AA Ethics/Options for concerned family
June 11, 2016 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Chris lives is in a far-off state and needs help with accountability in overcoming addiction and other personal/financial issues. Family is at wit's end and wants to help but cannot travel. We are currently limited to what Chris shares, and all parties know that that's not good enough.

Among other things, we have discussed active, ongoing participation in AA as kind of a deal-breaker. What are the ethics re AA sponsors and sharing info/communication to family members? If everyone agrees, can there be transparency that helps remote loved ones stay engaged and also get more objectivity/truth than Chris may be capable of providing?

(Memail is welcome)
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Human Relations (12 answers total)
What you suggest violates AA Traditions. Were I a sponsor, I would refuse to do any such thing.
posted by charris5005 at 6:32 AM on June 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

I would be shocked (and also dismayed) if an AA sponsor agreed to talk to outsiders about their sponsored party.
posted by xyzzy at 6:34 AM on June 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

What about a family therapist who agreed going in that, with permission, he or she could share information? You could probably find someone willing to do a periodic phone session, with you on the phone and Chris there in person, so everyone could talk together, and you could get updates.
posted by andoatnp at 6:39 AM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

In treatment courts/while on probation, participants often have to get a card initialed by the leader of the meeting. I think that would be the most you could ask of the AA meeting for accountability. But checking in with the sponsor? No way. For a person in early sobriety, being able to be authentic and honest with their sponsor is important, and having a sponsor who checks in with the family would negatively impact that relationship.
posted by superlibby at 7:00 AM on June 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

it might do the family good to go to some al-anon meetings.
posted by nadawi at 7:13 AM on June 11, 2016 [20 favorites]

What's a "deal-breaker" in this situation? Are they currently supporting him financially and and they are going to stop if he doesn't comply? In other words, does he have any real reason to jump through hoops?

If so, yeah, he can probably get something signed, like for court, but is that the relationship they want to be in with him? I agree with the idea of a family therapist or indeed an addiction counselor they can retain together and all talk to, at least sometimes. There are probably addiction counselors who will set up some kind of accountability program with the family.
posted by BibiRose at 7:25 AM on June 11, 2016

all parties know that that's not good enough.

I assume "all parties" includes Chris? And yeah AA stuff is private enough that you're not even supposed to mention who else is at a meeting so no, this is not a thing a sponsor could be telling you and it does not line up with the AA ethics. Unless this was court-appointed stuff. He could definitely have a therapist that told you he was attending (though not what was discussed). There are other options like "sober companions" but these are expensive and not for most people.
posted by jessamyn at 8:02 AM on June 11, 2016

You will not be able to get information from someone's AA sponsor.

This isn't what you want to hear, but spending all of this mental and financial energy to try to get someone help that doesn't really want help or isn't internally motivated to do it, is setting you and the other parties up for a lot of disappointment and heartbreak. Enmeshing yourself in accountability and money and trying to control someone's treatment, especially from a distance, is not going to end up in an outcome you want.

Honestly, wash your hands of the situation. Protect yourself and your sanity. The nicer way to put it is detachment. I don't particularly care for a lot of al-anon, but detachment is one of their more solid and useful concepts.

I was a huge enabler to someone for YEARS and it cost me thousands of dollars and was pretty emotionally devastating. None of the effort put in came close to anything resembling sobriety.

Your life will improve greatly once hard boundaries are set and coddling ceases. In my case, I don't know if the person ever got sober after I did that, but I do know that it is 100% the addict's choice and no outside influence, no matter how generous or well-intentioned it is, can force that to happen.
posted by asockpuppet at 9:50 AM on June 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

"Good enough" or "deal-breaker" for what exactly?

You need to pick what *your* limits and needs are - you can't make someone participate in recovery if they don't want to.

As others have said, that second "A" is there for a reason - you won't be able to verify Chris's attendance at meetings. So what do you really want and what limits are you willing to set that are within your control?

My friend has a family member in a similar situation - and she's had to let go of a lot of expectations for that person's "recovery." Their arrangment is he has to email mom once a month to "check in" if he wants his money - they send him just enough to pay for rent at his small place, but that's it. They don't ask for or expect any information about his treatment - they've had to let that all go and it is TREMENDOUSLY hard.

It's hard. Really.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:09 AM on June 11, 2016

A good sponsor won't touch this codependent stuff with a ten foot pole.

You have to realize that you're basically saying, "We're only willing to help him out if he proves himself worthy of help by attending meetings" rather than saying, "We love him and want to help him because he is a human being and he is inherently worthy."

I mean, if that's how you feel, that's cool, that's on you. But setting an arbitrary criteria for your financial help like "stay sober" is only going to breed resentment on both sides. If you're not comfortable giving him money and trusting that he will spend it on what you want him to spend it on rather than on alcohol, don't give him money. Give him the things you want him to have, or don't.

You can choose to offer non-monetary emotional support that will bolster his reserves and make it easier for him to choose to stay sober, but there's on magic pill. Just give him a call and ask him how it's going, get interested in his life and the things he does, listen. Accept him for who is he, as a human being who is struggling.

(Then try Al-Anon. Friends and families of alcoholics have struggled with this for ages, we've been there, you'll find your people just as surely as he will find his. Feel free to MeMail for more details.)
posted by juniperesque at 10:37 AM on June 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Well if you read the Big Book of AA you will see that sometimes AA sponsors do interact with family members. I have at times communicated with family members on very specific topics but in general An AA person will not report back to a family about what someone is doing. If AA person is helping get person into treatment they will sometimes talk with famy about the process.

Part of early recovery for an alcoholic is learning how to tell the truth. Part of recovery for the family is learning how to trust the alcoholic. It is a process for both sides. It takes time.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:44 AM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

If the family is supporting him I think it's not a bad idea to tell him consistent AA attendance is a condition. But trying to verify and enforce that is the problem here, that's a recipe for heartbreak. No sponsor is going to do this, but that's not really a good plan anyway. How do you know who the person communicating with you is? It could be anyone.

You tell him what you want, and why, and then he will either do it, not do it, or lie and say he is. You have to let it go at that point and get out of the business of trying to make it happen. Making the demand may give him the excuse to go if he is ready but wouldn't do it on his own, but if he doesn't want to he's not going to.
posted by bongo_x at 8:12 PM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

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