A few years back, I started to see mentorship in AA in a different way. For the first 5 or 6 years in AA, I saw our 12th step and sponsorship as “keep them sober at all costs!” We tended to almost demand checking into treatment. And meeting attendance was a must, maybe a meeting or more a day. We were told, “For every day of the week that you drank, you should attend a meeting.” We went to a lot of meetings and spent a bunch of time together. We had parties, dances, hay rack rides, camp outs, cook outs, and bowling outings.
None of those things were bad for us. We had a lot of fun. Stealing toilet paper from gas station bathrooms to “TP” Jeff R’s house is a fond memory for me! We hung out, and we didn’t drink…..Well some of us didn’t drink. Most did. Some died from it. Some killed themselves in sobriety. Linda F., John R., and Dennis W. come to mind most readily.
So we hung out and talked about our day. I didn’t know what else to talk about. I didn’t understand alcoholism. I never knew about an allergy to alcohol. I thought alcoholism and addiction were exactly the same thing. I didn’t think anyone did any of the steps between 5 and 12. And Spirituality was a theory to me. But we hung out and hung on. And some of us stayed sober.
We had togetherness. We were much better at it then. We had Unity; we didn’t know what we were doing, but we were doing it together. Ginger and I were pretty active in organizing things for us all to do. We organized parties, hay rack rides, camping trips, even trips across the country to roundups. As our kids turned to teenagers, we didn’t have the time, or inclination to continue being the activity directors, and no one else took over, so the activities ceased. I have continued to be involved with our fellowship to this day. But most of my peers aren’t.
So the Unity side of the triangle was the first side I experienced. And through this fellowship (or Unity) I met a man named Joe. His name was Joe H. I met Joe in May of 1992. I was 32 years old and almost 6 years sober. I was his “co-host” for our roundup here in Muscatine. That roundup was a trip! It was in a circus tent at the Riverfront Park! Dick and Peggy M. spoke. So did Tom I.. And so did Joe. It was a damn good lineup for a first roundup. We slept in the tent to protect it from vandals and was dead ass tired by Sunday afternoon!
My co-host didn’t have a phone or car, so I ended up doing all the phone corresponding with Joe. Then when we picked Joe up at the airport, my co-host didn’t like him. Most folks didn’t like him! So I ended up hosting him.
And we talked. By noon Saturday he knew exactly who I was, and started to 12 step me. He hooked me. A week later we talked on the phone, and he talked about the circle and triangle. I was blown away. I had never heard of most of the stuff he was saying. I didn’t understand most of it, but I did understand this….. There was a lot more to AA than I knew about, had heard about, or had done. And that gave me hope. I was afraid I had done all AA had to offer and was to just hang our and hang on the rest of my life. So his talk of the 3 sides and the principles that make up those sides was like sunshine!
I will attempt, through a series of blogs, to share the information, understanding, hope and passion that has been given to me through the circle and triangle. I fear this may require weeks of typing and I will lose interest, but I will try to stay on task with it.
Upon meeting Joe, my ideas of sponsorship changed. I then seen it as passing in Spiritual Principles in the book Alcoholics Anonymous (Recovery). I did that for several years. I became more involved in the Unity and Service sides of the triangle and gained a better understanding of the principles attached to those sides.
Then a few years ago, while reading the chapter “Working with Others,” I noticed the phrase “When you discover a prospect for Alcoholics Anonymous…..” The word “prospect” caught my attention. These folks are prospective members of AA.
If a person desires to join an outlaw motorcycle club, they don’t simply declare their membership. They first have to pass the scrutiny of the existing members. They need to establish they have “what it takes” to be a member. In their case, a motorcycle! In ours, alcoholism! Those things are the first requirement for membership!!! The attending attitudes and devotions don’t matter if you ain’t got a scooter!!!!
So, if you have a scooter, they will consider you as a prospective member. There is a lot of shit to learn to be a member of “The Watermelon Maniacs.” There are terms, and conditions, and procedures, and codes to be learned. And somebody has to teach the “prospect” these things. That person is called a sponsor.
I wondered why AA wouldn’t, under theory, be the same. That a sponsor has the task of teaching the prospect all the prospect needs to know to be a full fledged, informed member? Now, I am fully aware we have no rules of membership in AA. Bill himself wrote, “A member is a member when he says he is.” That is all true. But why not have the same passion for our membership that The Watermelon Maniacs have for their biker club? Why not take the time to give our prospects all they need to be informed, active, solid members of AA?
So, my ideas of sponsorship changed again.
It was all about sponsoring people to be AA members. It makes sense to me. I have been a “member” for 29 years. Over half of my life has been in AA. I have enjoyed, and endured, all the benefits and responsibilities of membership. So, if folks want “what I have,” perhaps they need an understanding of what AA is, and my commitment to AA. In sponsoring folks into AA, I hope to be serving our future with folks who understand our principles, procedures, and policies. We will always need leadership. We will always have leadership. But I hope to help our leadership to lead us to AA, not away from it.
This symbol of a circle and triangle is not AA’s. It was around centuries before alcoholism had a name. AA had a copyright to it, but failed to renew the copyright. But its spiritual significance to me doesn’t require a copyright. It is a symbol not only of our legacies in AA, but also a symbol of the disease of alcoholism.
Each legacy has a corresponding part of the illness. Each legacy has a group of spiritual principles to follow. And since they are spiritual, there are no boundaries to determine when or where they may be used.
The circle and triangle used to be AA, but it’s not any more. I have a Big Book with the symbol boldly displayed in the title page of the book. After the copyright oversight, we can’t publish the symbol. Did it stop being AA with the legal hassles? I don’t think so.
I came to AA by way of a treatment center. They sent us to AA meetings. The fellowship was my introduction to AA. I brought my body to the meetings. The old folks used to say, “Bring your body, the mind will follow.” They were right. I brought my body to the fellowship, to the Unity side of the triangle, and my mind followed. These people were unified in their passion for sobriety, and unified in their desire to aid me. They all told me the “steps were the answer.” So, eventually, my mind followed to the steps.
In the steps was Recover. I recovered from a way of living, thinking, and believing that had made me suffer almost my entire life. It took years for this transformation to become substantial, but small changes happened almost immediately. After several years, I had a Spiritual Awakening as a direct result of the steps and our book.
That awakening led me to carry our message to others who suffer from alcoholism. It took me to a place of Servitude. The Service side of the triangle.