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7 Things “CARS 3” Can Teach You About Alcoholics Anonymous

  • by Allan Howe, LCSW
  • July 10, 2017
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What “CARS 3” Tells us About Sponsorship in Alcoholics Anonymous

It never ceases to amaze me how little nuggets are found in the most obscure ways.  I recently took my 4-year-old son to see the new CARS 3 movie.  To say that he was excited is an understatement (Mater and Lightning McQueen seem to rule our household these days).  To say that I was a little excited is also an understatement (who doesn’t like a little racing now and then), as I have really enjoyed the CARS movie series. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to notice the connection to Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Summary

Throughout the movie, there was one particular theme that seemed to come up over and over again.  Let me explain: In the first movie, we meet Lightning McQueen and eventually see how Doc Hudson (aka Hudson Hornet) became his crew chief and this voice of encouragement for Lightning.  In the most recent movie, Lightning is bound and determined to keep racing and try to keep winning, despite the young guns clearly outmatching him. 

He goes on a search for Doc Hudson’s crew chief, Smokey, thinking that he will be able to help him overcome his performance issues.  Smokey was Doc Hudson’s voice of encouragement, as we find out in the movie.  Smokey does provide training, with the help of Cruz Ramirez.  Cruz was first introduced as Lightning’s trainer and Lightning was clearly frustrated with her tactics because Lightning ended up training her more often than not with racing the old-fashioned way (dirt and sand all the way). 

At the end race in CARS 3, Lightning starts the race but towards the end makes a game-changing decision to encourage Cruz to finish the race for him.  Cruz had always wanted to be a racer, but she had been told time and again that she would never amount to that.  Lightning took his spot as her crew chief and became the voice of encouragement for Cruz, who ultimately won the race by outsmarting her competition and demons in her head.

So, you might still be wondering what this has to do with sponsorship in addiction.  According to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), sponsorship is where “an alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through AA” (Q&A on Sponsorship.  I often hear in my practice what characteristics one should seek when it comes to finding a good sponsor. 



Guidelines

1. A sponsor should be sober and it is recommended that they be of the same sex as the sponsee. 

This allows the work to be truly focused on recovery and avoid any possible start to romantic relationships.  One caveat to this is gay men and lesbians may feel a sponsor of the opposite sex is more appropriate for similar reasons as mentioned. 

2. AA also recommends that a sponsor should be sober for at least one year. 

This is a good rule of thumb, but from my experience, I would recommend finding a sponsor with at least 2 years of sobriety.

3. A sponsor has worked the 12 steps of AA and continues to work the 12 steps. 

This is an ongoing process.  When you finish the 12th step, start again, as I often hear that people learn something new about themselves as they continue to work the steps.

4. A sponsor has a sponsor of their own. 

This shows that the sponsor continues to work the program and remains humble in his/her attempts to stay sober.

5. A sponsor is willing to tell the truth, even when the sponsee does not like what is shared. 

There is an encouragement in AA to be brutally honest with yourself and sometimes this comes from the sponsor before a sponsee can really understand it.

6. A sponsor is active in service work at AA meetings. 

This can look like a lot of different things but some examples include getting to a meeting early to set up chairs, making coffee for the group, staying late to socialize and clean up, passing out chips (30-day, 90-day, 1 year) for members, or leading groups.

7. A sponsor is found laughing and enjoying life sober. 

This is so important, mainly due to a new member finding trouble believing this is possible without alcohol.  There is a grief process that a new member inevitably goes through.


The Connection to Cars

TheQ&A on Sponsorship states that “We know from experience that our own sobriety is greatly strengthened when we give it away … By helping others, alcoholics find that they help themselves.” This was communicated very well in CARS 3.  Each crew chief (Smokey), mentor (Doc Hudson), dare I say sponsor (Lightning) found joy in teaching or giving away their secrets to their trainee/sponsee.  Furthermore, by helping another, they found that their lives were enhanced beyond anything they could have experienced before.  That is a special relationship and one that should be cherished. 

So to all potential sponsees out there, take these thoughts into consideration and listen to your sponsor.  And remember, you could one day be a sponsor yourself and experience the other side.

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