Alcoholics Anonymous and the Importance of Mentors

March 15, 2012

I’m not an alcoholic, but I find [what little I know of] the Alcoholics Anonymous story, and its model in general, to be very compelling.

I didn’t know how important within AA the concept of sponsorship was until just now (when web surfing got the best of me). When you’re newly abstinent under AA, your sponsor—a longtime abstinent mentor—is supposed to be a huge source of support. Sponsors take on the social responsibility to help you and, on a larger scale, fortify the AA structure.

Here are some things I learned (all from here):

  • AA strongly prefers same-sex sponsor pairs. I think it’s interesting that this is blatant.
  • Moral duty is highly implicated in the language around sponsorships. (All the AA literature I stumbled on is like this; it’s just really different from stuff I’m used to reading these days.)
  • Sponsorship is a one-way street. You need an AA sponsor to be a tower of strength so should not think that they will unburden themselves to you as you can freely do with them.” (Ibid.)

That last line jumped out when I saw it. It’s a type of relationship I’m becoming only newly re-acquainted with, even though the most people’s initial quarter-centuries are predominated by authority figures.

Two contradictions exist in the modern era. (How stuffy am I? Did I eat a couch cushion for lunch?)

A, the idea that parents can be friends, a style of parenting that a lot of people adopt (and that I don’t fully disagree with). However you feel about it, it’s definitely not styled to be like a one-way street.

B has two parts in itself. First, with social media etc., it’s becoming increasingly effortless to gain access to the smallest, sometimes unsavory aspects of people’s lives. That is, a flaw-exposing Facebook photo can change your delusions about a person forever. My celebrity role models have Twitter, and sometimes they say dumb things. Second, since it’s easier than ever to communicate (not with quality but in quantity, anyway), it could mean even more ways to break those same delusions.

What I’m getting at: I think the idea of an AA sponsor, the way it’s described above, is very honorable and romantic, but becoming much harder to sustain.

Oh yeah, why do I wear hijab? Haha. My original idea was to tie in this random research to a post about how it’s been crucial for me to have fellow hijabis to look up to (noted complications and all), but I’ll save that for another day.

One more poignant thing AA served up this evening:

#4 of Alcoholics Anonymous’ Twelve Steps [that its founders went through and wrote down]:

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”


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