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Keep coming back. The program works! These are the words that echoed at my first COSA meeting. I had nothing to lose; I kept coming back. A week went by, and I started to feel hopeful. Then a month, and I started to feel relieved...relieved that I wasn't alone. Three months approached, and things started to make sense. I recently completed my First Step: We admitted that we were powerlessness over compulsive sexual behavior-that our lives had become unmanageable. Now in November, I'm eight months strong. True gifts of the COSA program are having a sponsor, fellowship, and clarity of my Higher Power. Just as vital is the gift of the COSA First Step. My first attempt at putting pen to paper was a challenge, and so were the second and third attempts. This would mean all the secrets that I held onto for so long would now become a story for all to hear. I was completely scared but definitely ready. I thought about how I felt when I heard my first Step One share. A spectrum of emotions hit me - tears of anguish and hurt mingled with feelings of hope and triumph. It was healing to let out the emotions that were buried deep inside and so powerful to look around and see the unity of emotions. We were all together. Working the COSA First Step is a celebration. Admitting powerlessness and that my life had become unmanageable gives me a fresh start. Sharing my story allows me to be an inspiration to others. I am grateful for my program!
– JT COSA
"Came"; "Came to"; "Came to Believe". Those three words, the beginning of Step Two, were repeated to me in just this manner, very early in my recovery. It gave me great pause then and still does today. I have since found no better way to describe the process of recovery, and particularly the ability to grasp Step Two, than this phrasing of these three powerful words. My "coming" to recovery began in 1989 with the realization that, more and more, what came out of my mouth- anger, bitterness, and rage- was not consistent with my internal beliefs about myself as a person. That internal/external discrepancy was becoming more and more bothersome and destructive in my relationships. I "Came to" some four years later when my husband entered rehab. While attending family week, it became clear that my life and marriage were spinning out of control and that I was losing control. It would be another eight years before I truly "Came to Believe". In February 2001, I made an agreement with my Higher Power that I would never again underestimate the power of this disease. I determined to work the steps, attend COSA meetings, and do whatever it took to stay in recovery for a lifetime. For me, this step also means that while I may be powerless (Step One), I am not helpless or alone. There is a "power greater than ourselves" that helps us along this spiritual path. I believe that our concept and belief about just what that Higher Power looks like or does is a process as well. My concept of my Higher Power grows and changes daily - that is the beauty of this wonderful program!
– Margie S., Richmond IN
I am powerless over the difficulty I have saying "no" to anything. Some days when I wake, I would swear all the recovery knowledge has been wiped from my memory banks. I have had a long-standing belief I should say "yes" to any person who "just needs a few minutes of my time". That belief has not served me well. Of course, I get something of value when I do this: I get an instant hit that makes me feel important and useful when the person thanks me for my wisdom and my time. Unfortunately, my work doesnt get done when I'm making calls, checking e-mails, answering the phone and making myself available to help those who are struggling at that moment. The result is that I often feel overwhelmed or bad about myself for not getting as much work done as I had planned. If I weren't self-employed I would have probably been fired for not doing my job.
A COSA friend once shared with me that she was worried about her sobriety being threatened by having too many friends. Her question intrigued me because sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the demands that other people make on my time. Was it possible my life would be better if I limited the number of friends I had? Intuitively, I knew the number of friends could not be the problem. I was over-committing myself to friends and, having many friends is harmful to me only if I have no boundaries.
When I got to this program, I found the COSA Sponsorship Booklet. This booklet and the collective wisdom of my group were available to teach me about sponsorship. I was not in a hurry to find a sponsor, though. I had come into COSA engaged to a man who had told me on our second date about his addiction, though he didn't call it that. I felt shame about staying in the relationship, and I wasn't sure I wanted to let someone really get to know me. I felt safer at first hiding in the group and doing a lot of listening. In my home group, there was a sign on the wall that said "Meetings = Relief, Steps =Recovery." I was enjoying the relief the meetings provided, and eventually I wanted more.
I began working the Steps; however, it took me several months to decide to try to find a sponsor. For me, the first three Steps helped me to become less self-reliant and more Higher Power-reliant. When I was ready, I heard a Sponsorship Prayer:
"Higher Power, please tell me who you want me to choose as a sponsor, and please make it so obvious that I know for sure it's your pick."
