’s business, frankly.

  76. The big book was written in AA’s infancy. They’s why they added TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS and literature like P15 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON SPONSORSHIP and many other documents.

    The Big Book, while great, is hardly the end-all be-all on AA’s program of recovery. There was simply a lot of things they hadn’t figured out yet. And the program, as they practiced it, was geared for the extreme low bottom drunk who was willing to do anything. People who were literally at death’s door. That’s who the founders were. We don’t meet too many alcoholics who are that desperate anymore. (Administering injectable sedatives to newcomers who might smash our furniture, or might commit suicide, all this happening in our homes! as happened to Bill W.) Drunks changed rapidly after AA started. People’s bottoms rose. The program evolved to address the new kind of member with the later volumes. So did sponsorship. It was a later improvement to address modern Alcoholics who hadn’t lost everything.

    From my experience the people who need sponsorship the most (having one and being one) almost almost seem to be the kind of AA who objects strongest to the idea of sponsorship. It’s practically impossible to tell if we see ourselves clearly without an objective observer with whom we share everything. There is great value in trusting someone (and being trusted) enough to share our inner self. We are only as sick as our secrets.

  77. After 17 years, I can say that I never had a sponsor. But I did have a LOT of people who said they were my sponsor but what did I really have? One sponsor who never worked the steps with me. He only said “Go to a meeting”. That was a deep as it got. Sponsors whom I only bump into accidentally. Never been with one outside the rooms. Sponsors who I call, leave message and that is the end of it. When/if I see them, it is by accident with the, now eternal phrase, “I was going to call but…” But you DIDN’T, call, you DIDN’T. It doesn’t matter what you were ‘going to do’. Now there is the text sponsor. After 6 sponsors, none of whom I am still in touch with, I’m beginning to realize that I am 100% on my own and people who bellow “Get a sponsor, work the steps” have just nothing else to say at meetings. They cannot be serious. IF you have a real sponsor, consider yourself very, very lucky because worthless sponsors are just another grain of sand on the beach. It is time for people in AA to STOP saying “Get a sponsor, work the steps”

  78. lets get one thing straight here a sponsor is not for life im sick and tired of hearing people say they have had the same sponsor for over 20 years my god that’s not sponsorship that’s co dependence when you complete the 12th steps as honestly as you can via a sponsor then you practice the steps into your life on daily basis putting faith into what ever your chosen higher power is we become solely reliant upon the power. it makes very sad that people don’t understand this my sponsor is not a baby sitter or my decision maker I turn my will over to god every second of the day asking only of what he wants me to do the sad thing about aa is there not enough real alcoholics in it the fellowship is being took over by people with illness other than alcoholism

  79. My experience is, I had a sponsor in the beginning,taught me the importance of meeting attendance, being part of a home group, he took me through the steps, listened to my 5th step and kept guiding me until I understood how to apply the steps and traditions in my life and to carry it to the next person and teach them , knowing that one day he will move on from me and teach others himself. My original sponsor I still call my friend and see him in meetings and smile inside knowing that i took the knowledge and experience to help others ever since i woke up my alcohol and drug induced coma (not really) more like sleep walking for 25 years and then waking up to the damage that i caused to myself and the people who i claim to love. I owe my life to my higher power (which I call GOD) Group of drunks, good orderly direction, whatever you want to call it. The solution to my problems was to put down the drink and drugs,find a power greater than myself, and help others once i find that power. Great page and i like the mucker method. Whatever works…i know today that drinking or drugging can never help me with anything and that is a restoration to sanity.

  80. The only AA statistic I care about is,”Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” True then, true now.
    The path is the basics found in the first 164 pages of the big book.

  81. This is very concise/informative however, quite a bit over kill. There are truths and opinions in this article.

    Though the word “Sponsor” does not appear in the first 164, it is however, mentioned in the personal stories. The word “sponsee” is not mentioned in the Book “anywhere” yet it is used in this article as if it is the “Tag” for “mentoring” someone!

    Keeping it simple, sharing our Experience, strength, and hope, is what’s best. I don’t agree with the courts, sending people to A.A. (they don’t send them to church to get sober) but some do get sober.

    Working with others, outlines how we are to approach a new man/woman, and if they want what the program has to offer, we share with them what we have done. That simple.

