Tag Archives: Sponsorship

Steps 4 & 5: Composting Our Emotional Debris

Planting in compostSometimes we just need to take a good hard look at our past, learn from it and let it go. In the 12 Step program this usually takes place in Steps 4 and 5, when we write a searching and fearless moral inventory and share it with God, ourselves, and another person. We list the people, institutions, etc. towards whom we feel resentment, guilt or shame. We figuratively sweep out the root cellar of our hearts and minds, looking for stray items left behind to rot. To the best of our ability we clean house and let go of anything that is holding us back.

We list positive memories in the Step 4 inventory—those that are uplifting, enlightening or comforting—and the gifts, talents and skills we find. We examine and explore how we can use them to bless ourselves and others.

The rotten stuff we gather up and take to the emotional compost pile. As we write the inventory we let ourselves remember each incident: what happened, who was affected, how it affected us. We look for patterns of negative behavior to find the underlying causes and conditions leading to the choices we make today. Then, in Step 5 we turn it over to God and another person and let it go.

It takes humility and courage to overcome our fear of closely examining our pasts. Watered by our tears, the rotten fruit—the emotional debris—is changed into life-giving compost. We no longer need to agonize over the individual incidents in our inventory, or feelings of resentment, guilt or shame. Our memories and experiences can, with the help of the Lord, blend together and become fertile ground in which He plants the seeds of future accomplishment and contribution. In this way He consecrates our afflictions for our good. (See 2 Nephi 2:2)

One Example

One of my sponsees has had a very difficult life, starting with repeated childhood sexual abuse and neglect. To survive her life of continual trauma she developed several dysfunctional coping mechanisms including an eating disorder and other forms of self harm. After decades of these behaviors, with the help of the Lord she found abstinence from her eating disorder. She is now using the 12 Steps to overcome her other addictions. This woman is immersing herself in Steps 4 and 5 with great humility and commitment, even though it hurts to examine her very difficult past. She writes in her inventory every day and shares with me what she has written.

How has her “emotional compost” led to growth and joy? She is recognizing her need for boundaries and learning to set them. Every time she does so, it is a victory for her. She is learning to recognize anxiety when it starts. She is learning to deliberately choose alternative behaviors – healthy behaviors – to cope with it. She is learning to relate to her husband with  a new, more spiritually mature love. She is teaching me how to help others with a background of complex post traumatic stress.

God is using her emotional debris to create a rich, nourishing medium for growth: hers, mine, and all the others we each work with through this inspired 12 Step program.

  • Write about how God can consecrate your affliction for good if you are willing to examine your past and turn it over to Him.
  • Are you willing to do a “searching and fearless moral inventory”?
  • What are you willing to do today to get started?

Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.

Related posts: Declaring Spiritual Bankruptcy – Becoming Happy, Joyous and FreeFear: the Enemy of Progress and RecoverySix Thoughts about Step 5

The 1-2-3 Waltz – Avoiding the Inventory

Inventory Avoidance - 1-2-3 Waltz image. A waltz is danced to music that has three beats to the measure. Think of “My Cup Runneth Over (with Love)”  or “Morning Has Broken.” Imagine Cinderella at the ball. It is beautiful, sweeping, romantic. When learning to dance the waltz, the instructor and the dancers can be heard counting to themselves, “One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three,” in time to the music.

In the 12-Step program there is also a 1-2-3 waltz. It is not beautiful. It is not romantic. It happens when someone starts working the program, gets through the first 3 steps, gets stuck on the 4th Step inventory, relapses (or not) and returns to Step 1. Over. And over. And over again. I did the 1-2-3 waltz for the first 8 years I was in the program.

Why Do We Get Stuck on the Step 4 Inventory?

Step 4 is Hard

Step 4 is hard! The first three steps are hard, too, if we really work them. But many newcomers to the program, especially those who have a background that includes a faith tradition, think they already know they need God, are not afraid to admit it and, at least nominally, turn their will and their lives over to Him. When they get to Step 4, they have to sit down with a pen and paper and review their whole lives, trying to find everything bad (or good) they have ever done. That is hard! It is called a “searching and fearless moral inventory.” Many of us have spent much of our lives running away from our fears. Doing a searching and fearless moral inventory seems overwhelming. We are not sure we can honestly face all the things that we have done, all the people we have hurt, all the bad decisions we have made.

