polys in recovery?


New member
I'm sure there has to be other members of a 12 step program out there, right? I belong to one and have been sober for almost 19 years. Since sobriety/solvency/abstinence from addiction takes a spiritual component for success, I figured this fit into the spirituality area, or maybe life stories? I'm sorry if I put this in the wrong place.

Anyway, I've come out to the sponsor I've had for four years and while she hasn't said anything about it, she hasn't necessarily been affirming either. When I watch her face, I feel like I see her doing the mental arithmetic and watch her furrow her brow. Maybe I'm just too sensitive about it because it is all still so new. I just don't want to be in a situation where I don't feel like I can talk to her about that part of my life.

My question is: have any of you had this situation? What did you do? Did you need to re-evaluate whether the sponsorship relationship was worth maintaining? Is there any such thing as a poly affirming sponsor? Surely there has to be.
Not exactly the same situation, but I had to fire a sponsor once for a similar thing. I am not an alcoholic, but I belong to about a zillion of the whatever-anon sister programs. My sponsor, at the time, was instrumental in helping me discover new and relevant things about myself. I was living with a coke addict/alcoholic, I was discovering what really happened in my childhood, I was in the throes of PTSD, I had always been depressed, I was job-shifting left & right, I had a major surgery ~ it was a super fun time in my life.

I mentioned that some nights I went home and had a drink to cope. She didn't come unglued, but she wouldn't let it go, and insisted I examine it and all but said 'you are an alcoholic.' Not unkind, not unloving, just massively obsessed. I had to turn her loose because she couldn't support me because of her own stuff.

Lots of people have their own stuff and don't recognize it.

I'm sure there are such creatures as poly-affirming sponsors (lots of people love you no matter what), but I don't think you have a sponsor to affirm your poly-ness. You have a sponsor to help you not abuse substances, right?

I could even imagine her trying to figure out if it's a situation that could drive you to drink (because it might drive her to drink, if she's mono, yah?).
Yeah, I agree that sponsors are there to help you work the steps and maintain your sobriety, not to be therapists or "affirm" your lifestyle, so be careful if you are relying on a sponsor in that way. They should just be focused on helping guide you in staying clean and sober by using their own experience, strength, and hope, as they say. I am sure there are many sponsors whose sponsees live lives they themselves would never choose, but that should not get in the way of them sponsoring effectively and compassionately. Think about people who are in the program and are still bartenders -- sometimes they have problems finding sponsors who do not object to their career choice. Ideally, a sponsor's opinions of the kind of life you lead should only be pertinent to whether or not they see any red flags in your behavior that might threaten your sobriety. A good sponsor should have a reasonable ability to be objective.

If I were you, I would tell your sponsor that you sense some judgment coming from her about your lifestyle. Hopefully you feel comfortable enough to talk to your sponsor as a trusted friend with whom you can be truthful, in order to be upfront about that. Acknowledge that your relationships are not traditional, but assure her that the structure of your relationships is not a threat to your staying clean and sober. I would tell her she can ask questions about it if she wants to, and you want to be able to talk to her about that part of your life without feeling judged. Just because someone is a sponsors doesn't give them any authority over their sponsees. If you feel she can't get past her judgments to effectively sponsor you anymore, start looking for someone who might be more in tune with "alternative lifestyles."

That all having been said, are you sure it isn't that you are just self-conscious about your situation, expecting to be judged for it, and reading things in her facial expressions that aren't really there? Either way, you need to bring it up with her.

Full disclosure: I am not in a 12-step program anymore, but did belong for a few years before realizing it wasn't right for me. I am still very familiar with it from supporting close family members and friends in the program, and attending meetings with them regularly for years.
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Recovery and Polyamory

I am very moved by this thread, and am glad that I found it here. I am very familiar with the 12-steps and they pretty much are my guide to life and religion, though in practice by imperfect human beings, as we all are, they have had mixed success.

My addictions are of the behavioral type rather than the substance type. The fellowships that I have attended originated in the late 70's and have not had the meteoric growth that AA, founded in 1935, has had. There may be a reason for this. I'm not sure that behavioral addictions translate perfectly from the AA model, though many zealous advocates say there is no difference.

