Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A few days ago I met my sponsor for lunch. He's a man who's been sober some 17 years longer than I have. I'm grateful that he's willing to take the time away from his family to have lunch with me.

When I first came into the program in 1991 I didn't really understand why I needed a sponsor. After all I could read the book myself. I had years of experience as a newspaper editor. I had worked in business administration. I knew how to write and read. The book was pretty clear. But one day I heard something in a meeting that clarified it for me.

"If you're trying to sponsor yourself," someone said, "then you're trying to fix something that's broken with something that's broken." Immediately it was clear.

When I first came into the program my values were twisted. I was dishonest with everyone, even myself. It was all about me, me, me. I could understand things on intellectual level. But applying the concepts of the program in the real world takes experience.

For example, I was very immature in my relationships. Many times my solution, if I didn't get my way, was to get angry and walk. But my sponsor had other ideas. He made suggestions such as apologizing to the other person. What a concept! He said that I needed to clean up my side of the street. He told me that I would feel better if I apologized and just moved on. He said that I didn't need to worry about the other person apologizing. I just needed to apologize. What happened to the other person was between them and God and was none of my business. At first that idea irritated me because I thought I was in charge of everything and there was nothing that wasn't my business. But, one more time, he was right. I felt much better when I apologized and took responsibility. I felt a new freedom.

When newcomers ask me about helping them find a sponsor I tell them to look for someone they can respect, someone who has a few years in the program. In my opinion the most important thing to look for in a sponsor is the quality of their sobriety. Does the person have humility? Does he or she have serenity and peace of mind? Does this person, by their behavior, carry the message?

Would I model myself after this person?