    What hurts the newcomer more than anything, is an egregious violation of our “Twelfth” tradition!

    If we are “member’s in good standing” we just do what Bill and Bob did. Stand shoulder to shoulder on the firing lines, and do this thing, one day at a time.

  82. Often times the 50-75% rate of early AA is quoted and I’d like to offer some clarification. The number first appeared in one of Saturday evening post articles and then it was cited in the preface to the second addition. It was also used by Bill on several occasions in a couple speeches and letters. It’s important to recognize that each time that the statistic is cited, it is proceeded by 5 words that are often omitted from the citation. (As they were, irresponsibly in my opinion, in this article”). Those 5 words are “OF THOSE THAT REALLY TRIED 50% got sober right away and another 25% after a relapse or two. On many occasions Bill said that it seems as though 20-30% percent of those who walk through the door really try. So when one does the math – 50-75% of 20-30% is about 10-15%. So 10-15% percent of those who walk through the door get sober. The recovery rate is the same today. I find it interesting that this article is under the “Myth” section and the article uses a myth to make it’s point. Let’s not cherry pick history and lets do our homework before we start stating myth as fact. Here’s an excellent summary of the point I just made. http://bigbooksponsorship.org/_content/uploads/2018/01/aa-recovery-rates-2008.pdf

    • Point taken Allan and yes I agree with your argument and the posted document is well presented…thank you. I would however, counter your argument. The problem with recovery rates and those who attend A.A. lies in the vague statement “OF THOSE THAT REALLY TRIED.” If we define this as, working all 12 Steps (including Big Book sponsorship of newcomers) without any ‘half-measures’ and a willingness of ‘faith with works’ coupled with rigorously working with the disciplines and practices of steps Ten and Eleven (self-examination, meditation and prayer) consistently everyday, then, in my experience 50% to 75% are more realistic recovery rates.

      There is a A Baltimore, Maryland study of 500 former and current heroin and cocaine injection drug users over the course of one year indicated having an AA/NA sponsor was not correlated with any improvement in sustained abstinence rates than a non-sponsored group (Crape 2001:291). However, being a sponsor was found to be highly correlated with sustained abstinence. In fact, 75% of the sponsors group maintained abstinence over the one year period and showed the the most improved lifestyle changes (Crape 2001:298).

      Lastly, I’ve worked with approximately 1900 addicts over a 14 year period (I log each person I have worked with and how far we got through the Steps), and those who have followed the instructions as outlined in the Big Book of A.A. and embody it into all their affairs have shown and proven those 50% to 75% recovery rates. P.S. I have been fired as a sponsor over 1000 times, but let me reiterate, those who work the program as I do,, are still sober and in my life the program has been 100% effective and successful.

  83. Thanks for all your insight.You all seem to be sober, so I listen. My experience over 36 yrs of sobriety is that sponsorship as discussed is unnecessary. I sobered up in an area where there was almost no meetings. Our brave little group of newly sober souls had to rely on each other to stay sober. We “sponsored” each other,had a great time socializing and kept the plug in the jug. If anyone “slipped” we were there to help, but we certainly would not tell him how to act. I go to meetings now to hear nuggets of truth from newcomers. I take what resonates with me and leave the rest. Life is good!

  84. Hi, I came across this site by accident, but I’m glad I did. I couldn’t agree more with you about the Sponsorship thing. I’ve been sober, it will be 30 years next month. But hey, don’t class me as an old timer, I may have been about a while? but I’m still young at heart.

    More and more over the last couple of years, I’ve been horrified at some of the going ons in this fellowship. To give you an example, I know of one guy who sponsors 50 (yes that’s right 50) people. He has a day in his house where all the sponsee’s gather and they go through the steps each week.

    Well if that ain’t an ego trip what is? I don’t like to use the word hate, but I’d love to tell dh’s like that what I think of them. (sorry). Another one claimed she had to phone her sponsor every day at 11am, life or death she had to call.

    What gives these morons the right to screw up a poor alcoholics head like that, for the sake of a bit of power and an ego trip? They would be hunted if I had my way. (Sorry, but the anger at injustice is rearing it’s ugly head at the moment)

    When a sick individual is crying out for help, the last thing they need is some moron on an ego trip.

