This morning I re-read Chapter 7 in the AA Big Book titled “Working with Others”. The very first sentence of the chapter boldly declares a primary key to continued sobriety: “Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from [acting out] as intensive work with other [addicts].” As recovered/recovering addicts we can help other addicts like no one else can. Helping someone else achieve sobriety and ultimately beat their addiction is one of the greatest joys for a fellow addict. This chapter has some great advice on how to help others as well as some important cautionary measures to be sure you take.One of the first things I learned was to not criticize someone else’s methods for working on sobriety. If another group, method, book, or process is working for someone, great! That’s okay. Whatever way worked for you does not have to be the only way for someone else. But if someone has tried multiple things and is still falling down AND they are ready to do whatever it takes to beat their addiction, then we have a solution for them 🙂
Another powerful tool that I learned from this chapter as well as from my own sponsor’s example is to not waste energy trying to persuade an addict to change or to accept your solution. On one hand you may unnecessarily prejudice them against your method (if they’re not ready) and on the other hand if you’re wasting time with someone not interested you could very well be missing out on someone who is interested. I remember dragging my feet on step 8 and when I finally called my sponsor to setup a meeting he simply and merrily said, “I wondered when you would call again.” He never once badgered me about taking my next steps. It was my program to work and I alone was responsible to take each step.
The more I’ve done this the more I’ve become attuned to whether or not someone is slightly interested, not interested, or totally interested. If slightly interested, I invite them to a group meeting, encourage them to read the AA book and let them know they can call me when they’re ready to take the next step — and then I literally leave them alone. If they are not interested I let them be. If they are completely ready and willing to do whatever it takes then I invite them to go to the group meeting, read the AA book, and find a sponsor. I let them know whether I’m available or not and that I don’t mind if they choose someone else. A sponsor is a private/personal matter and if I’m not the right fit, I’m not the right fit.
If you’ve made it through your own 12 step program, I highly recommend you start looking for people to sponsor. Announce your availability at a 12 step group meeting. Talk to your spiritual advisors (e.g. Bishop, Priest, Pastor, etc). Ask your own sponsor. And read and re-read Chapter 7 before you meet with someone for the first time. You really can’t mess things up, just give it a try and tweak your approach as you practice more. It’s really rewarding and truly helps people heal — including (especially!) yourself!
My name is Mike