Bootstraps or Pigtails

When new to recovery it is a good idea to locate some trusted friends. The kind that will not hesitate to call us on our self-absorption, our rationalizing attitudes and our self-deceptive perspectives. TRUSTED friends, not back-patting nodders. We can go back to the bar for those if we decide we don’t need old-fashioned honesty.

The 12 Step programs rely on sponsorship as a means to fast learning. Who doesn’t want to be on the fast track to learning and getting on the road to a lasting recovery?

Actually, as it turns out, many people! One of the best ways I could have avoided getting a true picture of my life and of my reality would have been to avoid finding a sponsor and a few trusted friends. I could have remained prideful and stubborn about knowing what’s best for myself. Eventually I would have not only ended up without a recovery but without a clue.

You can tell I feel strongly about this. That’s because I was an expert at knowing best. I was raised on the bootstraps theory. Hanging onto my pride and my way of thinking nearly cost me my life.

Bootstraps theory has been around since the 19th century a tall tale character managed to pull himself out of a swamp by his own pigtail. Another tall tale has the hero pulling himself over the fence by the straps of his own boots. Both sound like alcoholic moves to me! Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is a metaphor for doing the impossible without any outside assistance. Typical addictive thinking.

Here are some tips for finding a sponsor:

  • Listen carefully at meetings and find someone who you ‘connect’ with.
  • The person who says things you really want to remember is a good candidate.
  • Look for someone who has what you want regarding a spiritual life and life view.
  • Someone that will challenge you.
  • Call this person and ask for their experience, strength or hope 2 or 3 times a week.
  • Do what they suggest if consistent with the 12 Steps & see if God uses their wisdom in your life.
  • Meet a time or two for coffee and get to know their story.
  • Pay attention to how they make you feel.
  • Choose someone who seems to care about you and has time for you.

Once you’ve tried the above, ask them to be your temporary sponsor.

Your recovery is going to feel a lot like becoming a better you (and a more unique you) than you ever imagined. You will want to follow the advice of someone who has the kind of sobriety you’d like. While you should choose carefully, and deliberately, don’t use this as an excuse to never find anyone. I suggest asking someone to be your temporary sponsor because that gives you both an easy out if it doesn’t work. I’ve seen people keep their temporary sponsors for years and joke about it.

Some people resist the term sponsor since it isn’t used in the AA book. The principle is there from the beginning. I’ve heard the term ‘trusted friend’ and I like that in some ways better than sponsor but I have to wonder if it’s because of the pride issue again. Being sponsored is a little like having a parent. Some of us resist help at all costs, being quite fond of the pigtail or bootstraps.

It seems to me that there’s a reason AA works so well and one of those is the fundamental use of sponsors.