My way of sharing shapes my way of thinking

One of the strangest things about recovery, for a self-centered egotist like me, is this concept of doing what I do for others.  It is in this area that I most notice the "personality change sufficient to bring about recovery," but it is also where I am continually challenged.  My natural state is selfishness.  

When alone or when stressed, my first reaction is to isolate and to seek something to make me feel better.  Lust, physical feelings, computer games, food, even reading (a supposed virtue) can all be used to make me feel better.  All of them work - for a while.  Some better than others.  But none of them work long term.  Every means of isolating calms me for a while, but then leaves me feeling bleak and empty.

The primary purpose of each SA group is to carry the message to the sexaholic who still suffers.  I was told to share my personal experience, strength, and hope - not to dump my problems, but rather to offer help to other members who listen.  I was told to listen, not to cross-talk. Listening is yet another form of helping - by making someone else's share important to me.  "No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others."  This message was drummed into me by my sponsor and other members in those early months. It is a message which pervades all SA and AA literature!

So, desperate as I was to be special and different, I did what they told me to do.  (Of course, in my contempt I would - and still sometimes do - get angry at newcomers who don't share properly.  Sigh.)  I would share about my problems and my weakness, but I always tried to follow the pattern in Alcoholics Anonymous: what I used to be like, what happened, and what I am like now.

And gradually, that mode of sharing has become the way I think.  I use the same pattern in church groups and even in business meetings.  This is a huge change from a man who thought success meant pushing people around to get my way.  And I am still amazed to find that it works, even in business.

But there is also the more directed work of being a sponsor, of helping newcomers to find the path that I have followed.  I have had over 25 sponsees through the years.  Some of them have found long-term recovery and a changed life.  Some, not all.  That keeps me in humility, and it reminds me always that it is not my doing that makes them sober or not. The only one I know who can achieve that miracle is God as I understand Him.  Still I keep on trying to help others.

I simply share with my sponsees what I have done, and I help them to do the same thing as and when it applies to their life.  I have them read the same AA and SA books that I've read.  I have them do the same writing that I have done.  I have them ponder things that I have pondered; I have them pray the prayers that I have prayed.  When their life throws them curve balls (Step 1 part b: life is unmanageable), then I help them work out an appropriate thing to do in exactly the same way that I work out such problems.  (Sometimes I fear that this part looks a lot like life advice, which I try to avoid.  I'm not qualified to be anyone's life coach!  Good heavens, look what I did with my own life!)  I work with them as long as they will let me, and that has taken a handful of those sponsees all the way through the 12 Steps.  I think it no coincidence that it is this same handful that has found long-term sobriety and a changed life.

Somehow, doing this work with others changes me.  It gets me out of my own selfishness and into helping others.  And my life becomes calmer as I realize that I really do have something worthwhile to offer.