So, we have yet to discover the key to becoming fully functional, healthy, addiction free humans :) Duh, if we had we wouldn't be still considering the Keystone Pipeline. And, though some people consider Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, who brilliantly wrote the 12 steps in a blaze of inspiration overnight, to be the second coming of Jesus Christ, if you read his biographies (all of which I have) you will learn that he was one weird Dude. (Well, maybe so was Jesus.)

So, having said a lot and said nothing, I'll add that I feel a bit hesitant to discuss my shortcomings in an open forum, maybe private messages would be better. And, as to sponsors, I have such an aversion to authority figures, that my experience with sponsors has been abysmal. I have had better luck with "peer to peer" recovery or something called "co-sponsoring."
Hi, my name is Claire, and I'm a grateful recovering alcoholic...

I've been sober since 1983...Haven't been to a meeting in approx 2 years. Haven't had a sponsor since.. hell, over a decade.. more like 18 years.

I've been poly for 1.5 years and an atheist for about 4 years. I'm not really sure how those changes would change how I interact with AA. I made an effort about 3 years ago to find an atheist AA sponsor... Found one.. but she was about 10 miles away.. at a time when I just couldn't do that distance.

I"m complicated.. but.. we don't have many simple people around here. I think in many ways, Bill Wilson was surprised at the success of AA. and sometimes the most brilliant ideas are quick, simple and tested by many people...

Sponsors are not meant to be therapists, or accountants or physicians. Although many sponsors forget that. Although that may be why I don't have one.
From what I've seen (which admittedly is very little firsthand) and heard from people at work (I work alongside several counselors that also do substance abuse counseling) polyamory or polyamorous behavior tends not to fly very well in AA-type programs.

They often tend to have a Christian theme (if not an explicit focus) and poly tends to be considered an addictive behavior or indicative of sex addiction so it isn't something I'd readily disclose in that setting.
my sponsor

I agree that sponsors are not councilors or therapists, they are broken humans doing their best to live the best they can in the confines of their experience. However, 12 step here is very hush hush on any outside issues that aren't conformed to traditional values. I am a non christian and a non monogamist.

If sponsorship is to work there must be some kind of relationship and to do that there must be some greater level of disclosure, trust and feedback. WE are whole people with whole problems. My sponsor dumped me because she felt my value system was not only wrong but indicative of some sexual addiction rather than a valid harmless lifestyle.

I loved her enough to give her a chance to try to explain herself in a less judgmental way and to really hear her rather than be defensive. She does have a right to feel and express her opinion and I did make an effort to really honestly look into her claims. I went to therapy, gave up my lover of many years, did a 4th step inventory, and when I found I was doing was fairly healthy I went back to my lover. That said, I have drawn much that is useful from the steps and traditions in all my relationships. There is much in the steps that enhances my spiritual practice but it is helpful to remember the steps and traditions are the ideal. Ultimately my relationship is to the steps and the higher power I subscribe to. Sponsors are not perfect or graduated and sometimes are not willing to cultivate tolerance and unity as part of their behavior. WE all get there when we get there. To focus on the feeling of marginalization and the resentment that brings me harms my recovery, so I need to find some other avenue of support for that part of my life or leave those outside issues out of the discourse with my sponsor.

I am sure there must be poly friendly sponsors and if it matters to you that your values match do the footwork.
I'm not in a 12-step program. But, I grew up surrounded by it as my mom was in alanon. Several of my closest friends are in AA.
I am out about my lifestyle with everyone-and it hasn't been an issue.

I don't have any local poly-friends who are in the program, but I know Ariakas who used to post on here, is in AA. He talked about it quite a bit on here before he stopped posting and he still talks about it in his personal blog.

Regarding people (any people) who are judgmental, if its blatant, I remove them from my circle-as caustic. If it's actually questioning and unsure, I try to educate them on my reality so that they can form clearer questions and I can give them answers to their confusion of the unknown.
my sponsor has come around since i posted that. i think a lot of wanting her to accept me was just me not truly accepting me as a poly person. many things have happened since i've joined this forum and i'm in a completely different person.
Recovery and poly

I have been in recovery for over 15 years, have most recently started looking at the principles behind polyamory as something that might fit into my sexual ideal. I love the idea of loving more freely, the concepts of honesty, and letting to of jealousy and fear. These seem to me to be very much in line with the principles of honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness that I have been taught. Thus, they seem to be right in line with my recovery. Could use some recovery friends to talk freely with and offer mutual support, though my friends are pretty non-judgmental they are all very monogamous thinkers. Though not completely nessesary I would love to talk to some who can relate on both topics.

