Bad Sponsors

I hate to write the following, but it is a fact of 12-Step life.  Despite your best efforts, more likely than not, at some point in your recovery, one of your sponsors is bound to let you down.  Or worse.  Once again, you must never lose sight of the fact that sponsors are people in recovery just like you, capable of all the failings and shortcomings that you are.   As a result, there is no shortage of stories about the negative experiences people have had with ex-sponsors.  Here is my list of the top 3 worst experiences I have had with respect to poor sponsoring:

I once had a sponsor who told me that if I did not break-up with my boyfriend the following day, she would have to “left me go.”  This sponsor was over-stepping her boundaries, but I didn’t know  it.  NO sponsor has the right to tell you how to live your life or to make major decisions for you.  All they are supposed to do is to refer you back to the Big Book and your Higher Power for inspiration and share what has worked for them.  But I was new to program, had just lost a ton of weight, and had this particular sponsor on the highest pedestal ever created.  In reality, it was my Higher Power who was giving me the power to recover, not her.  But you couldn’t tell ME that!  I should have simply changed sponsors and moved-on.  Instead, I got off the phone, cried hysterically, and left program for 2 years, gaining back, not only the 75 pounds I had just lost, but another 30 pounds on top of that!  (We won’t mention the fact that the boyfriend was long gone by that point, but that’s a whole other story!)

Another time I had a male sponsor.  Not a good idea.  Why?  Because he made comments like, “There’s no such thing as PMS.  That’s just an excuse women use to eat,” and, “You need to start wearing tighter clothes now and showing off your body.”  In that fragile state of “newcomer,” it was hard enough dealing with food withdrawals, never mind getting-up the nerve to tell an “old-timer” that he was way out of line!  I’ve also heard lots of stories about people who end-up dating their sponsors.  Talk about complicating things!  Again, in general (and there are always exceptions to every rule), NOT a good idea to choose a member of the opposite sex as your sponsor, and NOT a good idea to date your sponsor, regardless of gender.

This last example is probably the hardest one to take.  Over the years, I’ve had several sponsors lie to me about their own program.  This is a complete breach of trust and of the spiritual principles of the program.  I’ve had sponsors tell me they are abstinent but they are not, or say they did x,y, & z in recovery but they didn’t…  Here I am being completely honest with them, ASSUMING they are being completely honest with me, but then I find out that the whole relationship is based on a lie!  It can be DEVASTATING!  But only IF you are putting your sponsor above your Higher Power!  For even this type of betrayal can be worked-out through mature communication, as long as both parties are willing to be completely honest with each other.  Again, we are dealing with fellow addicts here.  We MUST, at all times, keep in mind that sponsors are just human beings who have been in program a little longer than we have.

If, after you have spoken to some fellow OA’s and your Higher Power, you come to the conclusion that the relationship with this particular sponsor is beyond repair, tell her/him that you have decided that the relationship is not working out and then move on.  There are SO many good sponsors out there!  Honest, caring, people who would LOVE to work with someone who is serious about recovery!  Remember, the sponsor gets just as much out of this relationship as the sponsee does.  And don’t ever forget the most important sponsorship rule of all:  You can change sponsors AT WILL!  NEVER feel that you MUST stay with a sponsor who is not right for you, or worse, one who is using their position of “authority” to manipulate you or make you feel worse than you did when you started!  You should ALWAYS come away from interactions with your sponsor feeling BETTER than you did when you started!  If that is not the case, something is very wrong.


March 8, 2012 This post was written by Categories: I Wish Someone Had Told Me... Tagged with:

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