That which we give away we keep. That which we keep we lose.
“Every sponsor is necessarily a leader,” wrote Bill W. in The Language of the Heart (p. 292). “The stakes are huge,” he continued. “A human life, and usually the happiness of a whole family, hangs in the balance. What the sponsor does and says, how well he estimates the reactions of his prospects, how well he times and makes his presentation, how well he handles criticisms, and how well he leads his prospect on by personal spiritual example — well, these attributes of leadership can make all the difference, often the difference between life and death.”
The General Service Conference has focused on the timeless topic of sponsorship over the years, and the following excerpts from past Conference presentations provide a window into this enduring aspect of carrying the message from one alcoholic to another. Vera M. from southwest Ohio shared this about sponsorship: “When I came to A.A., nobody asked me to meet any specifications: they just accepted me as I was, with love. My first sponsor treated me with compassion, which, I believe, means with gratitude. She understood that sponsor and sponsee meet as equal people.”
“Sponsorship is important to ensure that A.A. will continue,” said Dorothy M. of southern Indiana. “My sponsor was there to suggest the things I needed to do to stay sober. She was there to answer the questions I had about the program. She was there to explain the Steps and to help me work through them. She was there when I had no mind to think with. She was there to think for me. She was there with the kind of quality sobriety that I wanted. She was there to show me how to achieve quality sobriety. She was responsible.”
Herb M., who served as A.A.W.S. board member in the 1960s, put it this way: “That which we give away we keep. That which we keep we lose. Such is the basis of our responsibility — to pass on to another alcoholic the message of love and understanding that made our own sobriety possible…. There has been unanimous agreement among us that the very substance of our sobriety lies in our willingness and our readiness to share this recovery experience with another.”
Describing the privilege and responsibility that goes along with sponsorship in A.A., Peter W., a past Eastern Canada regional trustee, highlighted the fundamental role sponsorship plays in the Fellowship:
“A.A. had its origin in the principle of sponsorship — the need we have for one another. This principle is equally as valid today as when Bill carried the message to Dr. Bob. The world of alcoholism has changed, will continue to change. But our need for one another remains as vital today as it was in Akron in 1935. The privilege of being a sponsor insures our sobriety. It also helps us function effectively in recovery by recognizing the needs of others. It enables us to find within ourselves a response to those needs….
Sponsorship is woven intricately through our Legacies. To deny it could weaken our Fellowship…. Bill calls it ‘the language of the heart.’ It transcends the appearance and the personality of the individual and goes directly to the soul. Sponsorship is the silent legacy of our Fellowship, given to us by those who went before us. It can spell the difference between survival and stagnation.”
In closing, Peter noted, “To love the lovable requires very little effort, but you and I are called upon to love the unlovable, to help that person become lovable. Can you think of any greater responsibility? Can you think of any better way to do it than sponsorship?”
By Box 4-5-9, Summer 2019