    If that is how people sponsor other folk, then they haven’t learned a thing about ego deflation, and they certainly don’t need a higher power in their life, why would they? they’re too busy playing God.

    They have no right trying to teach others the way of recovery in AA, why? because all they are, are dry drunks.

    Now that I’ve had my little rant, I’d just like to say, I’m glad you wrote this article, thank you for your effort.

    My idea of sponsorship, is to guide someone through the book exactly as it is laid out. To help them learn what they need to do to recover from that hopeless state of mind and body. To quit playing God and get some direction from another source (God)

    Let them make their own mistakes, let them live their life the way they see fit. I’m only there to help with the recovery from alcoholism. I’m not their nanny, I couldn’t even manage my own life never mind someone else’s.

    I’ve met a lot of phoney’s in my time, and I thank God from the bottom of my heart that he guided me to the right people that were there for me. No BS, just guided to find a power that would help me recover from alcoholism.

    To the newcomers, who are so vulnerable and sick, I wish you the very best, hopefully you will meet some of the good, caring people who will show you the right path. Avoid the phoney’s like the plague.


  86. The information in this article was spot on. It is important that we who have solved the drink problem approach the new comer and 12 step him on the spot. He or she must be afforded the oppurtunity what was so freely given to us. If you let a newcomer walk out the door without approaching him or her and offering to take them through the steps than you are guilty of being spiritually deficient.

    Not my suggestion Gods in step 12.

    AA world wide membership has flatlined at 2 million over the past 27 years. Just google aa worldwide membership and you will see the facts for your self. AA New York central office puts out a yearly membership cencus.

    AA is but a blurry image of what our founders intended. Instead of writing criticism’s of what im writing i challange any aa member anywhere in the world to go to your next aa meeting and take note of the new comer. Then watch the “old timers” and anyone who has gone through the steps regardless of time. Watch to see first if they even approach the newcomer. Then see if they have the knowledge or capibility of actually twelve stepping him on the spot. Or at the very least offering to take them through the steps.

    This experiment has been done by me and anyone i have sponsored for years and i alway’s get the same response back “your right nobody even approaches the newcomer” or “a few people said hi welocme” or “keep coming back”. The problem with that is that the window to extend the hand may only open one time for us to properly approach him or her. What if this paticular newcomer is the alcaholic or the worst kind “The real alcaholic” very sensitive they may not come back or even worse they will relapse withen days and not only cause injury or death to them selfs they now have killed a innocent family of 4 in a vehicular manslaughter accident. I promise you this happens multiple time a week due to poor aa first exposure.

    Please do not think this is to far fetched for i am the one who in fact was never properly approached or even welcomed for my first dozen or more AA attempts. You see i am permantly mamed with two brooken feet. I have 21 screws and four plates in both feet. I went on a run after another aa attempt and jumped out a 4 story window fleeing for my life in a gun fight in Los Angeles on Alvarado street. Not until my sponsar Gary A on september 25th 1997 finally properly approached me and invited me to breakfast. Did every thing that Bill and Dr. Bob would have done. God bless Gary A. my sponsor I love him for his unselfishness, his kind heart and most of all his ability to pass on the responsibility of approaching the newcomer when i only had only two days of sobriety!

    How do you hide a 100 bill on a recovered member of aa?

    You put it in his big book and thats not funny because people are dying!!!

    If Bill and Dr. Bob were with you when you do the AA newcomer experiment I challanged you too. I can only see a tear or two rolling down there cheeks as the newcomer walks out of the room alone and frightened with no hope in sight!!!

    Numbers don’t lie, Our fellowship has flatlined over 27 years and my experiment will give you the number reason why!

  87. I have been thinking about this thing- sponsorship – lately. I don’t tell women I’ll be their sponsor -I say, I’ll take you through the steps. It’s a different idea, or intent, than sponsoring. It seems to me my job is to assist them in finding their own higher power, not to become that for them. There have been a few times I’ve told a girl to get up at 7, eat something and take a shower- because they were incapable of thinking clearly. But I can count those times on one hand.

    I qualify before offering- as the BB teaches me. The minute I’m convinced they want sobriety, we start studying the BB. Simple, easy and I always learn.

