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[ Opinion ] [ Personal Narratives ]

Abandon yourself to god but don’t abandon the newcomer

I love the basic text entitled Alcoholics Anonymous (AKA: The Big Book). It was first published in 1939 and written by AA co-founder Bill Wilson. While Bill wrote the text it was a group effort that included suggestions and ideas from the first “100 members” of the Fellowship. I’ve heard that Bill used the number “100” when referring to the original membership number but there was actually only around 70 but 100 sounded better. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter.

The Big Book is an instruction manual of how the first 100 members became sober. I successfully followed those directions for myself and have passed them on to others as I’ve “trudged the road of Happy Destiny”. Having said this I don’t go around as I’ve heard some members making statements like, “if it’s not in the Big Book then it doesn’t work!” To me that is “…contempt prior to investigation”. The chapter “Working With Others” gives instructions on how to pass the 12 Step instructions of recovery on to others. It doesn’t mention the word “sponsor” (nor is that word mentioned anywhere else in the first 164 pages) but that doesn’t mean I go around telling people not to get a sponsor. There are some in 12 Step Recovery who feel that once you’ve taken a person through the first 88 pages then you don’t have to deal with them any longer and that they are now ready to take others through the book and so on and so on and so on. I’ve seen guys with less than a month acting as experts on the 12 Steps taking newcomers through the book and stating they are recovered.

In my experience I was instructed through the Steps by my sponsor but he also helped me there-after. He didn’t abandon me, telling me that I was recovered and then say, like I’ve heard said, “it’s a selfish program and I only helped you for me and don’t care if you stay sober or not”. WTF? I’ve heard people actually say this and stand by this philosophy. Although not written in the Big Book I don’t think the first 100 members (or 70) thought this type of thinking would occur.

Sponsorship came about in Alcoholics Anonymous’ infancy where sober members of the Fellowship would act as a guarantor or sponsor for individuals going into a hospital for withdrawal. I’ve also heard (but haven’t verified) that a person couldn’t join certain AA groups (prior to the 12 Traditions being adopted) without an active member sponsoring them. I further expanded on this topic in a previous blog:

When I chose a sponsor I was sure to pick one who had good recovery. I listened to what people said at discussion meetings and observed their actions. Thank God I didn’t have a newcomer approach me stating he was recovered and that he could give me the same thing. I’ve seen some of these recovered newcomers and I DON’T want what they have. I’m happy that they’ve started on the journey to recovery but experience does have its advantages. I recently heard someone say a person with 20 years sobriety has the same quality of sobriety as a person with one day. I’m not sure what long-timer the individual was referring to but if I’m acting like a person with one day of recovery when I have 20 years (or for that matter right now) may my Higher Power save me.