CrossTalk Is based on the premise that recovery life is polytely: frequently complex problem-solving situations characterized by the presence of not one, but several endings.
This column represents decades of recovery and its application to life, how to get over it, into it or through it with spunk, levity and a good dose of reality. What? You want more than happy, joyous and free? Get over it. Just sayin’. Mollé
I have a program question. I’ve worked all the Steps up to the Ninth and am practicing the principle of brotherly love, which I don’t fully understand. I have made my amends list, but I haven’t been able to actually do any of them.
Life is crushing me with my wife’s illness, three teenage kids, and work demands having gone ballistic. I am truly feeling overwhelmed.
I ran into my sponsor at a meeting, and without any conversation or lead-in, he said if anyone asks me who my sponsor is, I should say I don’t have a sponsor. He told me, “If a sponsee is not working the Steps, I cannot be of help to him. I am not willing to be a sponsor in name only.” He shook my hand and walked away. I was embarrassed and startled. What am I doing wrong? Is that the right way to be a sponsor? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this confusion.
Stunned Sober in Seattle
I am smiling at you. What I hear is classic Step Nine avoidance. I’ve done it myself; it was ineffective and caused me nothing but frustration. When it comes time to take fearful or uncomfortable action in AA, every aspect of life becomes more intense. We are experts at overlooking our part in self-created chaos and then blame it on anything or anyone.
Truth is, you are able to take action on your amends, but you’ve chosen not to do it. Even a good excuse is still an excuse. It sounds to me that you don’t have the time not to take the next step in your recovery. If you want to stay sober, do the Steps. Call your sponsor and let him know you’re willing to move forward. He’ll take it from there.
Sponsorship is not about right or wrong. It is about what works for each of you and what doesn’t. Often times we are perfectly connected to the person we need in our lives at the time we need them. It sounds like your sponsor is helping you by not coddling you with unnecessary patience. Caring for our sponsees can sometimes seem uncalled for or unwanted tough love. Nine times out of ten, though, it turns out to be nothing less than perfect. But our egos can get a little bruised.
I am coming up on 18 months sober. I previously lived in NYC with a generous mid-six-figure salary and was dying of alcoholism. I abruptly quit my job and left the state to get sober.
Once I got out of treatment, I accepted a job far below my skill level and far below my financial needs. They thought I was manna from heaven put there to shore up their financial bleeding and help redirect the company to profitability. While I was quickly promoted to corporate and was giving effective help, they did not know I was interviewing for higher-paying jobs.
After six months at this job, I received a job offer, one that would pay double my current salary and would fully utilize my skill set. I feel guilty about leaving the smaller company that has been so good to me. My leaving will put them in a legitimate bind. My boss cried when I handed in my resignation, but I don’t dare pass up the new opportunity, right?
Rocks of Guilt in CA
You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. It’s time to grow up.
My sponsor used to say, “If you’re feeling guilty, it might be because you are guilty.” She also said to screw guilt. It serves no one – not you and not the person(s) you are concerned about – and it resolves absolutely nothing. It only makes things worse.
Get honest with yourself. What did you know, and when did you know it? Did you get hire on under false pretenses? Could you have presented yourself as a consultant to help the company for a limited time while you continued to job hunt, and then participate on the hiring committee to fill the role permanently? Or did you accept the job to help you and offer to help to find the best candidate? Did you accept the job to help you and you alone without any consideration for the company or the disruption it would cause?
This is something you will need to work out with a sponsor and hopefully with a God of your understanding. If deemed appropriate, you’ll be able to offer a thoughtful and sincere amends.
It is likely the company understood the risk of hiring a person overqualified for the position, and I’m sure it was not a complete surprise that you found a better paying job. Did you offer your resignation simply and without a dramatic, longwinded excuse or apology? Did you offered to help find your replacement? I suspect that you did this, so good for you.
With this said, sobriety only sets the stage for a successful career and happiness. You are the only one who can do the work. It is okay to make decisions to further your career if they are made with respect and honesty. You’ve been given an opportunity here to review your actions, to make amends if deemed appropriate, and then to move forward; these stepping stones were placed in front of you. Let go of the guilt, and be grateful for the opportunity to have been helpful. Move forward in your career as a sober, intelligent, and a dignified woman.
As my sponsor would say, “Quit feeling sorry for yourself, and get to work.”
Viewpoints shared or any implied actions suggested by Mollé are the opinions and ideas of the author only and do not represent those of In Recovery Magazine. The implied action is offered openly and is never intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. You may send your dilemmas to