As I grew in my recovery my needs for sponsorship changed. I had moved from the day-to-day advise about how to “get up, suit up and show up” guidance I had needed in the early days and years. My A.A. sponsor(s) had taken me through the steps and we had read all the main A.A. books and some literature together. I now needed support on more nuanced and growth related(possibly) mature issues. In my circumstance, from the earliest days, I had a counselor who was well grounded in the twelve steps and she served as the backbone of my recovery, my return to mental health, and in introducing me to my internal strength and ability to face deeper issues that could well have hindered my recovery.
In my fifth and sixth years of continuous sobriety I redid the steps on specific issues; investigating my past in-depth. Finances, debt, and intimate relationships were a few that I needed to revisit. Focussing on these with more discernment, with clearer vision, with more experience about who I was and who I had become in recovery allowed me better perspective and more insight. It had taken a few tries to find a grounded person to work with;initially my “chooser” had been defective; but eventually I found someone who was grounded in her recovery and dependable as a resource. She encouraged me in those first tender years so she had my history well in mind when I starter my “deeper dive” into the fourth step.
Having a sponsor who “knew me when… ” was a great help. She knew me when I first struggled with my new life in recovery, she knew me when I was first starting back to work, developing new friendships and falling in and out of love. She knew me when I had started opening my eyes to my own frailties and my own strengths. This was a great advantage as she listened to me struggle through growing up and growing wiser.
My sponsor also watched and listened as my relationship with my higher power faced challenges and re-formed. Without advice, but with suggestions, she helped me navigate these waters. This internal discussion about my H.P. continued for many years, and while I am more secure and content now, I sometimes need to revisit this subject. Certainly, however, this was a more disquieting condition, this questioning and searching, in the middle years of recovery (ages 5 to 15.)
I have moved several times; once out of the country and other times across the country. Even though I maintained contact with my sponsors over the years, the connection for me had been best face to face. I have needed to find sponsors at each move. I missed the continuity of the relationship from the first years of recovery; but I was able to find supportive women where ever I have lived. I have always needed to have someone I could sit with either in silence or in conversation, listening and well as talking.
Working through professional challenges, changes in family status (as children have gone off to college or have left the house to forage on their own) as well as dealing with other personal transitions such as the death of parents has always been aided by conversations with my sponsor. I looked at my attitudes and behaviors and ran them by my sponsor to ask for reflection and comment. Our relationship was no longer based primarily in reading the texts of recovery but in discussing how the steps and the program related to finding equanimity in life. I had moved into the internship practice of recovery. That is how I have experienced the middle years.
Next – Sponsorship in “Middle Age” – what happens to sponsorship in the second and third decades of recovery?