WTF? difficult child's sponsor begins to seem really shady

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by SuZir, Oct 27, 2013.

  1. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    I'm perplexed and somewhat worried after difficult child's this week's Sunday call. husband is furious and really worried. I'm not sure if we can intervene to this anyway and if we even should. husband thinks we should absolutely do something.

    Brief recap to those not familiar with the situation (I mostly post to other than SA part): difficult child is an athlete currently living and playing abroad. He is quite isolated by language barrier and that is part that makes this phone call so worrisome to us. He is required by his contract to attend GA meetings, because his former problems with gambling, but after being clean close to three years now, gambling in fact is about the least of his problems. But requiring GA membership is convenient to his team management for several reasons. Unfortunately GA groups are quite rare here in Europe and difficult child only has two options within less than four hour drive and other one has their meetings same day he almost always has a game. That group difficult child found okay and it sounds like your normal twelve steps group. Other group sounds bit iffy and is dominated by this one guy who also self-appointed himself to be difficult child's sponsor. At least according to difficult child. Of course difficult child has always had great difficulties to stand his ground, so there may be also 'other truth' in that.

    Anyway, today difficult child told us that this sponsor has went totally whacko (difficult child's words) and tells difficult child that I and husband, difficult child's grandpa and also his former coach/current mentor figure are all enabling him and bad influence to him. That he should cease all contact with us at least until we have worked steps on our own and learned not to be enablers. And that difficult child is doomed to addiction, if he keeps contact to us and lets us be part of his life, before we have changed. Sponsor also has told difficult child he shouldn't pay so much attention to what his sport psychiatric or agent says nor try to look for personal relationship with his new coaches (there was coaching change recently in difficult child's team), because they don't 'get it' (not sure what is 'it'.) And difficult child also shouldn't spend any time with his flatmate (difficult child's only friend in this country) because flatmate drinks and occasionally gambles.

    Enabling or not (not sure how exactly sponsor thinks we enable difficult child but whatever) that basically covers difficult child's whole support network especially in this situation. We, grandpa and this former coach/mentor are only people difficult child is regularly in contact back at home (he calls all of us every Sunday and for me often a second time during the week.) Flatmate is his main contact and person to talk with in his current country. Sport psychiatric has been extremely helpful with many of difficult child's issues and agent is someone difficult child really should pay attention to, if he is interested on making a good career in sports.

    husband is freaking out and seeing this as an attempt to alienate difficult child from his support network to brainwash and take advantage of him. I try to give a guy the benefit of the doubt, but I can easily see husband's point. difficult child is in vulnerable position and this could be an attempt to take an advantage of that. However I'm not sure if we can do anything to it, or if it would be worth the cost.

    difficult child has an opportunity to get away of those mandatory GA meetings, but because the recent turbulence in the team, he doesn't want to raise the waves. He thinks he has total handle of the situation and thinks his sponsor is a whacko with some entertainment value. However, him even telling us about it, even if he finds the idea crazy, does worry me because he is alone and he is far away from home and he is vulnerable with all his issues. husband is climbing walls and thinks we should do everything in our power to put the end of all that. I may have a little bit more faith on difficult child's ability to take care of himself. But this is seriously iffy still.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
  2. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    It does sound strange. I am glad he called you and let you know what was going on.
  3. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    It does sound iffy. I am glad difficult child thinks it is whacko and isn't taking it to heart. I would tell him that he should put on his "virtual" noise canceling headphones when attending. Actually I would have him talk to his team psychiatric and ask for advice. Technically he is only required to attend not interact. I would walk in last minute and leave immediately.
  4. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Good Grief! Seriously ??? I am rarely at a loss for words and advice BUT this situation is a gobsmacker! Sending caring thoughts and hugs to your family. My "instant" reaction is, no doubt, an overreaction. Off the top of my head I lean toward husband's position but recognize that I don't really know your difficult child or the new participant. Either way it sounds scarey and I pray my gut is wrong. Hugs. DDD
  5. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    I'm with DDD. I'd be contacting the most neutral person on difficult child's "team'... probably the agent. Somebody needs to know that this is going on. It is NEVER acceptable to be advising people to cut off all contact with everyone else in their life except the person giving the advice.
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Your son is 20, not a kid. I know little about GA as in my neck of the woods it is not much around here. But your son is not BUYING this person's advice so I wouldn't even give it the time of day. Your son is going to hear a lot of things in his life that you won't like and it is up to him to make decisions about what he hears. In this case, he called the man a whacko so I don't see how interfering can help your son grow and mature. He made a good decision to ignore his words.

    Just because this man says he is your son's sponsor doesn't mean your son has to accept him as a sponsor. He doesn't have to think the person has helpful advice and he clearly DOES NOT think so. If it were me, I'd let him do this himself. I think in my opinion your son is too old to have dad and mom contact his coaches and complain. That's for younger kids. You son in my opinion needs to handle the way, your son does not sound distressed, only amused.

