Sponsoring Women With Eating Disorders
attend meetings of Overeaters Anonymous and Anorexics & Bulimics Anonymous and
work the 12 Steps in these program. Everyone who works the 12 Steps is
encouraged to get a Sponsor; someone who will work with them through the steps,
ask them questions, take their phone calls when they need support and advocate
for their recovery.
The last step, the 12th Step is to “Carry on the
message of Overeater Anonymous ” which means sponsoring another women in her eating disorder recovery.
The struggle in sponsoring is that as people who struggle with addictions we
have a hard time establishing boundaries. That’s why it’s important to
establish a healthy Sponsor/Sponsee relationship in the beginning by asking
your Sponsee to show you their level of commitment. A lot of sponsors say, “If
a Sponsee can’t take simple direction in the beginning, they aren’t ready to be
sponsored.” Here are some ideas of homework assignments for your sponsee’s to see
if they can take your simple direction and do these assignments. These
assignments also help you to gather information about your sponsee so you can
be a better Sponsor.
What do you want from
Ask your Sponsee to make a list of 10 things they want from
a Sponsor, for example:
1.1. Return’s my phone calls within 24 hours
2.2. Eats meals with me
3.3. Hangs out with me
4.4. Works steps with me
Once they have created this list you can go
over it with them. You can say, “I am a
very busy person, I can’t promise to return your call in 24 hours, but I can do
48 hours.” Or, “I would love to hang
out with you, but I like to keep my Sponsor/Sponsee relationships professional,
I have found I can’t be ‘friends’ with my Sponsees because it makes things
confusing.” This list helps to keep everyone on the same page as far as
expectations from one another.
Big Book, The Doctor’s
In the Big Book there is a chapter called the “The Doctor’s
Opinion” which states why alcoholism is truly an addiction. In Overeaters
Anonymous we too believe that Overeating is an addiction. Having our sponsee’s
read this chapter and truly grasp that their eating disorder is a disease helps
them surrender their disease to their higher power as well as help with their
willingness to work with a sponsor and take direction.
Want Ad for God
In the 12 Steps we discover a “God of our own understanding.”
Many of us have grown up with judging, critical, mean and demanding God. In the
12 Steps we are encouraged to imagine a God that we would like to have a
relationship with. A God we could feel safe sharing our hopes, dreams, fears,
successes and struggles with.
Having our Sponsees create this “Want Ad” as if they lost
their God and needed to find him/her/it, what would the characteristics they would
be known by? Have your Sponsee created this Want Ad and share it with you. This
Want Ad will help you as you work with your Sponsee when they struggle with
their life’s direction. You can ask them, “What would your God say to that?”
How often would you like your Sponsee to check-in with you?
My sponsor asks that I call her at least 5 days a week and tell her how I am
feeling, 5 things I am grateful for and 1 thing I am doing for someone else’s
recovery today. Some Sponsor’s ask that
their Sponsee’s check-in like this so the Sponsee can learn to commit to
something and know that their life is accountable to someone else. Checking-in
also helps a Sponsor knows what’s going on in the Sponsee’s life and can help
manage life and issues as they come up, not just when something huge comes up. If
check-ins aren’t regular Sponsee’s can slip back into old patterns. Check-ins
are good things!
This is the main reason why people get Sponsors, to walk
them through the 12 Steps of Overeaters Anonymous or Anorexics & Bulimics
Anonymous. Meeting at a coffee shop or in the privacy of someone’s home the
Sponsor and Sponsee are able to discuss these steps and how to apply them to
the sponsee’s life.
Eventually the Sponsor and Sponsee should establish what the
Sponsee’s abstinence looks like. Does the sponsee want to eat 3 meals and 3
snacks a day? 3 meals a day? Or is a wide abstinence of no binging and no
starving? Everyone is free to choose an abstinence that works for them and
their recovery, but both the Sponsor and Sponsee need to be on the same page of
what that abstinence is so that the Sponsor can keep the Sponsee accountable
There is a saying that goes, “You pick a date and you stick
to it!” A Sponsor needs to know when their Sponsees Abstinence Date is so they
can keep the Sponsee accountable to that date, cheer them on in accumulating
more days of abstinence and also work appropriately with the Sponsee. A Sponsor
works differently with a Sponsee who has 6 months of abstinence verses one who
have 6 years of abstinence.
Whether you apply some or all of these tools to your
Sponsoring program, I hope you know what a service you are doing to eating
disorder recovery. Thank you for dedicating your time to the recovery of others
and helping to restore our society to the healthy, prosperous, beautiful place
it was intended to be.