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Sponsorship in Addictive Eaters Anonymous

Addictive Eaters Anonymous (AEA) members have found they could not get or stay sober on their own. They have, invariably, needed another sober member’s help in order to get well. This is where good sponsorship is invaluable. Sponsors are not professional counsellors. They are, simply, sober members of AEA who pass on their experience of working the Twelve Steps of Addictive Eaters Anonymous in their own lives. AEA sponsors freely share how they recovered from eating addictively and how they continue to stay sober through working the Steps, which serve as AEA’s common solution. Sponsors encourage newcomers to discover and develop a connection with a Higher Power of their own understanding, which will enable them to get and stay well.

The AEA programme can be baffling to a newcomer at first glance. That is why we strongly encourage newcomers to seek continuous guidance. Recovery from the disease of addictive eating is a spiritual experience. While we found, during years of addiction, that no human power could remove our obsession, we needed another member’s help in order to get well.

AEA sponsors share how they recovered from eating addictively and how they continue to stay sober.

The principle of sponsorship in AEA is forged on the experience of the two co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, who found they needed each other to remain sober and to carry the message of recovery. That same concept, pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, works equally well in Addictive Eaters Anonymous today. Sponsorship is just as beneficial for the sponsor as it is for the sponsee.

Some people come to AEA believing food is their only problem, then discover their lives are unmanageable in many other ways. AEA’s Twelve Steps provide the pathway to a new way of living. Many of us found it did not work when we tried to take the Steps alone. This is where a good sponsor is imperative.

Experienced AEA sponsors say they sponsor individuals, rather than take a single approach. They recognize the importance of flexibility in working with newcomers. While there are no ‘rules’ for sponsorship, AEA does offer some proven suggestions. After years of addictive eating and self-centred behaviour, many of us found our thinking needed overhauling. We had to let go of old ideas which, sometimes, involved our sponsors pointing out some uncomfortable truths. As time goes on, a sponsee comes to understand a sponsor always has his or her best interests at heart. A feeling of trust develops, which enables the sponsor to say things to the sponsee that others would not.

A sponsor always has his or her sponsee's best interests at heart.

Sharing with a sponsor on a confidential, one-on-one basis makes day-to-day living a lot easier. Many of us, in our early AEA days, had daily contact with our sponsors because we needed close guidance and direction. We are, however, always mindful our dependence must be on a Power greater than ourselves, not another person. A sponsor simply passes on his or her own experience and knowledge of how to recover from the disease of addiction, according to the programme set out in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book.

A sponsor is actively involved in AEA service and also encourages sponsees to serve. Our service work ensures the AEA fellowship will still be here for the next addictive eater seeking help. Helping others has proved to be a cornerstone of our continued sobriety.

At times, a newcomer may feel uncomfortable with their sponsor’s suggestions. There are no ‘musts’ in the AEA programme. Seeking guidance and direction from a sponsor, however, is a vital part of the process of surrender. It is essential to our sobriety to be open-minded, honest and willing.

So how does a newcomer get a sponsor? By attending meetings regularly and listening for someone they can relate to and then approaching a person who has what they want – good, solid, happy sobriety. It is up to the sponsee to seek a sponsor – not the other way around.

How many sponsors does a newcomer have? One is best as it reduces any risk of confusion and allows trust and confidence to develop. AEA encourages members to seek a sponsor as soon as possible. A meeting secretary can help arrange a temporary sponsor to assist until the newcomer feels able to select his or her own.

Newcomers should never worry about ‘bothering’ a sponsor. AEA members have found their own sobriety is enhanced when they attempt to pass on the message of recovery. In AEA's experience, recovery is a gift, and to be kept, it must be given away. It is a privilege for someone who has experienced freedom from addictive eating to share their experience. A sponsor’s greatest joy is seeing someone come to AEA and get well.

Once a sponsee has achieved sobriety, he or she has a message to carry and can be ready to sponsor others. Many of us have found, when starting out as sponsors, we need the guidance of our own sponsor more than ever.

In AEA, we never outgrow the need for sponsorship, no matter how long we have been sober. Ongoing sponsorship enriches our recovery. Nothing beats seeing a desperate newcomer find this solution and then share the great gift of sobriety with yet another addictive eater.

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Our primary purpose is to recover from addictive eating and help others to achieve sobriety.