Poly new,
I dont know if this is the proper way to say this but im SO not a forums person. Sorry if i am out of line.

This is also a comment for anyone else who is in recovery and poly.
** As well as for any person coming accross this post years from now **
I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. I am 23 years clean and sober and i am also a sponcer. My wife and i are poly. (Yes she is in alanon). Those in recovery and poly have unique set of challenges, even more so than what is contained in the 12 steps. Maybe together, the more of us that can coonect with others the better chance we have at staying clean/sober and being happy polys.
I am looking for any and all recovery+poly friends to stay connected with.

Feel free to contact me - [email protected].

I am so seldom on forums.
Maybe some kind of online chapter of AA could be formed that specializes in supporting polys in recovery?
I have yet to find anyone, let alone in my AA family that agrees with me entering into a poly relationship.

All comments are of the same lines as stated above as this is typical transferring of addictive behavior, trying to set my hair on fire to feed the chaos.
Bill W was Probably Poly

Sponsors should share what worked for them, not give lots of detailed advice. They should carry the message, explain the program, be a guide to working it. If it sticks and helps great. If it doesn't, sponsors should be happy they did their best.

A recent documentary about Bill W. covered that fact that for much of his life he had a girlfriend, someone his wife knew about. At the end of his life the film showed the girlfriend and his wife in the same rooms together, as I remember it.

So, it is arguable that Bill W. was indeed poly in some meaningful way.

If a sponsor is judgmental, I suppose you could point that out. But if a sponsor is judgmental, is he or she really carrying the message?

(It is this film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2275549/)
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Interesting stuff AwareManNYC. I believe we're talking about the guy who founded AA, amirite.
Hi. Thought I'd make a contribution here as a new member to this forum. Been free from drink for 13 years. Came across polyamory through a poly lover and considered the option as part of my spiritual growth and gaining freedom from dishonesty and fear. It led me to discover that monogamous expectations led to both fear and dishonesty and created much unhappiness in past relationships. Recovery is in part about consequences - choosing polyamory for me is about choosing different consequences to the one's I had living monogamously. Having said that, both my new girlfriend and I are new to polyamory so we have yet to experience all of the consequences - so far it has led to openness, greater honesty and deeper intimacy then ever before and with that a huge sense of freedom, gratitude for my partner, and for my recovery. I don't see it as incompatible at all.

As regards other people in AA: My sex stuff is my business and I keep it to myself, after learning to stay away from sick judgemental people playing at being sober whilst utterly dependent on their sponsors for every relationship decision. I have a good connection with my HP (spiritual and non-religious; expanding consciousness of the universe variety) and do inventory and amends when required on an intuitive rather than robotic basis - as part of an on-going self-nurturing change process. I work on my thinking if its out of kilter. As a result I enjoy a freedom like none I have known before. Being free to love without constraints seems like such a natural progression. Combining doing inventory and practising poly honesty changes the nature of my experience of being in a relationship with my girlfriend, others and with myself. All this is really just a further chapter in my recovery and personal evolution. To think part of my drinking was all based on fear and issues of honesty with myself and others... when all I needed to do was to fully acknowledge my souls desire to connect deeply with other souls. :cool: x
LOL Recovery in the bible belt is a tough scene to find poly-aware fellowship. Maybe there's more to be found than I'm aware...but the fact that it isn't obvious is actually a good thing. It's an "outside issue" to 12-step programs that wisely choose not to get opinionated either way on anything other than the personal recovery of those there who need it. So to speak to a question I saw earlier: no, there will never be any official AA literature on polyamory--other than someday perhaps including the term in a laundry list of people who are welcome (as they already are.) "The *only* requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking."

A spiritual revolution is coming for those who commit the program. A searching and fearless sex inventory is a part of that. For people using sex to self-medicate their emotional problems, mono, infedility, or "poly," the house of cards will fall down and a completely new relationship to how to have intimate relationships awaits. Some monos stay mono. Some polys stay poly. Some will change from one to the other. It's as individual as the Higher Power one sculpts and discovers in their life, and its merit is only measurable in how one's life escapes the psychological chains of addiction.

And it's all good news for polyamorous world when people sort themselves out, if we're really about honesty, integrity, and real love & devotion.