We May Not Be Ready

Each step prepares us for the next one. As a general rule, I have found that if I am stuck on any step, I probably need to go back to the previous step, dig a little deeper, and be a little more honest. Truly turning our will and our lives over to the Lord may be easier said than done. If we haven’t really dug deeply enough in Step 3, we aren’t really ready to access His power to do a searching and fearless moral inventory.

We Don’t Know How to Do It

Never having done such a thing before, we don’t even know where to start. There are some suggestions in the ARP Guide and other 12-Step books (see my Resources page), but there are so many different ways to do it! How do we know which one is right for us? And as we begin, we have questions. How do we know if we are doing it right? Who should we ask for advice?

We are Not Accountable to Anyone

One of the ways we get hard things done in our lives is to be accountable to someone else: a parent, a teacher, a team, a boss, a spouse, a friend. Many of us find it hard to implement changes in our lives or do new things if there is no one holding us accountable for following through on our goals.

How Do We Break the Cycle?

If You Don’t Have a Sponsor, Find One

It is hard to work the program effectively without an accountability partner. A sponsor is is an accountability partner, but much more than that. A sponsor is someone who has walked this path before us and is willing to share his/her journey with us. A sponsor will understand how hard it is to do an inventory and offer words of encouragement and suggestions to consider when we are struggling.

Dig Deeper on the First Three Steps

If we do feel a need to start over with steps 1, 2, and 3, it needs to be different this time. It needs to be deeper. We need to make outreach calls, and talk to others about their recovery. We need to follow the suggestions of a sponsor. We can try using the tool of writing more. There are additional 12-Step books that might be helpful (see my Resources page). Especially on Step 3, we need to spend some time on our knees and make sure that we have really done the work, that we are really willing to do the Lord’s will even if it is not what we want to do.

Become Willing to Receive the Lord’s Enabling Power

The Atonement is a power that works for redemption at the end of life, and it is also an enabling power that gives us the strength to do hard things now. Watch Brad Wilcox’ amazing talk, His Grace is Sufficient or read Elder Bednar’s wonderful article from the April 2012 Ensign: The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality for more insight on how grace (the power of the Atonement) can work in your life.

“And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” (Moroni 7:33) When you rely on the Lord’s grace to do the things that are expedient unto Him, you will be able to do things you never thought you could do.

Just Do It

So what if you are afraid? You have done other things you were afraid to do and lived to tell about it. Program literature clarifies that “fearless” does not mean “without fear.” Rather, it means that we do the inventory to the best of our ability without allowing our fear to stop us.

So what if you don’t know the “best” way, or the “right” way to do your inventory? Just prayerfully pick an approach. No one is giving you a grade for this. No one is going to tell you you did it wrong. You get as many chances as you want to do it again and try another way. There is no right way, no wrong way. Just do it.

  • Are you stuck in the 1-2-3 Waltz?
  • If so, what do you think is keeping you from moving forward with Step 4?
  • What are you willing to do today to trust God, rely on His power, dig deeper, and receive the blessings and promises available to you?

Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.

Related Posts: Fear: the Enemy of Progress and RecoveryChrist is the Power SourceWorking One Step at a Time

What is a 12-Step Sponsor?

What is a Sponsor?Some days I am filled with awe at the privilege I have been given to support others as they work the 12-Step program. A sponsor (or “support person”) is someone who guides another through the Steps by sharing their own journey. A sponsor doesn’t tell the person what to do. They share what has worked for them. They hold up a “mirror” to help the person they are supporting see things about themselves that would be difficult to discern on their own.

How it works

There is no set way to sponsor. Typically each person who sponsors will have a certain way of working with their sponsees. When someone asks them to be a sponsor, they will explain how they do it. The sponsee will share with the sponsor what their goals for working the program are and how they want to go about it. Each of them can then decide if it seems like they would work well together.

The elements of a sponsor/sponsee relationship usually include regular contact (phone, email or text) during which the sponsee reports on their abstinence and what they are doing to work the program. This might include attending meetings, making outreach calls, reading/studying program literature and/or writing among other things. The sponsor may share their own experience, strength and hope with the sponsee to help them progress. The relationship can stay in place as long as it continues to work for both parties.

How I sponsor

I like to talk to my sponsees by phone each day, Monday through Friday. However, some of my sponsees cannot call every day, so we decide on a schedule that will work for both of us. I like them to text me on the days we don’t talk. I am looking for answers to three questions when we talk/text.

