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  It is hard to know as a Sponsor when to let go, or step back from a sponsee.  It is  frustrating when you have a sponsee that always wants to do it their way and is not willing to take suggestions.  I remember being this way with my sponsor (sort of unknowingly) not to long ago.  Her comment to me was, "If you are unwilling to take my suggestions or directions, and want to do it your way...The way you have already once discovered didn't then tell me exactly, 'How am I to help you?'"  I smiled and laughed because I realized that she was right.  I know the definition of insanity.  Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  I needed to take her suggestion and try it at least once and see if it works. I have not always been this lucky with sponsee's in my life.  

  To have someone tell you that they don't agree with a direction we are leading them in, or that they believe they should try it another way is OK.  We are only here to offer suggestions.  It doesn't mean we have to give up.  To have a sponsee call you and expect you to be there for them either way is OK, too, if your willing to hang in there.  There is a line to be drawn, however, if the sponsee is not willing to be humble enough to try the steps, or to be honest.  Our job as sponsors is not only to teach the steps to someone, but to share how we have done it, and continue to it.  We also need to encourage these people to take the action required in the steps.  Sometimes, we need to prompt them, and let them know that they can work this step here, or that step there, and it will help them find more peace and serenity.  To have a sponsee constantly reject that, and not be willing to work with you in any capacity, is wrong.  This would be where I would step back.  It is OK to tell a sponsee that you feel they are not taking your suggestions, and maybe it would time for them to find a new sponsor.  My sponsor taught me to say to a sponsee, when I am uncomfortable with the relationship and feel I am offering no help that is being taken, that I would feel more comfortable with the label as friend, rather than sponsor.  She taught me to say that things may not be working this way, and you want to insure that they get the help they need.  She told me to recommend to the person to find another sponsor and let her know that I would be there for her until she did, and I would remain a friend after that.  Either way, I believe it is up to you.  Where do you draw the lines?  How hard are you willing to fight, or hand in there to get them across to someone?  Sometimes, by trying to help we can hinder.  Draw your lines clear at the beginning of the relationship, and this will aide in the person knowing what is expected of them and you.  

To have a person not be honest with you, and you know they are having hard times, is not good thing.  If a sponsee is trying to play games, or manipulate you, it is OK to call their bluff and let them that you know.  You know their not being honest, and you are not going to be manipulated into something you didn't set out for.  As sponsors, we are not here to co-sign or enable someone else's behavior.  If you are sponsoring someone who feels they can do it on their own, maybe you need to let them.  We carry the message and not the addict.  If someone isn't listening, decisions need to be made.  It is all a "Gut Instinct" thing.  Everyone has to draw their own lines, and make their own decisions. 

  **The below excerpt was written in response to correspondence with someone who asked The Sponsors Aide for help.  Below is one of the letters written to them in response of when to step back.   


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     Thanks for visiting the site.  Good Question.  When to take a step back?  Our job is to share our experience, strength and hope.  I was taught to teach them the steps and how I apply them to my life.  When you have a sponsee that won't listen, or take suggestions, talk to them.  Bring it out!  Lay it on the table.  Ask if this is working out for them.  Recently, I had the same situation, and felt a little lost myself.  I asked my sponsor what I should do, and how to do it.  I felt as though she was just going through a few motions and sitting in her crap.  I didn't know how to lead or guide someone who wouldn't take any suggestions.  My sponsor said to talk to my sponsee, and tell her that I believe it may be time for her to find a new sponsor.  I had to tell her that she did not follow or take my suggestions, and I believe that someone else may be able to help her better.  I told her that I was more comfortable with the label as friend, then as a sponsor.  I also told her I loved her, and would be here for her, if she needed me, I just couldn't be her sponsor.  In the big book, WORKING WITH OTHERS, it says not to waste our time on someone who doesn't want it.  Go and spread the news to someone who does.  When and if the opportunity comes round again, go back and share.  I apply this to my sponsorship.

       You may not be that frustrated with your sponsee or the situation, yet.  One thing that I learned recently was that, if people aren't listening to your suggestions, then ask what they are doing, and how they are handling it.  After they tell you, simple ask, "And, how it that working for you?"  It puts it back in their lap to make a decision to try something new.  It has worked for me a couple of times.  I hope this helps. 

  Take care and feel free to write anytime.


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 Keep an Open Mind

This article was sent in, in reply of When 2 Step Back.  This touched me so, I requested to post it!  Mona agreed!  We are grateful for all the comments that come into The Sponsors Aide.  Keep them coming, Folks!  Let us Know What you think. 

This is just a thought really in response to your feelings on When 2 Step Back which I read on 3/22/06. As I don't see any place clearly where I can respond to an article on the website I am sending it to the suggestion box.   I'd like however, to know where I can contact you in a better way as regards articles and feedback.