    Your son is making lots of progress. I really don't even see him as a difficult child. He may be grumpy at times, but he is making good choices and, if he was ever a big problem, he is doing well now. I think it is good to show your trust in him. He is clearly disregarding the advice and contacint you so I don't even see this as an issue. It is an annoyance he has to figure out how to get out of, maybe by telling the guy he doesn't want him as a sponsor.

    If my grown kids were told to turn away from their support systems by some guy who thinks he is a psychologist (but isn't), they'd laugh and ignore it. Seems like your son is doing the same thing. Your son is going to hear many things you don't agree with in his life. You can't go after everyone who says these things. You must trust that he has matured and will make good decisions and recognize craziness when it surfaces, as he did. Vulnerable or not, he is clearly clear-headed enough to know helpful advice from nonsense.

    Your son knows he has good parents and wants you in his life. Nobody can stop that.

    If somebody told this to my minor children, I'd be livid. If somebody says nonsense to my adult kids, I trust them to put it on disregard. If he solves this himself, he will grow up even further and he is doing SUCH a good job on his own of progressing in the maturity department.

    JMO!!!!! :) Good luck, whatever you decide to do.
  7. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    I think this is VERY strange too and it bit scary!

    No sponser should alienate the support to the sponsee and have sponsee ALL to themselves.
    Now I have heard of not engaging in a new (boyfriend/girlfriend) relationship for about a yr into "sobriety" but not this.

    To be honest I am as concerned as your husband.
    In the 4th step one does a moral inventory, life story, "house-cleaning" and then in the 5th step reveals/admits this "exact nature of our wrongs" to God, ourselves, and another human being.
    Yikes if this "Self appointed sponser" is the other human being!
    Extortion even comes to mind. What if difficult child reveals something that this "Sponser" thinks may be of some monetary value to him? We are talking about gambling and money.

    Anyway, I don't know what the correct course of action is but I would definitely tell difficult child that it does not sound like a good idea to reveal/trust his "deepest darkest" to this person. This person is trying to control your difficult child in my opinion. Your difficult child should never be walking in fear or told to distance himself but instead learning to cope with what "is".

    I hope difficult child will keep hushed and if he is working steps to not tell anything to this so-called "sponser".
  8. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    MWM: While difficult child (and definitely still a difficult child, even if doing better right now) chronological age is 20, even just his biological age is two or three years less, not to mention social or emotional age. He really isn't where his peers maturity wise in many ways. And to be honest, him telling us about it kind of worries me. I can't help but think that he was testing waters with telling. Wouldn't be the first time. Still, you are right, when difficult child moved from his former team, we decided we wouldn't have much direct contact to his employer any more. His last team was different, he was a child when he moved there and deeply troubled, now he should almost be an adult. Having contact with his agent is then again totally different thing and he would be our contact person in these kind of issues.

    LMS: Yes, all kind of fishy scenarios of this person trying to take advantage of difficult child have come to mind. And I really can't forget that fact, that sizeable per cent of compulsive gamblers are with ASPD or are psychopaths. And that scamming money in many illegal ways is part of the 'normal' with this addiction. difficult child does know that in support groups and with 'laymen counsellors' there is no law guaranteed confidentiality and I do hope he understands that there are things he should never share in those situations. And I sure hope he has kept mum of his financial situation. Or just told the current truth, he lives from hand to mouth, even if his ride is nicer than his pay check could give him and even if he has some toys. Anything else, he at least doesn't have access in this point of his life.

    However, while we were debating over what to do and being busy preping for the oncoming storm, this was taken out of our hands.I got a call today from difficult child's former coach/mentor and apparently difficult child had told about the same story to him and he was freaked out too. He has a long career behind him as a very high-level player and a reputable coach and I don't know if his path has actually crossed with difficult child's new head coach or if he just used the clout of his name, but he has actually called to him and basically asked the same question as I: WTF is going on? Coach had promised to look into it and talk with team doctor and difficult child. difficult child getting himself exploited is certainly not in the best interest of his current team either. So we will likely be wiser with this in coming days.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
  9. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    It's always nicer when the intervention comes from outside family - without our even having to "request" or "suggest"...
  10. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    Good for difficult child! He talked to a responsible adult and got help. Sounds like he is growing up.
  11. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Well, it does seem it was iffy indeed. difficult child just called me to inform his new local phone number because he had to change because of this guy.