  1. How has your abstinence been since we last communicated?
  2. What would you like to share with me from the program reading/writing you have done lately?
  3. What do you have coming up between now and the next time we communicate that could make you vulnerable to acting out in your addiction?

This last question helps my sponsees to think ahead and make plans so that they will not be “blind-sided” and react by turning to their addiction in a moment of stress.

During our conversation I listen carefully to what my sponsee says and try to “hold up a mirror” and reflect back to them what I hear. Many times my sponsees have not been able to see their behavior and attitudes objectively and they appreciate my perspective on what they have shared. I sometimes feel inspired to suggest a specific book, article or talk to read and write about. Also, when appropriate, I share my own experience and what has been effective for me in the past with regard to the program work or challenges my sponsee is currently working on.

Being a conduit for the Spirit

I love being a conduit for the Spirit. As I talk to my sponsees, I often hear myself making suggestions or observations that I know did not come from the recesses of my own mind. I marvel that I can be an instrument in the hands of the Lord in this way. I sometimes hear thoughts and ideas coming out of my mouth that I needed to hear and apply myself!

Being a spiritual “midwife”

I love watching as those I sponsor get their feet under them, start to find healing and hope, and begin to rely upon the Savior and the power of His Atonement to receive the strength they need to make better choices. I love hearing about how their lives are improving. I feel joy as they start to let go of the heavy burdens that they have been dragging around and find happiness and hope in their lives. As they come to experience the true “change of heart” promised by the Savior, a new person is born, the old shortcomings and character defects being shed as the son or daughter of God emerges.

  • If you are already a sponsor, are you careful not to tell people what to do, but rather share your own experience, strength, faith and hope?
  • If you are not already a sponsor, are you willing to humbly seek the counsel of the Lord as to whether you are ready to sponsor, and if you are not, ask Him what you need to do to become ready?
  • How will you let newcomers and others know that you are available to help them find success in the program?

Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.

Related Posts: Being a 12-Step Sponsor is Like Serving a MissionStaying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 1


Being a 12-Step Sponsor is Like Serving a Mission

Learn It, Live It, Share ItI am grateful for the opportunity the Lord has given me to help others who struggle with addiction, codependency, character defects, shortcomings, low self-esteem, grief and other challenges. I cannot tell others what they should do, but I can share the experience, strength, faith and hope that have come to me through my years of 12-Step work and church membership. Opportunities to share come to me in ARP meetings, at church, through my blog and most of all, through the work I do as a 12 Step sponsor. A sponsor (called a “support person” in the ARP program) is someone who helps guide someone else who is trying to work the program. I will be writing more in the coming weeks about sponsorship, because it is a critical aspect of success in the process of recovery, and I haven’t written much about it.

Just as I was pondering the importance of sponsorship and feeling prompted to write about it, I came across a passage of scripture in the Book of Mormon that seemed to express the very same thoughts that I was having! In Alma 26:17 -22, Ammon, one of the sons of Mosiah, is talking with his brothers about his awe at having been preserved rather than destroyed because of their wickedness, and getting to serve a successful 14 year mission to the Lamanites. As I read these verses, I clearly saw how they apply to my life in the 12 Step program, specifically as an instrument in the hands of the Lord to bring others to Him.


Alma 26:17 -22 “Likening” these verses unto myself
17 Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state? I could not have imagined that the Lord could and would help me find recovery from my own addictions, shortcomings and character defects.
18 Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his church. I was critical of others to a fault, causing my own loved ones to stumble and fall. I thought I knew how everyone should run their lives and tried to get them to do it my way. I misused food in a way that hurt my own body.
19 Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair? Then why did he not just let me suffer the consequences of my actions, and live a lonely, bitter and unhealthy life?
20 Oh, my soul, almost as it were, fleeth at the thought. Behold, he did not exercise his justice upon us, but in his great mercy hath brought us over that everlasting gulf of death and misery, even to the salvation of our souls. In his great mercy he brought me to an understanding of the Atonement. He taught me how to access its enabling power to let go of my shortcomings and character defects and learn a better way to live. He enabled me to recover damaged relationships and He blessed me with new ones.
21 And now behold, my brethren, what natural man is there that knoweth these things? I say unto you, there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent.  22 Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; I could not have done these things myself, relying solely upon my own power. As I have continually sought closeness to Him, attended 12 Step meetings, Church and the Temple, been willing to humble myself and turn to Him for relief from bitterness, hurt and resentment, He has granted me strength to make better choices and has removed my “stony heart” and given me a new one. (Ezekiel 36:26)
yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance. Because I have, through the grace and mercy of God, received recovery rather than the natural consequences of my choices, I can be a living example of hope for those who still struggle with addiction or damaged relationships, and be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to bring them to Him.