    I was blessed. In June 1982 I went to my first meetimg and after it ended, a woman walked over to me and said- I’ll help you, do you want to get sober? I sobbed and thanked her and though she’s passed, I hear her to this day. “Count yourself, missy, you’re just one”…

    She wanted me to find my God, not hers. What a wonderful example she was…

    If there is a newcomer in a room I’m in, I make a beeline for her after the meeting. As was done for me. If she hadn’t done so, I’m not certain I would have come back..

    God bless, thanks for the site.

  88. The 5 Reasons to get a sponsor are
    If you have no clue where A.A. is
    If you need someone to tell you your Alcoholic
    If you have no personal willingness to look inside
    If God is to weak
    If no one will answer your calls anymore

  89. This is an old thread, but I see people are still commenting. The conversation continues! I’m really glad to have come upon this. I’ve been sober for just over 5 years, and just recently finished the 12 steps. The reasons for my “hesitation” vary, but the reality is that I’ve had multiple sponsors, and for some reason that I couldn’t figure out, none of them were willing to take the time to go over the steps with me. I would get fed up with the delay and find a new sponsor to teach me because I’ve been taught that I need someone to help me go through them, and I didn’t want to do it “wrong”.

    Through my frustration, I decided to heck with this, and I found a workbook that spelled it out pretty clearly. I went through all 12 steps using that workbook, and although I found that many of the questions were repetitive, it was very thorough and my honesty helped me get through it without feeling like I came out of it hiding something.

    I realized that in the 5 years that I’ve been a regular meeting attender and reading not only the BB but also books written for other 12 step fellowships and from various authors as well, I’ve actually done the steps, just not in the way that is “traditional”.

    All my searching and subsequent “taking the bull by the horns” approach to my own recovery has forced me to reflect on my experiences with traditional sponsorship, and now that I have formally finished step 12 and am “qualified” to carry a message to the new comer, I see several things that I will be doing differently, if only to save a new comer from the frustrations I’ve felt over the past few years regarding this subject.

    I was told to “call me every day” and when life got in the way (I do have a job, a family, hobbies and self care) the sponsor would get upset and I even had one fire me because in her words, “there’s more to recovery than just step work”. This was after my father was staying in the hospital for cancer related complications, my dog had run away after a holiday celebration that included loud fireworks, and I was ending a friendship that had become very toxic. The sponsor was upset that I couldn’t find time to go to a meeting every day but instead read from the literature and wanted to only meet once a week to review step work. I was shocked and confused by her “assessment” but understood that she was also going through personal issues that probably caused her to lash out; maybe dealing with a sponsee was too painful for her at the time. I forgive.

    Other sponsors just wouldn’t make the time to meet with me, for various reasons. All this delaying over the years really paused my step work; again, I didn’t know any better, I thought that if I did it on my own I was doing something wrong, and I’ve also heard that phrase “someone who sponsors themselves has a fool for a sponsor”.

    I still have a lot of reflection to do, but I will be changing some things when I begin to carry the message to others. I firstly, just asked another woman if she wanted me to take her through the steps. How can I expect these new people to walk into a meeting reeling from the damage of their addiction and approach me to sponsor them?! It seems absurd! It’s MY job as a member to CARRY THE MESSAGE. Carry it. Take it to them. Don’t make them beg for it. Another thing that I loved about this article is that is says that the sponsor is to call the new comer! Not the other way around. I have already called the new woman. I did as soon as I read that part, to say hi and let her know I was thinking of her. To expect these people, who may not have any social skills whatsoever, to call me or anyone else on a regular basis is ridiculous. It seems like so much of what I’ve been “taught” by the older people is completely backwards, and now I understand why! This article put into words the underlying feeling that I’ve had for so long but was unable to articulate myself.

    I wish this was shareable on other social media sites, because I would love to put it on Pinterest and Facebook and start a dialog with people who are in my circle about this. As it is, several women and I just started a literature group to study, and I’m going to bring it up there. This message needs to be carried to the world. No more “sponsors” who want to be god, no more power trips, no more of this nonsense! Carrying the message is the primary purpose, and that is exactly what I intend to do.

