Sunday, January 4, 2009

sideways lesson

A week before Christmas, a young man asked me if I would become his temporary sponsor. He was getting out of a treatment centre at the end of the year and needed one. I liked this kid. He was quiet with a wonderfully dry sense of humour. Made it easy to say yes and made "phone me each day" the only requirement.

Up to the day before Christmas, he phoned each day and we got to know each other as I tried to figure out how I was going to work the steps with someone who had been in treatment for the last fourteen months.

Then I never heard from him until early Friday morning when he called me at about 2:00 a.m. to tell me he relapsed. We talked for an hour and made plans to pick him up for a lunch meeting the following day. Which we did. Went to a noon meeting, took him out for lunch, and then he just stayed with our family for the afternoon and early evening. On and off he spoke of his relapse, describing his powerlessness over alcohol and drugs. He had no troubles about believing in a higher power.

The next day he phoned and asked me how I got sober. How did I get to where I was. So I opened up my big book to page 60 to get him to look at step 3. I read him the first paragraph on Step 3:
Being convinced, we were at Step Three, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?

Explained to him that this was how I started my recovery and that the next few pages would explain the how and why. He agreed to look at it and over the next hour we went through the following three and half pages, paragraph by paragraph. It seemed so clear and simple to me as we went through it. It was going very well until he told me that "it sounds really boring."

That comment kinda stumped me. Here we are, looking at a solution to a life and death problem and he's worried about being bored. This, after being in treatment for over a year. Arghhh.

I went over what happened in my life after I made the decision to turn my will and life over to God's care. Then I suggested he spend a bit of time going over those paragraphs on his own and then when he is ready to follow the directions offered by the big book to call me back. So far, I haven't heard from him.

When we finished talking, I felt pained. I felt fear for him and guilt for myself, that somehow I had failed. I spoke to my sponsor about this last night and he told me I was making this all about me. My bruised ego. My failure to change this young mans life. My character defects were front and centre and I couldn't even see them. Shit.

I prayed for this young man last night. Put him in the hands of my Higher Power, asked that through the circumstances of life he would come to a place where he could surrender, and prayed that I would stay out of the way, allowing God to do what God would do. That God's will, not my will, be done.

I love that first paragraph on page 63 of the big book, it is so rich in promise:

When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.
Photo Credit: Behrooz Nobakht


An Irish Friend of Bill said...

all I know is that I try to make it not boring. it's not very easy, and involves introducing jokes regularly. humour and is very productive in winning people over. It is an essential part of my toolbox. It is in that sentence "if newcomers could see no fun or joy in our existence they wouldn't want it". So for me that means that I have a personal responsibility towards the newcomer to foster those qualities not for myself, but for their benefit. It also happens that it's a very pleasant thing to have anyway. the only time I don't tell lots of jokes, is when I bumped into somebody who uses jokes as a way of making light of their situation, so I do not participate, because I do not want to endorse their flimsy avoidance techniques. I can honestly say, that sponsoring is probably one of the most difficult things I have ever learned how to do. And the responsibility involved never ceases to scare me. I absolutely believe in that maxim, you snooze you lose. And although I do not demand perfection of myself, because that would be contrary to big book instructions, I DO try to go to ANY Lengths, to pass on what I have learned. Ultimately there is no advantage to either you or anyone else if you use this as a weapon for your inner tyrant. But it can be used to good effect, if you dare is perception of the (seemingly) unfunny face of the programme. I see sponsorship as a trial and error process. every time I have an experience with the sponsor the way they fail to understand something, I see it as a red flag, to be borne in mind for the very next person I try to help.
As regards his ability to stay sober, for me one of the quickest ways to stabilise a risky new person, is to give them the six things listed on my sidebar, as they have proved extremely effective in getting very new people far away from the risk of relapse. It does require a little bit of explanation, but apart from that it's a very small amount of work in exchange for a very higher payoff which is the newcomer's ability to stay sober. It goes without saying that your intentions are very good. But I really like the saying "feeling without action is sentimentality, and action without feeling is an empty gesture".
Good for you for trying to help that guy, and I hope something good happens for him soon, as it is always very sad watching young capable, intelligent people relapse.

Annette said...

"They," whoever that is, say that relapse is a part of recovery. As hard as it is he has to walk his own journey and make his own choices. It sounds like you are not only a wonderful caring sponsor, but a very solid, grounded one also. No matter how wonderful you may be, and I have no doubt that you rate up there on the wonderful sponsor meter, :o)it is still up to him to pick up the tools you give to him. Be gentle with yourself.

Lou said...

It's always sad to me to hear of ones that went back out. But we are powerless. To me that doesn't mean we cannot pray for them, or mourn them, or keep faith in our hearts that they will recover.

Laura said...

You have done your part, planted the seed, watered it and nurtured it. Someday, he will see that and decide that the pruning is worth the pain and choose for himself a clean life of chosen daily.

Great post.

steveroni said...

Well, Indistinct, the way you are doing it--THAT'S THE WAY WE DO IT! And the angels are saying "Bravo!" as they, I, and you, know that YOU STAYED SOBER! Right? OK? OK!!!
Steve E.

Shadow said...

i don't think being a sponsor is easy. i'd feel like you too. like i didn't do enough to help. lacked giving or saying something. i'd also end up making it all about me. whereas, it should be all about them. and if they are not ready, they aren't. nothing you can do to change that!

big Jenn said...

The fact that this kid had been in treatment for over a year clued me in that he cannot stay sober without a ton of structure, otherwise he wouldn't have been there. The disease is more powerful than we are,period. Just becuase someone asks me to sponser them, does not mean I have to. jeNN