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Sponsorship in CoDA: 2020

Frank – Sponsorship Committee Host – Aug 2020

I remember when I started in CoDA, it took me a long time to find a home group where I felt at home. When I found that group, I hid out on the back row, not talking to anyone, escaping at the end of the serenity prayer. It took me a long time to realize I could talk to people after. And longer after that to start doing service.

I would recommend finding a CoDA group on Zoom which suits you, where it feels like home, where you can hear shares of Experience, Strength and Hope.

Once there, and you hear someone share who you identify with, reach out to them through the chat box when sharing ends. I’m finding this WhatsApp group a learning experience.

We don’t really have trusted servants here with roles. There are a few admins. I’m one. We don’t have newcomers reps etc. I think we’re still finding our feet.

I do service on the committee for the sponsorship workshop which is running on Zoom now too.

In the meantime, I’ve just seen this page for newcomers: and this page on the same site for sponsorship:

Some people are successful in their search for a sponsor through Outreach. I attended face to face meetings many years ago and found someone there who was willing to sponsor me.

I chose him because I could hear his recovery in his shares, and he could hear my willingness to work the steps in my shares. You might be able to do this in the online meetings.

I have also seen many people join step groups, who couldn’t find sponsors. The step group lets all the participants work the steps together.

When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of Fellowship always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.

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Working steps in a group

An account of Step Group – Coda World

What Is a Step Study?
Often regular, listed CoDA meetings call themselves a Step Study when the focus of the meeting is CoDA literature about the Steps, and sometimes the Traditions. These meetings are open and rotate through the literature again and again. New people join the meeting wherever the group is and get a taste of CoDA’s Steps, Traditions, and the experience of the members of the meeting.

When you are ready to WORK the Steps, you might find or start a small group of likeminded members who want to take their recovery to the next level. Members create small groups to support each other by working through all the Steps together. We strongly suggest working the Traditions simultaneously. This is also called a Step Study Group. This kind of group will be the major focus of this document.

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Individual Sponsorship

Sponsorship in CoDA – Workshop held in Birmingham 21/4/07

The speaker began by stating how the role of sponsor in a one-to-one situation is a GIFT from recovery; ideally a mutual and balanced relationship and very much a two-way street. The sponsored member may have much to give.

She clarified the role of the sponsor as someone who will take the sponsee through the Steps, and share experience, strength and hope. The sponsor’s ego ideally needs to be out of the equation – the codependent need to ‘fix’ is no more appropriate here than in any other relationship. So it is important that the sponsor takes care of themselves first, in terms of time and energy boundaries, and that the negotiations are for the needs of both. It may be that sponsees new to the programme are particularly needy at a particular point, and the sponsor needs to be clear about what they can really provide; over-reaching can lead to co dependent feelings of victimhood, martyrdom or resentment which will not ultimately benefit the sponsee. Setting boundaries avoids any ‘rescuing’ behaviour and protects the sponsor. Negotiation and dialogue between the two people is absolutely crucial.

And, as with any other relationship, it takes TIME for the sponsor/sponsee relationship to develop and deepen.

Harking back to the issue of keeping the sponsor’s ego out of the equation, she stated how rewarding it can be to see sponsees flourish, but to remember always that it is their Higher Power that does this, not the sponsor! There is a risk that the initial impetus to become a sponsor may be driven out of a codependent need to fix. If a sponsee is continually raising the same question without taking on board the answer, for example, this may raise issues for the sponsor about not being heard – but they then need to let go the outcome. If a sponsee is not working the programme and stays stuck, it may be appropriate for the sponsor to let them go rather than staying with them in their problems.

The whole relationship can be a real gift to the sponsor, serving as a constant reminder of the steps and seeing issues from the sponsee’s perspective. The sponsor needs also to be aware that the sponsee may just need to be listened to, without any feedback. Issues may also arise for the sponsor, around boundaries, dependency, fear of conflict, the need to control and the need to ‘fix’. These, too, can be a gift – ideally the sponsor needs to be willing to receive these messages. It may nevertheless be appropriate to terminate a relationship which really is not working – in CoDA as anywhere else.