    He was told by team doctor he doesn't have to attend GA any more if he doesn't want to and if he wishes they will arrange him some sort of therapist/counsellor appointments instead (he doesn't wish but was told by his agent he better 'wish', because even if he is in favour just now, he should never go against his written contract (that requires him to attend GA or, if doctors so decide, a counsellor) just based on employer's verbal promise. Good advice if you ask me.) difficult child was happy to get away of meetings and told sponsor he quit when he called. After that difficult child received quite a few calls and texts from the sponsor, not the nice variety either. So difficult child was advised to change his phone number and luckily he has at least been smart enough not to give his address to anyone in the meeting and sponsor has no idea where difficult child lives aside of the city.

    To me that kind of confirms that this 'sponsor' was a predator and looking for getting something out from difficult child. It really sucks, that things like that happen in places people are looking help from. But I guess people are people, with good and bad, everywhere. I do hope rest of the people in that group can notice what this guy is and not get hurt.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
  12. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I think he should either share the "texts" or make hard copies with an attached note. Yeah, lol, I know that sounds melodramatic BUT we live in such a weird world that I would suggest he make sure that documentation is safely stored just on the very slight chance that the former sponsor might have more than one screw loose and target difficult child. It makes me very uncomfortable to think the self imposed sponsor tracked him down.

    I'm glad it appears to be stable in his life again and hope all gets better and better this year. Hugs DDD
  13. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    There are copies of the texts. He was advised to do that at the same time he was advised to change phone number. He had given his former number himself to the sponsor, so him knowing that was not creepy. New one he hopefully can not track down. And luckily the meetings, and the sponsor, were in different city than difficult child so he never had any reason to let them know there he lived.

    Of course difficult child can be always found during the games, but that is different.

    But yeah, sponsor texting and calling him repeatably after he told he quit and told not to call or text is creepy.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Although I'm sure you've represented this story accurately...don't doubt it at all....I want to tell posters who have never been to an AA or NA meeting in the US, this has NOT been my experience here with groups or sponsors. It has always been up to the person if he/she wants a sponsor and then she can choose whomever she likes to be her sponsor. She can ask anyone in the group whom she feels connected to or thinks would help her and the person she asks can agree or not agree. Also, there are no contracts involved...if you decide to part ways with your sponsor, certainly you can do so at any time. I do not know how these groups are in other countries...I am going to assume this is somewhere in Europe, although we have no idea...could be a third world country that is very different from us.

    Definitely find a new group if you find a group hounding you into doing anything against your will, but don't expect it. I've been to many groups in two states and they had different dynamics and different types of people, but they were all basically non-pressure and you make your own decisions.

    Suzir, I am glad this was resolved. You seemed very distressed by it.
  15. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    MWM: To my knowledge twelve steps groups work according same principles all over the world. This situation was about one individual group in one point of time (it may have been different before, may be different in future) and my information comes from my difficult child, who, well... is a difficult child. However his experience from other group he attended couple of times (but which didn't work with his timetables) was very different. His main complain from that group was that it was boring and they talked too much about gambling.

    If I may guess, I would venture to think that this group may have been taken over by this one very dominating and apparently somewhat charismatic individual who appears shady to me. That is an unfortunate situation that can unfortunately happen anywhere where there are more than one people in the same space or communicating.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
  16. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Suz, this sponsor deal was atypical. I don't want lurkers to feel this is the norm because it isn't. I doubt if culture does not seep into everything. Anyhow, since reassuring others than this is not your typical twelve step experience, I'm done with the thread. There are good and bad of everything though. If you don't like the way one twelve step group is run, that certainly doesn't mean another one is similar and I find twelve step groups very worthy, at least for drugs and alcohol family members. I am sure we have gamblers in the US, but since you have to be 21 to gamble in an establishment, I never met a kid with a gambling problem. IF there is an addiction issue, it is usually drugs and alcohol (most parents keep alcohol at home so it is accessible even though you are supposed to be 21 to legally drink...haha.) Doesn't mean there aren't any young gamblers though. I just never met one.

    GA may be different than for substance abuse, but I don't think so :)
  17. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    You have to be 18 here to drink... and we have 14 year olds with alcohol addiction.
    Because of the availability now of online gambling, I think the odds of underage gambling addicts is higher than ever.
  18. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    My difficult child has never gambled inside a gambling establishment either. And neither in night club etc. that offer Poker and BlackJack tables. He probably does have gambled with slot machines that you can find from any grocery stores lobby around here, but that wasn't his problematic behaviour. We have age limit of 18 for gambling, but my kid was well able to get himself addicted while he was 16. For him it was an online thing (and yeah, included identity thefts.)