I found your article very interesting, and was grateful for the perspective that it gave me, as I am for all new ideas.   One of the primary things that I hope I have learned in my years working this program is to keep an open mind and an open loving heart.

I have learned through life, from my own sponsor, and from the many women and girls whom I have sponsored over the years, that primarily "When 2 Step Back",  is for me and for my sponsees, always.   I have learned that this is God's deal, or the Universe's or whatever one chooses to call one's higher power.  There does appear to be something greater than all of us, as we acknowledge in Step 2 that can relieve us of our suffering and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  I have found that this Higher Power seems also to already know how things will pan out no matter how awful they are to go through, as long as we do the correct footwork around whatever is happening that makes us uncomfortable or unhappy.

I have also found that each and every time I have shut my big know it all "I've been around longer than you have honey, and I know" mouth, and get my big butt (unfortunately,  just like George Washington, we, when practicing our programs in all of our affairs, cannot tell lies, so yea, it's big) out of the way, not compete or be smarter and know more, and just let what is going to happen happen.  It always works out far better than any direction I could have given the situation would have caused it to.

So, I learned that I must always step back. If a sponsee comes to me with a question I do my level best to refer myself to the big book for the answers, and then once I've found what I am looking form show them to her.

I have learned that it is not my job to tell my sponsees how to live their lives, where to open a checking account, and whether or not they are married to a no good slob, no matter what I may think.   If they ask me my opinion about stuff like that, I usually just ask them why they are asking me that question.  Then, when they are finished telling me that, I ask them what they think because that is what is the most important thing.  Right or wrong, we may then talk that part out, in accordance with the big book's teachings, exactly.

When I first get a sponsee,  I sit down during a number of sessions with them (maybe 4) and read the first 164 pages of the Big Book with them, explaining the usage of certain words or terminology as we go along. It gives them, as I've been taught and have my self experienced, a good sense of what this program is all about.  When we finish doing that, we then go right into action. Beginning with Step One, we talk out the first three steps, usually in less than three meetings, sometimes in about an hour, I don't have them write these steps out unless they request that they do it that way.  I usually tell them that they know that their lives are unmanageable ask them why they know that, they always know why.  They also always seem to know that they have to depend upon something other than their own way of past thinking to get it fixed, and they also know that there has to be something greater than them if they got this far (to a meeting and then the guts to realize that they wanted it enough to get a sponsor). 

So, by into action I guess that I really mean we begin writing out, by formula, ( on the same forms that my sponsor had me work my first, and every one since~ we do at least one a year) a forth step. Which they may or may not have a time limit for. I do that or not, depending upon how motivated and/or frightened they are.

If they're just dragging their heels, I then do not step back.  I push back, but if there is some other reason I may do something like discuss their fears with them, many a time I've let them read my forth step, the first one, as I am not so important that they cannot see it if they need to, and I really think that they want this but are feeling as though the sky will fall if they tell all.  I also tell them that there is nothing to fear regarding not "remembering all that they did" as their higher power is in charge of that, they will remember what they are meant to remember for THIS forth step now. Every single think that they do remember is a gem because it will get them that much better.  

I think that the most important thing that I do is that like my sponsor did for me:  I constantly make sure that they are very clear about the fact that I am only in service to them as their sponsor, I am honored to have been asked, and that I am in no way at all any better or any further away from my next drink than they are.

And as we go along, they begin I think a bit more quickly to stand on their own two feet and obtain some backbone, curbing that shame thing if I don't permit them to use me as a crutch.  They know that I am there to help, always, and that if they feel that they may use or drink I will not judge and I will answer the phone.

They are absolutely clear that I do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, do or listen to or in any way participate in DRAMA.  I also won't fire them for doing it, but I am very straight forward when I tell them to look around the rooms and they will see that the people who are mired in their troubles the "Oh this" or "Oh that's", are the people who either disappear after a short visit or aren't in service, working the steps and getting emotionally sober.  These people are the people whom sadly, they will find themselves eventually avoiding.  By the time I get finished with that discussion with them it is a very unusual thing for me to get a drama oriented phone call, unless there has been violence because they haven't taken steps to leave a violent situation.

They also know that I am only there to work the steps with them, as it is the steps that teaches them what went wrong and how to fix it.  I am their guide in that, not their nanny or their life cleaner upper. Nor am I interested in becoming Ann Landers, and as I've said, they also know that I do not abide people who are unwilling to stand on their own two feet and learn, going to any lengths, what it means to be sober and what this program is all about.

So, I don't mean to moralize or inventory anyone else's opinion, as that is not my job.  We all formulate our own opinions, I just wanted to put in my two cents about what I have learned about when to step back in my sponsees lives.

It works, and it leaves me a lot of energy to sponsor more women, to do more service, to chair more meetings, I speak a lot, and work my own program with my own sponsor.   Oh, and to enjoy my own life in the promises that I have received as the result of the program that I work.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to write in. 

With Gratitude and Love,

Mona H.

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