Sponsorship: The Heart of Alcoholics Anonymous

Sponsors and Newcomers: the Heart and Lifeblood of A.A.

Is it important to have a sponsor? Wow, absolutely. Absolutely.

Sponsorship is an experience that you must not miss. Sponsorship is the heart, the heart of the AA approach to recovery. Everybody in this room knows that the heart is the most vital organ of your body. Without the heart, you die. Without the heart, there is nothing.

The basic concept of the entire program of Alcoholics Anonymous is sponsorship, one alcoholic sharing an experience with another alcoholic. That’s all it is.

But you know where a lot of people make mistakes, new people, they say, “Oh, I don’t want to burden anybody with all my problems. I don’t want to call the guy up in the middle of the night. He’s got enough to worry about without my petty stuff.”

Get that idea out of your head.

Because sponsorship is a two edged sword. Don’t ever think for one minute that the old timer may not need you more than you need him. We refer to the newcomers as the lifeblood of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. And that you are just as vital to the old timer as the old timer is vital to you.

So, don’t ever be afraid of calling him up in the middle of the night. If that bothers him, then he doesn’t want to be a sponsor.

You see, sponsorship works both ways. Many times on podiums like this, men have gotten up there and said, “I was sober about 23 years and I’m getting ready to take a drink.” And one of the kids I sponsor showed up at the door that night. The sponsoree saved the sponsor.

Sponsorship: Guidance over rough seas

We were coming over the bridge. I like to watch boats sailing around and all that. And here, there’s one or two ships coming in, one going out.

I love the sea. I get excited by the sea. And I’m glad, because that’s what I relate sponsorship to.

Across the Ocean

Did you ever think what these guys who sail these ships are like? There’s a ship probably somewhere, maybe Olongapo in the Philippine Islands right now, being loaded. And its destination is going to be the Port of Oakland.

And some guy, a guy just like me and you, is going to get on it. And he’s going to steer that ship. He’s going to bring that ship about 7,000 miles across the ocean. And that’s remarkable. It’s so easy to go down there and shoot a couple of stars. You don’t have road maps and all that kind of stuff, no Next Exit is Honolulu and all of that. He’s just out there.

So he sails them 7,000 miles. And he gets up there around the Farallon Islands, about a mile away from the bridge. And they throttle down. And then the damnedest thing happens. A little launch comes out from the bay.

Put put put put. It pulls up alongside of this ship. They drop a ladder over the side. Like Pac Man, the guy goes up there. And he must show some sign of identification. And then the master of that ship, the captain of the ship, the guy that has sailed this so many thousand miles, only got one more mile to go to Oakland, and he turns the ship over to this guy. This guy is going to bring the ship in.

The Harbor Pilot

Now, why in the hell does he have to bring it in? Why shouldn’t this other guy, the guy that’s sailed him so far bring it in? Obviously, you all know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the harbor pilot.

Why is the pilot more important at that point?

Because he is up to date on every condition of that harbor. He knows everything that’s gone on in that harbor right up until that very minute. He knows if the tides have changed, if a sandbar has come, or if there’s an underwater hazard here, or if a pier burnt down here last night, one of them under fire over there, or they got a ship already in here.

He knows every condition surrounding the harbor at that moment. And obviously, the captain of the ship couldn’t know all of those things. So he brings him in safely.

He said, well, you have to go Port of Angel Island, starboard here, this and that. Don’t go over to Pier 32, they had an accident last night.

The Role of a Sponsor

And that’s exactly what a sponsor is. See, you’ve been out there sailing around all your life. And now you’re right in here where you’re going to grab something. And you don’t know a thing about this.

And it’s advisable that you get somebody that does. Because you can get into some very bad misconceptions.

You have to have a sponsor that will show you those things. You can say you’re taking the steps. But you don’t know if you’re taking them right or wrong unless there’s somebody there to tell you.

Just because you read that book and read that stuff doesn’t mean you know it. If that was the case, every one of you would’ve graduated from school cum laude. But you see, you had to take tests to see how much you knew, or if you had it right.

And that’s what a sponsor is about.

—Gene Duffy