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Perfect Meetings, Perfect Sponsors

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Our program works without us working it perfectly. I’m celebrating thirty years of abstinence, and I don’t even know how “working it perfectly” looks. Taking awkward baby steps, clumsily using the Tools, and making a haphazard job of the Steps and Traditions is enough for me. Expecting perfection from ourselves and others can cost us our recovery. I’ll be blunt: perfection is a life-or-death issue for us as individuals and for the Fellowship.

“None of the meetings near me have what I want.” Ever thought that? OA-approved literature makes clear that whenever two or more compulsive eaters talk about the disease and recovery, HP is present and that’s a meeting. Nowhere does it say that a meeting must have a speaker I like or a minimum number of abstinent people or members with long-term recovery or anything else. It just has to have one person helping another to get or stay abstinent. Naturally, I like some meetings more than others, but my recovery, and therefore my life, depends on getting to at least two meetings a week.

“There are people who sponsor at my meeting, but I don’t like any of them.” My perspective and experience both say that a sponsor can be anyone who is working the Steps, staying abstinent, and willing to share how they’re doing it. A sponsor is just a person a little farther down the same path I’m on—someone with abstinence, honesty, serenity, experience using the Steps in their life, or whatever. Program doesn’t say, “Find a sponsor who shares my politics, age, status, sense of humor, or taste in shoes.” A sponsor is here to help. To not use a sponsor is to let the disease of isolation win.

“Suppose I don’t like something my sponsor says or doesn’t say or does or doesn’t do?” This is a disease of resentment, denial, and resistance. We can have more than one sponsor and change sponsors at will; however, it’s not a sponsor’s job to call me on my stuff. That’s my job as a sponsee. I’ve made mistakes as a sponsee and as a sponsor. Most of the time, the relationship survives. I’ve always had a sponsor, and I’ve been a sponsor since my first year in program. I’ve had sponsors for as little as a couple of months (for help with a specific issue) and for as long as twenty-five years (bless her). Altogether, I’ve had seven sponsors, each one kind and generous, and each of them would own, laughingly, that they are not perfect person.

What is the “solution” to the “lack” of perfect sponsors and perfect meetings? The solution is to stop expecting recovery to be a fantasy camp. My part is using the Tools, Steps, and Traditions. I cannot recover alone; therefore, skipping meetings or not using a sponsor isn’t a choice.

The perfect meeting is the one I’m lucky enough to be seated in.

The perfect sponsor is whoever agrees to sponsor me. It’s whoever answers the phone, listens, and shares experience, strength, and hope.

I work the program. I do not work people or work my ideas of what others should be. HP is in charge and meets my needs. I am grateful for whoever is at a meeting or on the other end of the phone because I get to work program with them.

I bring to a meeting what I want to find. If I’m going through something difficult, I share briefly, relating how the program helps. When I want to hear more about the Steps at meetings, I talk about specific Steps and how they apply to whatever I’m going through. I love slogans, so I borrow a sponsor’s practice of leading grab-bag slogan meetings. I want people to hear me, so I work on being a better listener and being direct. When I found myself wishing that more people would connect with me after meetings, I instituted my personal “three-person rule”: I don’t leave a meeting until I approach and speak with at least three people.

One day at a time, this program works. Each of us truly works our own program only, with the help of others. Isn’t it freeing to know recovery does not depend on being at the perfect meeting or finding the perfect sponsor? If meetings and sponsors don’t need to be perfect, then a perfect standard isn’t required for me to recover.

— Cate M., Aptos, California USA


Kick off Sponsorship Day, August 18–19, 2018, by listening to the ten episodes in the Sponsorship Success podcast series at oa.org/podcasts.

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