The speaker then went on to describe sponsorship as a tool, one of many available tools on the road to recovery. It is important to refrain from advice-giving, to share experience, strength and hope – and let God. However, all relationships are valuable in that much insight can be gained – whether the relationship is ultimately successful or not.

The sponsor really needs to understand their own relationship with God before embarking on a relationship with the other person; an understanding which will minimise the risk of them standing in the way of the sponsee’s Higher Power.

The speaker then stated the need for courage to confront difficult situations. There are many potential lessons here about intimacy, healthy communication and only giving what you have available to give.

There is also an issue of manageability without being controlling. Being available every day can be a challenge, for example, though this may sometimes be appropriate. If a sponsee leaves a message, it is fine to leave a reply, but not then to ‘chase’ the other person. It is a matter of trust to let the other person manage their own life and to let go of the outcome.

In conclusion, she stated that though it is challenging to work as a trusted tool, it is also an opportunity and a gift to work through one’s own painful, codependent side. Sometimes being forced out of self-centredness and self-pity to focus on another person can be a gift, too. The sponsee will also receive the benefit of wisdom. At the end of the day, though, the sponsor is a guide only, not a fixer, therapist or coach.

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Group Sponsorship

Sharing the Experience, Strength and Hope I’ve Found in a CoDA Step Work Group

My name is Kay and I’m a recovering co-dependent. I have been in the fellowship for just under three years.

I joined the fellowship following a bad break-up which left me broken spiritually, untrusting of my own judgement and merits and without hope for the future. Just a few weeks in CoDA saw a marked improvement in the way I felt about myself and my situation, but there was still something missing.

I didn’t see how I could work the programme properly without a sponsor and sponsors were very thin on the ground. I’d tried working with a remote sponsor in America but I found that was expensive and impractical. So, gathering my courage, I decided to end that sponsor relationship. But I still knew I needed support if I was going to take the 12 steps on board properly and make a real change in my life.

I decided to hand it over and see what would happen. Then the London region ran a sponsorship workshop. Here, a group of us decided to put together a Step Work Group to keep us moving forward through the 12 steps.

We meet once a month. At the first meeting, we set out ground rules and decided to use the 12 traditions as the blueprint for our meetings. We start each meeting with the serenity prayer to give it structure and end in the same way. We check in briefly then go on to share our work for that month.

Together, we’ve worked right up to step 9. We use the questions from the CoDA work book, work the questions and share our responses. For me, this has really helped. Not only do I have the support of four fantastic women who support me through my highs and lows and offer me their experience to help me see how I can manage my dis-ease, I also have the experience of their perspective on the programme.

I am a practicing Christian, but watching my fellows work through steps 1, 2 and 3 made me appreciate these steps more deeply, challenging my faith and increasing my understanding. Steps 1-3 have been a real foundation which I’ve turned to whenever I’m in a stick.

Step 4 came after we’d been working together for three months. In that time, we’d started to build a real trust and the safety produced by using the 12 traditions made me feel safe enough to trust that the confidentiality needed for step 4 could be maintained by the Step Work Group. I shared my fear at this step and drew on the knowledge that we were all heading into these waters together as I took bigger and bigger Step 4s.

Each month, we set ourselves a subject – an area to explore, using the questions from the CoDA book and another book which we decided to use by Group Conscience. We’d share our step 4 and then, if we wanted to, we asked for feedback from the group. This helped to give me perspective and clarity over my responsibilities and my part in events. When asked for feedback, we carefully shared similar experiences, giving examples which paralleled situations rather than dictating how people should feel.

We tackled many difficult subjects including family, physical relationships, colleagues, friends. We started with less emotive subjects before tackling the big family members category.