  90. Thank you for a much needed & thought provoking article. My sponsor died when I was 3 years sober. He did his job and pointed me towards AA and God. I have been sober for 32 years and have worked with many newcomers and and have always enjoyed having many people in my life that I can speak to if I feel the need to just “bounce something” off someone. I remember an article I was pointed to by an old timer when my sponsor died. He told me that one of the biggest problems he saw with AA was a faulty dependence on a sponsor. He said that at this point, I should be able to 12 step myself & others (as Bill stated also in As Bill sees it). Here is the article that Bill wrote:

    The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety by Bill Wilson Grapevine Jan. 1958
    “In the first six months of my own sobriety, I worked hard with many alcoholics. Not a one responded. Yet this work kept me sober. It wasn’t a question of those alcoholics giving me anything. My stability came out of trying to give, not out of demanding that I receive.
    Thus I think it can work out with emotional sobriety. If we examine every disturbance we have, great or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and its consequent unhealthy demand. Let us, with God’s help, continually surrender these hobbling demands. Then we can be set free to live and love; we may then be able to Twelfth Step ourselves and others into emotional sobriety.
    Of course I haven’t offered you a really new idea—only a gimmick that has started to unhook several of my own “hexes” at depth. Nowadays my brain no longer races compulsively in either elation, grandiosity or depression. I have been given a quiet place in bright sunshine.”
    On of my strongest prayers today is to “ask God to direct my thinking” & “to use me.” So far, it has worked amazingly well.

  91. I got so much out of this article. It mirrors many of my own thoughts. I wold love to work with other alcoholics, but I now eschew (for myself alone) the role of sponsorship in AA for many of the same reasons discussed here. My last sponsor (about a year back) relapsed himself, and after that I felt like I was done with sponsors; I have worked the Steps, but because every group I attend “strongly believes in sponsorship” I feel I am ostracized from the process of giving back, as I do not have a sponsor (an unspoken prerequisite for working with others in every group I have attended). What I do have, I believe, is a good understanding of the fundamental principles of AA AS THEY APPEAR IN THE BIG BOOK, a long period of sobriety, and a strong relationship with my higher power.

    I really appreciated what you said here, and have thought for years about the abuses of power and elicitation of co-dependency I see arising out of many sponsor relationships; my standing joke (which I share with few people) has always been “did you ask your sponsor if it was ok to wipe your ass this morning?” Many treat sponsorship as an opportunity to exercise the selfsame forms of control over others we did (at least I did) in active years of drinking. I was (and I believe I am not alone) a manipulator and a controller–I drank to control my emotions and to control my environment, and controlled others around me through keeping them at a safe distance–and these are characteristics which take years to overcome and reverse effectively. Thus I feel that sponsorship as it is commonly practiced today allows a lot of room for character defects to surface in different ways. I love the suggestion of working through the fourth step together–the way it was always done with the various sponsors I have had, it felt like a task, almost a test, which had to be excruciatingly honest and painful, and usually was prescribed in a way that took weeks of rifling through ugly memories and bearing an enormous weight until it could finally be shared.

    The idea of working through the steps rapidly and reasonably so that one might get to the heart of the matter makes sense…I was in a meeting some years ago in which a sponsor introduced his sponsee (who was picking up his ONE YEAR CHIP)under the auspices of having “just completed Step One”. How sad for this person, I thought; way to keep him in limbo and following his sponsor like a lost puppy. For all here who have had good experiences with sponsors, more power to you, and blessed be. For me, I understand and have worked the steps with others, and now I get much more out of continuously working the myself. The “requirement” of sponsorship–and that is the context in which it is generally framed in every meeting I have ever attended–keeps, in my opinion, more than a few people out of the rooms, or at least out of the fold.

  92. This clears up so much of what I have been thinking recently but have been afraid of because of the dogmatic “call/run everything by your sponsor or else” belief. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. You’ve really helped brighten this AA’s sobriety and realligned my focus and power in God, not any human.

  93. I must say that the manner I. Which you first rip people apart for the manner I. Which they sponsor and the manner in which sponsees get sponsored is sad. To think that from 1940 – 2018 people have not changed is well lacking on your part. While agree the book is our text I also have read accounts of a sponsor taking in a sponsee in those golden days. Keeping them sober early on.

    People have changed brother anxiety, depression among other mental illnesses are on the rise. People come into AA very co dependant.

