Ask Auntie Pinko
February 10, 2005
By Auntie Pinko
I'm a Christian, and a moderately liberal democrat. I have
been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for the past 9 months. In
order to learn to live a sober life I have relied on the guidance
of others who have gone before me in AA. I have been shown that
we adhere to principles and guidelines and we don't confuse those
basics with issues of sexual preference, religion, political views,
etc. Rather, we impart a philosophy of not promoting any causes
and an attitude of "live and let live."
Now that I'm 9 months sober my mentors are letting me into
their lives on a more personal level. I'm finding that one of my
sponsors, who has helped me enormously, is basically a right-wing
fanatic. His hard-hitting, fundamentalist approach to AA helped
keep me sober when all else had failed; however, now I'm finding
he applies that same black-and-white thinking to gays, perceived
liberals and liberal organizations, and just about anything that
doesn't fit into his square head. I was with a group of people at
his home the other day and was aghast at some of the things he was
We were watching Michael Jackson's recent publicity, er, damage
control performance on TV and I commented that I thought it outrageous
that people would be so blindly devoted when in all likelihood the
guy's a child molester. He agreed and started spouting off about
how he thinks there is a liberal agenda whereby, little by little,
sex with children will some day be legalized. He said the American
Psychiatric Association has recently said that it's now okay to
have sex with a child in some cases, as long as the child consents.
Then he segued right into, "when I was a kid there were no gay pride
parades... blah blah blah." I just looked at him and said he was
confusing issues and he said something like "no, it's all the same
type of thing."
He is a rather large, commanding person and suddenly I had some
clarity - this guy wants everyone to think the way he does. "Hysterical,"
"fanatical" also came to mind. I got really angry and wanted to
shout in his face about what a dumb-ass he is and the real truth
is that our society has made great strides in cracking down on pedophiles,
etc., etc. I kept telling myself to live and let live but I don't
know how much of that I can take.
My recovery has brought me to a place where I'm more mindful
of my own views and the types of people I want to hang with. Yet
I don't want to become closed minded, the very thing I hate about
him. I'm scared to cut off ties with people who care about me, but
at the same time I want to be true to myself. Also, his girlfriend
is my main sponsor and we're pretty close. Again, she has literally
saved my life but I am losing respect for her because she seems
comfortable with the way he talks. I just don't know how to proceed.
Whatever insight you can give I'd appreciate it.
Thanks for your time.
Congratulations on your nine months' sobriety! AA is a wonderful
program that has helped millions of people, including some of my
own friends and family. Not being a recovering individual myself,
I didn't want to rely entirely on my own instincts about your dilemma,
so I hope you don't mind that I consulted some long-term ("black
belt," I think they're called) AA folks, and have incorporated their
wisdom into my response.
Many alcoholics and addicts face a daunting challenge as they
begin to recover: during their drinking/using days, they acquired
a network of friends who enabled or encouraged their drinking/using,
and lost the support of many of their sober friends and family.
As you're already aware from AA, to avoid relapsing, you have to
build a new network of friends who can support your new sober life.
AA, and your sponsors, can be very helpful in this.
But as you progress through the early stages of sobriety (and
my sources tell me that physically, that means a year or two, and
mentally it can be even longer) different kinds of help are useful
to you. There's nothing wrong with developing new sponsors as you
feel your needs changing. You don't have to cut your ties with old
sponsors, either - you might need what they have to offer in the
future. As you probably know, recovery isn't always a straight-line
process - it's full of do-overs and reviews!
It's not your task, or your responsibility, to "convert" your
sponsors, or show them the error of their politics, no matter how
much you may value them otherwise. If particular topics of discussion
have the potential to raise divisive issues, you can avoid them.
It's always your option to simply say, "I have different views on
that, but I don't feel a need to discuss it." And you can politely
decline the kind of social contacts that will lead to such discussions.
Post-meeting cups of coffee and/or phone calls focused on recovery-related
mentorship are the basics of the relationship (unless you're having
a crisis) and there is nothing unhealthy in keeping it on that level.
Good experienced sponsors don't expect to keep you tied to their
apron strings - in fact, that's a bad sign. They want to see you
growing the skills to build a variety of healthy relationships in
your new sober life. They will always be there for you, of course.
Twenty years from now, you'll still be able to talk to them about
things that won't have meaning for anyone but the two of you. And
down the road when you're sponsoring your own first "pigeon," you'll
be able to get some very helpful tips from them. You don't need
to "cut off ties" with anyone, but there's no reason not to set
some healthy boundaries. And you do have to address the task of
building a broader network of support. If you're starting to feel
a need for some more nuanced mentorship, look around for additional
sponsorship. Try some other meetings. Many people attend more than
one regular meeting. You can look for a group whose members seem
like possible like-minded social contacts. Sometimes where a group
meets can be a good clue - near a college, or in a "liberal" neighborhood,
perhaps, or in a public library.
Trying additional groups can help you build wider social contacts,
as well. Many larger towns have an "Alano Society" or "Alano Club"
that serves as an umbrella for lots of AA and Al-Anon related activities.
Sometimes they sponsor group activities, like fundraisers, or trips
to round-ups. Those are good ways to meet new people. A core of
sponsor(s) and close friends in the program is an important resource,
but if you never move beyond those few relationships, you'll still
be vulnerable to many relapse traps.
Your interest in politics can help you grow in recovery, as any
healthy, non-drinking/drug related interest can. Finding healthy
activities and interests to replace the alcohol or drugs is one
of your recovery tasks, but don't let those interests distract you
from concentrating on learning the Steps and the program, and how
to apply them every day. Best wishes to you for continued successful
recovery, Kristine, and thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!
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