There was a woman in my group who had recovery that I admired. She had Twelve-Stepped me when I came in, and I knew her story. She had a lot of what I wanted. But, perhaps more importantly, she had what she wanted. She was happy. I had a lot of resistance. She was different than I was. She didn't fit several of the requirements on my list. In her sharing, she'd often say how busy she was, and I didn't want to be rejected. However, my Higher Power seemed to urge me forward. Each time this woman shared, she said something that struck my heart. I was beginning my Step Four, and the message for me was courage. Was it obvious enough? In faith and desperation, I asked. She said she would be honored. And we began a relationship that has changed my life.
I know today how lucky I was to find a sponsor so easily. There aren't a lot of people who sponsor in COSA, although there are a lot of people who want and need sponsors. I have often been amazed at the creativity and persistence of the people that I have known who have found sponsors, co-sponsors, or study groups. They found a way because they wanted recovery so much.
My sponsor is not always available, so she has taught me to reach out and to use boundaries. She does not always make me happy with her honesty. She has taught me to tell the truth. She often surprises me with her experience, strength and hope. She has taught me the value of another person's perspective. She has sometimes made me angry. Her acceptance of that my anger has taught me I am not responsible for other people's feelings, and that I don't have to make everybody happy. She has also taught me that I can be angry at someone and stay in the relationship.
It's important to understand what a sponsor is NOT. My sponsor is not my chauffeur, my banker, or my best friend. She leads me through the Twelve Steps and the Traditions and Concepts and helps me to apply all the tools of the program. Most important of all, she led me to a deeper understanding of my Higher Power.
Having a sponsor means that I tell all my secrets to one person. Before I had a sponsor, I spread out those secrets pretty well. My sponsor got to know all of me, through our conversations and through my Step Five. I found out for the first time that I was really lovable. I spent a lot of time hiding from people, and letting myself be really known for the first time was frightening but rewarding.
My recovery took off once I began to work with a sponsor. Suddenly, there was a person in my life that I trusted enough to call and ask questions and spill out my deepest fears and dreams. She encouraged me to talk about myself, not my partner. She patiently taught me the tools of the program and taught me how to identify the problem so that I used the right tools. Always, she shared her experience, strength, and hope. She never gave me advice. In doing these things, she not only sponsored me but also taught me how to sponsor. Her love and acceptance of me early on helped me to treat sponsees in the same way. Her suggestion that I build myself a support network in COSA taught me not to depend on one person for my recovery.
The first time I was asked to sponsor, I was afraid. I was afraid that I wouldn't be good enough. I was afraid that I wouldn't know what to say, wouldn't be able to answer her questions, wouldn't be able to set boundaries, and wouldn't have experience, strength, and hope for her. With my sponsor's help, I learned that a sponsor is not a Higher Power. I had all that I needed to sponsor because I had experience with the Steps and a relationship with a God of my understanding.
At first, I sponsored much as I had been sponsored. Over time, I learned that each sponsee is different and has different needs. But always, the Steps were first and foremost. Always, my Higher Power showed me the way. Always, love and intuition were the keys.
I made a lot of mistakes as I sponsored. I learned how to make amends to my sponsees, and learned that the sponsees and the relationships survived my humanness.
I found it was true that I got as much out of the relationship as my sponsee did, or more. When a sponsee worked Step One, I remembered Step One and learned as well. There were times when I was miserable, and a sponsee would call. I would find myself telling my sponsee exactly what I needed to hear. Most importantly, when I worked with my sponsees, I worked Step Twelve. What I got for fun and for free from my sponsor and the other COSAs in my face-to-face, online, and telephone meetings, I gave away for fun and for free.
I have learned that my sponsor invites me to do things differently today. There have been times I thought I needed to changed sponsors, when all I needed was an honest conversation about a difficulty that had arisen between us. I learned to face and express my feelings. But sometimes, it is time to end a sponsor-sponsee relationship. It is not easy. However, I have found that if I thank my sponsor for all she has given me, and make it about me, things usually go well.
As I became more and more active in COSA service, questions came up. Sometimes, I didn't know how best to approach a project or a personality. If my personal sponsor didn't have the experience in this area to help me, I could choose a person whose service work I admired and respected to become my "service sponsor." She might work the Traditions with me, and teach me how to navigate the sometimes difficult and confusing waters of service, how to improve my self- care, and how to deal with the perfectionism that could cripple me when I was doing service.
I've learned how to have an intimate relationship. I've learned how to work through a disagreement or a disappointment using the tools of the program. I've learned how to trust appropriately. I've learned how to love and respect another person. I've learned how to honor another person's boundaries and how to set my own. I've learned that I am worthy of love. Some of the things that I've learned are words of wisdom that I've used over and over. These include:
Sponsorship is one of the greatest gifts this program has given me.
Thank you, Sponsor, for all you are to me.
– Claudia M