    Of course things you get addicted to are influenced by culture and availability. We for example don't have any crack addicts. Crack simply isn't really in our market. It's amphetamine, heroin, benzos or some other prescription drugs around here mostly. And gambling is extremely hot and popular especially among younger males. And like with everything, underagers find ways to do it even though they are not allowed (they do find ways to drink and smoke or use snus too.) Especially sport betting is heavily trendy and extremely heavily advertised (while illegally) through social media and other cool and present methods.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
  19. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Suz, EXAACTLY. Crack is the result of very poor impoverished individuals who can't afford cocaine. Sonic's birthmother grew up in EXTREME poverty and used crack and probably had to prostitute herself for drugs. Poverty to the extent that WE have it does not exist is some European countries, especially smaller, richer ones. Or the poor have a better safety net. We are very different culturally. In many ways, I feel it is not good for us, but it is what it is. We can't change it, but it is a cultural difference. Nobody in our government is going to make sure anyone has a place to hang his hat or food to is considered our own responsibility. I wish we took better care of our own, but this is our culture and we live in it.

    Also, just the way mental illness is diagnosed and medications prescribed is different. And the reluctance to label a child across the pond, which HELPS a child in the US/Canada is different. And the fear of medications is different across the pond and the willingness to try to medicate a child who is struggling. Even the fact that some countries barely heard of ADHD or don't diagnose kids until six years old or don't really diagnose BEYOND ADHD is different. Mental illness is seen differently here and there. And our site is mainly about the mentally ill and what to do when we live with somebody who suffers from it plus makes poor choices that forces him to become impossible to live with.

    The list goes on and on. Where you live permeates every avenue of life. Americans are individualistic and pretty much have to learn to take care of themselves. There is little money or help for homeless Americans. I have noticed that Europeans (minus Australians who seem to think more like us) feel very differently about labeling a child with a mental illness or giving out medications. There are other vast differences too which have nothing to do with mental health, such as the belief in God (which seems to be more prevalent and important in the US), views on politics, GOOD HEAVENS, even whether or not to spay/neuter our pets, whether college is mandatory, etc. It makes sense then that the same thing would apply to a twelve step meeting because the interpretation can be different and the personalities are different. Sometimes I even think I smell a little condensation when a European posts here. I am not speaking of you, but it has happened in the past, usually with people who didn't stay.

    Since you don't post your country or even "Europe" I feel it is best to point out to the lurkers, who are probably mostly from North America, that this is NOT your typical twelve step meeting in the US. Granted, any meeting can be screwed up, but you can move on and likely the second one will be a good one. We have to use the resources available to us HERE. That's all we got, so to speak.

    I am sure that, with the internet, we do have some young gamblers, but I still believe the problem with drugs and alcohol is a bigger issue with kids under eighteen. I mean, most of us gamble a little bit and nobody gets arrested for it.

    The fact that this is not a group in the US, and that it could be somewhere in India where the world is so different, was my only reason for posting. Your son's experience was not the norm, at least in the US and probably not in Canada either. There are bad eggs, but in general the twelve step groups have helped many people (not everyone). It continues to be a viable and often very helpful FREE way to get help in the United States, which does not have healthcare coverage for everybody. in my opinion self-help groups are often even better than professionally sponsored ones and I speak as someone with mental health issues who has gone to both types.

    And that's my message to lurkers in the US. It IS very helpful for MANY Americans who struggle with these issues. It was for me and many others here. That sponsor is not like a sponsor should be, at least not here.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  20. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    MWM: While not wanting to be too clear about my difficult child's current country (but Europe, central, not the richest one but neither extremely poor, has both richer and poorer countries nearby and people cross the borders for many things, for example these two groups difficult child has attended have been in two different countries) or my own (again Europe, north, rich by many standards), I have to press, but I seriously doubt that behaviour of this sponsor is in any way a norm in GA or other twelve steps groups around here. There are some differences between principles of GA and other twelve steps groups, for example with GA they do often have an opportunity to work in much smaller and more confidential situation (even one on one or new member and couple experienced members) with more personal financial stuff and work out how to solve their financial situation. That is because of nature of addiction and more concrete and personal advice is often needed to work out the financials. But I'm absolutely sure this sponsor's behaviour is not what is the norm or expectation for GA group.

    It's just that it was really an only available GA group for difficult child so he couldn't change, that could had been advisable otherwise. So no need for anyone to stay away from European gA groups because of my son's bad experience. Could had happened anywhere, because people are people. Not likely to happen that often even in Central European GA groups. But can happen in any establishment that offers help for addiction. In self-help group or professional setting. While absolutely not a reason not to try, something one should be vigilant about if things seem to turn iffy. I for example do plan to have a chat with difficult child and also easy child about certain things to remember to keep themselves more safe. Things and information not to share, keeping your eyes open for certain red flags etc. There was enough of those red flags early on with this and difficult child should had been more careful.

    Of course for my kid it seems that even good GA group wouldn't had been that good fit, because his rebelliousness, atheism and the simple fact that he isn't at the point of the recovery where he would had found them useful and he already had a little different, and working for him, tool kit to handle his addiction than the one GA promotes. And that being around so much talk about gambling actually made him think of gambling and worsened his urges. But these are all personal and situational reasons. True to my son at this point of time but most likely not true to the next person.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015