    I would never take an A.A. stranger into my home today with my family and that was practiced. As the world changed some adaptations must be taken. Yes we sponsor co dependants today and yes not all people are perfect. If you can’t bring your criticism with love and humility then really what makes you any better or see any clearer.

  94. Grateful for the author and those who commented. Coming up on 3 years in A.A., as a result of reading this article, I feel like I have finally learned what sponsorship is truly about. From the start, I heard to get a home group and get a sponsor – but I didn’t know what to do when I checked those two boxes off. I saw other members have a beautiful relationship with their sponsors, what they had was foreign to me. Now I see what I have with my sponsor is exactly what I need. My current sponsor and I worked the 12 steps together, it took over a year because I lacked the willingness to work. Humbly asking her for guidance, and following the sound advice, is what got me going. As a result, I now have a higher power I rely on. I tried to sponsor an individual, but quickly became overwhelmed and felt like a failure – because I see I was trying to do someone else’s job. If all I have to do is take a suffering alcoholic through the steps (which I try to practice in all my affairs), I can do that. Thank you for my sobriety.

  95. This article says “I believe one of the biggest reasons A.A. recovery rates have plummeted from its stellar 50% to 75% success rates of the 1940’s to a dismal 10% or less success rate in the rooms today is due to poor and ineffective sponsorship.”

    Please show us the data and method that this assertion is based on.

  96. Perhaps the reason for the increase in failures, is because AA no longer adheres to the Traditions they formulated in order to protect themselves.

  97. Thank you very much for writing this. A bad sponsor can be more dangerous to one’s sobriety than anything else! Especially sponsors who sponsor people for their own personal gain or to boost their sense of power and authority. Newcomers who have really hit bottom are so desperate they’ll do anything and a bad sponsor can completely ruin their chance at recovery.
    God is my sponsor! Who else? I’ve turned my will and my life over to His CARE so of course He is sponsoring me. I’m 4 years sober. Had an excellent sponsor take me through the steps but more than that I don’t need any gatekeepers imposing their worldview on me. I take it straight to the source.. God, the literature and I have a couple close friends that are also in recovery to share things with when I need to.
    The pioneers of AA are rolling over in their graves at the current state of AA but whatever it still works and I’m grateful. The 12 steps is by far the best technology we have today to treat alcoholism.
    Thanks again for being a trailblazer and posting your honest thoughts about this!

  98. WoW! Loved this dialogue. There’s no barometer in measuring ones alcoholism, addiction or personal needs for supervision/suggestions. I live by the 3rd Tradition (The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking), and it’s kept me in the program. Sponsor/sponsee relationship is only a “suggestion”. I had sponsors in my first couple of years. I have not had a dedicated sponsor for the majority of sobriety and that’s my choice whether it be an issue of intimacy, control or independence. I am not a good sponsor! LOL The program is predicated on/from a religious doctrine which I, personally never adhered to. The Ten Commandments works, so does therapy, so does medical attention AND attendance to meetings a few times a week. Fellowship in the rooms and hearing individual stories/experiences are what helps me in abstaining from harmful destructive vices. I heard early on in the program that one should NOT compare stories but instead to “identify the feelings”. It’s worked for me for 33 consecutive years (“one timer”). Hmmm…my “Higher Power” radiates love, encouragement and my daily reflection of gratitude by introducing myself at a meeting with my name, then following with, “I have a beautiful rich life”.

  99. Hi, I’m enjoying your page, but there’s a heading that seems worded contrarily to the advice that follows, namely “1. Put barriers between the newcomer and Step Twelve.” Am I missing the point, or is this a typo? If this is one of the myths of sponsorship that you’re trying to debunk, perhaps you could make that more clear. For now, I’ll read it as advice not to put such barriers, since you go on to tell how quickly newcomers should be ready to help other alcoholics.

