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A Grateful Goodbye

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My first sponsor, M., passed away last month. He was one of the first people I met in OA, but it was a year before he became my sponsor. He was one of the few men I’d met and one of very few OA members who identified as a sponsor. I wrote down his number, but at the time, he sure didn’t seem like someone I envisioned as my sponsor.

When I first came to OA, I needed help, and I was open to the OA message, so I quickly devoted myself to my home group. I was struck “almost abstinent” from day one. (By “almost,” I mean slips every once in a while.) I delved into the literature, but I didn’t really get to doing the Steps I was reading and hearing so much about. Still, I was happier and more serene in OA, and I think it showed because a couple of people asked me to sponsor them. I got a Sponsorship Kit, shared my experience, and listened. But I didn’t have a sponsor—and I started to feel like I really should. I just wasn’t meeting any prospects.

After a year, I ran into M. at a meeting, and we spoke afterward. He asked, “Did you get a sponsor yet?” I sheepishly told him, “Not yet.” I decided to call him only to ask his advice on getting a sponsor, but Higher Power had other plans. One minute into my phone call with M., he told me to email him every day with my plan of eating, get a Big Book and an OA Twelve and Twelve. He told me to start writing in the Twelve Step Workbook of Overeaters Anonymous and call him three times a week to discuss my responses.

How did I get myself into all this? I wasn’t asking him to be my sponsor, but he’d misunderstood! God must have a good sense of humor because I’d gotten a sponsor who loved to use humor.

I was willing to be willing. M. had me go through the Steps in order, one at a time. He listened to my reams of writing, and I listened to him. He had the audacity to question some of my food choices and suggested I see a nutritionist. I didn’t want to, but I’m so glad I did. When I got to Step Four, he advised me to set time limits and focus on my glaring character defects. He emphasized taking inventory of my positive attributes, too, and looking at my progress. He taught me to practice the opposite of my character defects, work on my resentments with prayers, and turn decisions over to HP.

It took another year to get to Step Nine, and after another slip, I surrendered what was left of my self-will regarding food and felt the real gift of abstinence begin. As the Big Book says, I’d been “placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected. . . . That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 85). Since then, I’ve been blessed with over five years of continuous abstinence, one day at a time.

M. encouraged me to live a life of maximum usefulness in service. Today, my favorite Tool is sponsorship, and I learned from the best—not to be perfect, neither better nor less than others, but to do our best “to practice these principles in all our affairs” (Step Twelve).

My sponsor and I grew quite close over the years. We went to meetings, workshops, and retreats together. One day, he told me he was going to stop sponsoring me because he had eaten something he had no business eating and needed to focus on his own abstinence and program. He got abstinent again right away, and he nagged and helped me to find a new sponsor. (Perhaps HP wanted me to learn new and different things from another sponsor.) Soon after, M. began to have major health issues and went to stay at a health facility. He couldn’t get to a meeting, so OA members brought a meeting to him. Until his earthly end, M. always stayed connected; he lived in acceptance and gratitude with a sense of humor.

Thank you for letting me share about my beloved sponsor. As it says in the OA Twelve and Twelve, Second Edition, “We gratefully follow in the footsteps of many others who have walked this way before us” (p. 86). I am M.’s grateful sponsee.

— Anonymous, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

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