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.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Sponsor?

A client wanted my opinion about a sponsor who’d asked her to find someone else to help her through the steps. The sponsor, a recovering alcoholic, couldn’t relate to her because the client’s drug of choice was marijuana.

I told her she should find a sponsor with a similar background, one to whom she could relate. After all, we need to feel like we’re getting what we need from the person we choose to help us through the steps.

This discussion, though, always leads me to the larger issue of orthodoxy in 12-step programs. As one who is grateful to the 12-step programs for saving my life over 20 years ago, I still take exception to those who dogmatically oppose anyone who mentions drugs other than alcohol.

After all, I was taught at 12-step meetings to be tolerant and loving. If I'm sitting at the periphery of the meeting like an old curmudgeon, looking for someone to admonish because they mention drugs, what kind of example am I setting for those trying to get sober? Many times at meetings I hear the term "if you want what we have." But if what I see at meetings is a 12 step cop, who’s angrily monitoring newcomer miscreants, that's not what I want. I came to meetings to save my life and to learn how to be a more peaceful and loving human being - not to get involved in the minutia of rule-making or rule-bending.

Now I understand that so-called "old timers" have a right to set up a meeting anyway they want. And that is fine. That is their right. But in the literature it says "love and tolerance" is our code. I guess I'm not sure how love and tolerance fits in with monitoring all the newcomers and making sure they don't make a verbal misstep.

Me? I’m here to carry the message and to help someone get sober.