Fairly recently, I told a Little Happier story about the sponsorship aspect of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Along those lines, I can’t stop thinking about a story about sponsorship that I heard recently. I’ll change the names, but this is a true story.
For background: One feature of A.A. is that a person entering the group may ask someone to be their “sponsor.” Here’s how A.A. materials describe the relationship:
An alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through A.A.
To the question “How does sponsorship help the sponsor?” the materials note:
Sponsorship strengthens the older member’s sobriety. The act of sharing sobriety makes it easier for a member to live without alcohol. By helping others, alcoholics find that they help themselves. Sponsorship also offers the satisfaction that comes from assuming responsibility for someone other than oneself.
This is the story I heard.
Peter had been a longtime active member of Alcoholics Anonymous. His sponsor was a man named Jim, and the two spoke to each other every day. At one point, the sponsor, Jim, told Peter, “My own sponsor just died. Would you be my sponsor?”
And Peter said, “How can I be your sponsor? You’re my sponsor!”
Jim said, “We can alternate. I’ll be your sponsor on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, and you can be my sponsor on the other days.”
And so they sponsored each other, switching days, for years.
I thought this was such a brilliant solution. Research shows that for a happier life, we need to get support, and just as important, we need to give support. As Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach wrote, “People for whom we are a source of strength give us our support in life.”
Also, research shows that we’re often so much better at giving good advice to other people than we are to ourselves, and also that the very act of giving good advice tends to boost the giver’s confidence and motivation. Trading places every day would mean that the giving and getting of good advice would happen so often that it would be easier to see that you should be taking your own good advice yourself.
In helping, we are being helped.