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A Potent and Positive Influence

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After I’d been in OA about two months, stayed abstinent for more than thirty days, and finished my first three Steps, my meeting had a step-up ceremony. During it, my sponsor declared me ready to sponsor and gave me a sponsorship guide manual she’d assembled. “Sponsoring is a way of living Step Twelve,” she said.

I thought, “Why do I even have to consider this? Couldn’t I just keep working the Steps, report my food to my sponsor, lose weight, and not bother with the rest?” But I’d also read in Appendix C of Overeaters Anonymous, Third Edition that “When OA members become sponsors themselves, their loneliness is greatly alleviated. They are needed and accepted. This has a very potent, positive influence on weight maintenance” (p. 203).

In the following months, I introduced myself at meetings as a sponsor and crossed my fingers, hoping no one would ask me. I really didn’t feel ready.

But after meeting several potential sponsees at a meet-and-greet session during a sponsorship workshop, I realized I really did want to help others find the recovery I was experiencing.

My opportunity came when I began attending a meeting that had only existed for a few months; only one other member there could sponsor. I soon acquired several sponsees. We set up a schedule for times they could phone me. Each day, we’d review their food plan and the work they had done on the Steps.

This was one situation where I could only learn by experience. It took many interactions to learn to work with newcomers and realize that each person has different learning styles and preferences. What worked for one sponsee didn’t necessarily work for another. I also discovered I didn’t have to do it alone; my own sponsor was there to answer my questions and guide me. If she didn’t know the answer, she knew someone who did.

I found some perks in sponsorship:

First, there was joy in seeing others find recovery as they worked the Steps. As they learned about themselves, they began to experience healing in their emotions and find their spiritual walk.

Second, my own program and abstinence strengthened. Since all I could share was my own experience, strength, and hope, I had to be sure my current experience reflected what I was asking of those I sponsored. As my sponsees called on me to stand with them as they learned to food shop without picking up certain items, I found that when I shopped, my conscience wouldn’t allow me to pick up those items either.

Third, character defects and food experiences from my compulsive past came to light, ones I hadn’t seen when I first worked the Steps. I had to work through those with my own sponsor, which also strengthened my recovery. Sponsoring kept me working the Steps alongside those I sponsored. This way, I was a fellow sufferer, trudging “the Road of Happy Destiny” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th. ed., p. 164) beside them, not some self-proclaimed expert.

Sure, I still feel inadequate—I’m sure I am in some instances. I keep reminding myself that living life out in the world with others is much better than huddling miserably in my cave with the food. Some people may have let me down along the way, but not as badly as food did. And it was sponsoring that made this statement more real to me: together and with our Higher Power, we are doing what we never could do alone.

— Rosanne K., Beaverton, Oregon USA

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