Being willing to sponsor and share my experience, strength and hope with those who still suffer is like the sons of Mosiah going on a mission to the Lamanites. I can be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to bring unto Him those who haven’t yet found their way to Him and help them learn to access the glorious power of the Atonement and apply it in their lives.

  • How does your program of recovery benefit from having a sponsor?
  • How do you share your experience, strength, faith and hope with others who are still struggling?
  • What are you willing to do to help more people find the recovery you have found and learn to turn to the Lord instead of the world when they are stressed and need help?

Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.

Related Posts: Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 1


Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 1

Staying Abstinent by Using the Tools of the ProgramWhen I am stressed, I have a tendency to engage in behaviors that will relieve my stress. Duh! I wrote recently about how turning to those behaviors instead of the Lord can be like putting other gods before Him. So what can I do to help relieve my stress while staying abstinent from my addiction? What does it look like to turn to the Lord instead of those other “gods?” I have a number of tools that I have learned about from various 12-Step fellowships over the years, and some that I have found on my own. I am planning to write individual posts on some of the tools, but here is a partial list of the ones I have found most useful. My next post will have the second half of the list.

Prayer and Meditation

The first and most obvious tool is prayer and meditation.  If my boss is chewing me out or someone is being rude to me I can, in that moment, say a little prayer in my heart and ask the Lord to take away my anger or frustration and tell me how to proceed.  I can ask Him to help me see the other person through His eyes.  If someone in my family has pushed me to the breaking point and I know that I am about to do or say something that I will regret, I can go to my room, get on my knees and ask the Lord to take my burden, strengthen me to be able to bear it, or give me guidance. Sometimes when I do this, I tell Him that I am going to remain there, on my knees, until the feeling, craving, etc. is lifted. It is scary to put my faith on the line like that, but the Lord has always come through for me, although on occasion my knees start to hurt while I am waiting.


Going to a 12-Step meeting is an awesome way to remove myself from temptation and recharge my spiritual batteries. In meetings I can sometimes hear the Lord’s guidance to me through the voice of another person when my own spiritual ears are too clogged with the wax of hopelessness or pride to be able to receive personal revelation. I can serve others by what I say, or just by giving someone a hug or a smile. I can receive the same kind of service myself. I always feel closer to the Lord when I go to a meeting. If there is no meeting available, I can go to the ARP website and listen to a podcast of a meeting.


Attending a meeting is one form of service. I won’t even attempt to list all the other opportunities to serve, but here are some ideas.  Reach out to someone who might need it, donate time, do family history work, do temple work, take a new mom’s toddler to the park for an hour, mow someone’s lawn. Any kind of service that is given in Christ-like love can get me outside of myself and my own problems and bring me blessings and a new attitude. But I need to be careful that there are no strings attached to my service; that I am not shaming, throwing guilt, trying to control someone, or attempting to take someone’s agency as I serve.


Sponsoring someone, or being a support person to someone within the ARP program, is an awesome form of service.  As I sponsor I find myself prompted to say things which are just as important for me to be reminded of as they are for my sponsee to hear.  A sponsor is a guide; someone who can hold up a mirror so that another person can see themselves and their behavior more honestly and can learn how the Steps can help them find serenity and recovery.

Telephone Calls

Sometimes, when I am tempted to use my drug of choice and I cannot seem to find the strength to just turn away, I will make a phone call to someone and tell myself that I won’t act out until after I get off the phone.  Most of the time I call someone else who is working the steps and by the time we are done talking, I don’t feel the craving any more.  If I still have it, I can make another phone call, or try one of the other tools. Sometimes staying abstinent has to be done one hour or even one minute at a time.

To Be Continued

In the next post I will share more of my favorite tools for staying abstinent and close to the Lord instead of giving in to my addiction for comfort when I am stressed.

Have you tried any of these tools? Please feel free to share your positive experiences for other readers. I hope you will find some more ideas in this post, or the next one, that will help you stay abstinent.

Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.

Related Posts: Prayer, Meditation and PonderingStaying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 2Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 3Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 4