Sponsors are OA members who are living the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to the best of their ability. They are willing to share their recovery with other members of the Fellowship and are committed to abstinence.
I am so grateful to OA and my sponsors, especially my first sponsor who taught me how to work the Steps and be an effective sponsor like her.(MORE) When an OAer asks, “When should I start sponsoring?” I say, “Now.” It’s not a question of “should.” If I have been abstinent 30 days, I have something a newcomer finds hard to imagine. And if I want to stay abstinent, I sponsor. I cannot keep what I do not give away.
Whether they like me or not, I always offer to be a temporary sponsor to newcomers while they attend meetings and find a sponsor. Liking a sponsor isn’t important; staying abstinent is.
A sponsor is like a rake-just another tool. It doesn’t matter which rake you pick up as long as you use one.
A person must be abstinent to sponsor. Suggesting a newcomer take a sponsor who is in the food is like suggesting a newcomer get in a car with a drunk driver. We are insane when we come into OA (Step Two), and our restoration to sanity doesn’t begin until we put down the food and start working the Steps. We come to OA to stop eating compulsively. We choose a sponsor because that person has what we want. Sponsors stay abstinent and can help newcomers do the same. Why would I pick up a rake that has no tines? People still in the food can serve in other ways, such as setting up chairs at meetings.
When I first came to OA and was crazy and in the food, my sponsor told me to sit and shut my mouth. She said my job, until I had a viewpoint of abstinence, was to listen to abstinent members and do what they do. This program is about ego-deflation, not making sure people feel good.
When someone asks me to be a sponsor, if I’m available (I sponsor up to six people at a time), I give him or her a time to call the next morning. During the call, we review the sponsee’s meal plan, and I ask the person to start our conversations by affirming, “I was abstinent yesterday, and I plan to be today.” Thus, we both know the sponsee is calling to stay out of the food.
I ask the sponsees to write out their food plans in food categories, but I don’t ask about specific foods. Having a set plan means we know what being abstinent means for the sponsee: he or she will stick to the food plan, no matter what, and will call before, not after, eating compulsively. I set a two-week trial period. If it’s not working (or the person is not staying abstinent), we’ll stop so the sponsee can find a more suitable sponsor. If a sponsee has a history of relapse, I share my lack of experience with relapse, but I don’t do anything different. I can’t stop a person who wants to return to the food.
After affirming abstinence, we do Step work. Often a sponsee seeks advice on sponsoring a sponsee; we always maintain anonymity, looking at principles, not personalities. We discuss food questions as they arise; it’s what worked for me. Over time, the call frequency might decrease. I’m available 24/7, but I can only help if the sponsee calls before eating compulsively.
Most of my sponsees are from my home meeting, so I expect to see them there each week. I’ve found it’s true that you’ll be lucky to help one person per year find abstinence and recovery.
I expect abstinence to be the most important thing in my sponsees’ lives, above boyfriends and husbands, jobs and careers, family and vacations – everything. I expect them to want to stay out of the food because together we can if we want it more than anything.
If a sponsee breaks his or her abstinence, I ask the sponsee to write about “Do I want to stop overeating compulsively?” I stress the importance of calling before eating compulsively. My responsibility is not to provide misery with company. If the compulsive eating persists after two weeks, I let the sponsee go and offer to be available anytime they want to call before compulsively overeating. The slogan “It’s progress, not perfection” is about working the Steps to recovery, not about abstinence and sobriety. I’m not going to beat myself up like I used to. Let’s face it: you decide if you want this abstinence program and freedom from overeating. No reason to fake it.
I stick to the Big Book’s directions to avoid being too friendly or enabling. They help my sponsees and me be honest. If we want recovery, rather than relief, this isn’t a problem. – Lifeline June 2010
How to Sponsor Podcast