The step 4 work was painful and detailed. We worked steadily, supporting one another between our Step Work Group evenings with phone calls and also ran into each other at various CoDA meetings in the area. Because this remarkable group of women was pushing on with the work, it kept me going too. Their company on my journey helped me to take many difficult steps, knowing that I had their support and, of course, the unfailing support of a loving Higher Power who would restore me to sanity.

Steps five to nine followed on over the next four months. We used the same model as we had for steps one to three, working from CoDA literature and using our other literature to build our understanding of the step. However, when we got to step 9, we found it became difficult to work together at the same pace. Step 9 is for me a very personal step. I make direct amends as and when I am ready to and when the right opportunities arise. So we weren’t all able to work at the same pace.

We’ve decided to keep working together but are currently working through the 12 traditions with the CoDA work book. As and when I approach a step 9, members of the group are there to support, before and after the amend is made. We share our feelings about the amend we’re working through, and our concerns about the future. Voicing these has helped me to move forwards in my relationships and where I have made amends, those relationships have invariably improved.

It’s not all been easy. We’ve had fallings out. But we’ve used “I” statements and CoDA principles to keep us on track. Suspending judgement has helped and we’ve successfully kept out of each others lives enough to maintain some level of anonymity which means that when asked to give feedback, that feedback isn’t clouded by knowing the other person in the situation, only the patterns of our fellows and how we’ve reacted ourselves in similar situations. Using the 12 traditions has helped us to reflect – our individual progress depends upon CoDA unity.

People within our group have sponsees. Again, this has been a positive thing. We’ve been able to share our experiences of how difficult it is to sponsor without controlling! Because the Step Work Group is run using CoDA principles, it’s made these principles more familiar to me and I’ve found it easier to use them when sponsoring.

I find one of the things which makes the group safe for me is that it’s an all women group. This helped me when it came to the more personal elements of Step 4 and I believe that my disclosure in Step 4 would not have been as complete with men present.

When we started the group, we decided that we would work together and see how it goes. We haven’t had anyone leave throughout the process and we also haven’t had anyone join. For me, I feel it would be difficult for anyone to join us now. But, we’ve decided that should anyone ask to join us, we would put it to group conscience and let our Higher Power steer the group where we need to go.

And, so far, so good. Every day of my recovery has its challenges, but I know that I can draw on the support, the experience, strength and hope of some incredible women. I don’t limit my support group to the Ladies Step Work Group. I still go to regular CoDA meetings and I am happy. Just for today.  

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Sponsorship in CoDA – Workshop held in Birmingham 21/4/07

The speaker described how she had been in CoDA for around 3-4 years, following sponsoring in another 12 step fellowship. There was a lack of available sponsors, and the co-sponsoring relationship was set up in the light of this.

She described the ‘mechanics’ of the relationship, which has been helpful in various ways. A regular weekly slot is allocated, and each takes it in turns, both to make the telephone call and to share. The length of the call is also decided on the basis of need. Because of the regular routine, it is very clear whose role is which at any time. She described the benefits of knowing the other person over a long period of time, and the experience of really being known. A great sense of security is also created between contacts, knowing that there will be time available at some point in the future to home in on and clarify issues.

She described the various options available, which include email, phone – where it is not always necessary to receive a reply – and working the steps when this is appropriate. There are different strategies to avoid a sense of victimhood and to maintain detachment, involving both contact with another person and prayer.

She also mentioned the benefits of the ability to be there for another person, to develop listening skills and not to get deeply embroiled in someone else’s life events. As in individual sponsorship, the boundaries are being maintained, but because both parties are establishing them at the same time it may flow more smoothly. Strength and focus are still needed, nevertheless, to deal with the discomfort of raising controversial issues and to maintain boundaries as necessary.

The speaker also felt that there were issues which could still be addressed by her; these included working the steps in depth. Because of the time slot, these could sometimes be skipped over. She also reiterated her own need to stay focused – the co-sponsoring relationship did not negate the need to do other work, too.