  100. I love your site and the article about sponsorship. I have been sober in AA for 38 years literally by the Grace of a God I thought I had discarded, since I thought I KNEW that God and it wasn’t very useful. I learned from a wonderful sponsor and from his sponsor that the purpose of AA had next to nothing to do with drinking. Ernie even said – if drinking is your problem, you should find somewhere else because it would be a waste of your time. Just stop and you’d be fine.
    How did he sponsor me? Well his sponsor had an insight because of experience. HE had gotten sober in 1949 or 50 (can’t remember the date now) but he had a great business and family but was just a horribly self centered drinker. He was unavailable to the family and only worked and drank. When he got sober at one of the three meetings in his area, he started getting sour and would go to Bill in NYC and talk to him – about mostly arguments with his wife. What he didn’t know was his wife had met Lois and struck up a friendship. She would call Lois and talk and then Lois would call Bill and warn him. My grand sponsor never caught a break. Meanwhile my sponsor focused on my overly firm and fully packed brain. Wehn we got to Step 2, after a couple of months I think, he told me to get a pine cone from the year. He wouldn’t discuss faith, belief, religion or spirituality with me at all. I brought the pine cone and put it on the table.”What made that?” he asked – and wise ass that I am, I Said, ” A Pine Tree!” I was dripping with attitude. He then asked, What made the Tree?” and I went blank – couldn;t come up with anything smart and sarcastic. “THERE!” he nearly shouted. “That is where you will find and grow your connection to a Higher Power, God as you understand him…the you don’t know anything PLACE.” That became the focus of the doing the program. Looking and finding and searching and noticing. Sponsoring is run by GOD I believe. When I can not know and just BE, things happen that I cannot take any credit for. I can feel great. I can be happy. and yet I cannot take credit.
    Ernie had another little jab he used and which I use with my sponsees – He asked me, “If you have an operation and it is successful, do you thank the scalpel?” “Of course not!” I answered. “I thank the Doctor.” He replied, “Well, YOU aren’t the Doctor. You are just a scalpel. So – stay sharp but remember your place.” The Sponsor is just a tool in the hands of the God of your understanding it seems and I am kept sharp by the use that can be made of me.

  101. I read the article entirely, though not every comment. I sponsor men laterally, as opposed to king sponsor and underling sponsee. In fact I try to not use the term “sponsee”, but occasionally it’s convenient. “We had to quit playing God…” That statement is a broad one, my interpretation of it is that; I don’t know anything about most things, and that my opinions are irrelevant in most cases. What I do know is, that I am sober today, and have been for a couple/few 24’s. So the only thing I can honestly share with a newcomer is how it worked for me. My first sponsor was very aloof, but I was driven and willing. I got to step 12 in about 6 weeks. And started raising my hand in meetings when the Chairperson asked who was willing to sponsor. Today 3 of my “friends” have more than a year of sobriety and two have 2 years. I have been asked to sponsor probably 50 men. So 5 out of 50…which pair of glasses are you seeing that through?

    The truth (for me) is that it’s none of my business. The application/assignment of success and failure terminology is my Higher Powers business. I am willing, in the context of step 3 to help whenever or wherever I can. Self Righteousness is a character defect of mine big time. When I start thinking I know the right way or the wrong way of anything—it becomes obvious to me pretty fast, that I don’t know anything.

  102. Sponsorship is such a touchy issue. I was relieved to read that it isn’t mandated in the first 164 pages of the Big Book because it’s driven a bit of a wedge between me and lots of people I’ve met over the years. I’m constantly told I’m good at carrying the message (it’s my primary purpose), but I should get a sponsor. HP knows I’ve tried. The person that took me through my steps in the beginning did an amazing job. We parted company when they picked up a drink. I’ve tried several sponsors since then, but I prefer a sponsor who does not gossip about other members; run late for meetings all the time and prefer texting over talking.

    I’m happy for the people who get good sponsors and hang in there with them for many years. I just wish they’d leave me alone about finding a sponsor so I can sponsor others. There are so MANY other ways we can be of service without sponsoring.

    Sponsors are just as diverse as anything in life. I’m grateful for the one I had, but have to honestly say that we’re not a cult or a religious order, so why do we pass judgement on the non-conformists in our fellowship?

    In all these years of attending meetings, I have met some amazing people – and some creeps. Longevity is not equivalent to working a good program. Complacency does settle amongst us sometimes. I’m not competitive. I’m not here to see how many sponsees I can collect. I cannot bring myself to refer to them in meetings as “mine” because I want people to feel equal.

    Enough rambling. Keep coming back ya’ll.

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