In 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, a sponsor—someone who has “walked the walk”—can act as a trusted adviser who shares their own experience, strength and hope to help others in recovery. A sponsor can provide
- help in creating/maintaining a new identity as a recovering individual.
- validation, as he or she truly understands the torment of addiction (and the way out through recovery).
- a sense of belonging as well as introductions to other 12-Step fellowship members.
- accountability for maintaining abstinence.
- encouragement for attendance at meetings.
- support and suggestions for triggering situations (such as a class reunion taking place at a bar).
- answers to questions about navigating the program.
Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced about the value of working with a sponsor, let’s talk about how to find one! When deciding on a sponsor, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this person have what I want? A sponsor should embody many of the qualities you want for yourself as a person in recovery.
- Does this person understand the 12 steps and actively “work a program”? Your sponsor will act as a teacher, so you want someone who understands the concepts involved in 12-Step work.
- Will this person’s style of sponsorship fit with my personality/style of learning? For example, some sponsors are blunt and straightforward, which can be helpful when a sponsee is seeking someone to call them on unhealthy actions.
- How long has this person been sober? It is typically recommended that a sponsor has at least one year of sobriety.
- Could a romantic attraction to this person become a barrier to effectively working together? The AA “Questions and Answers on Sponsorship” pamphlet suggests that men sponsor men and women sponsor women; if a member identifies as gay or lesbian, he or she might find a sponsor of the opposite gender more appropriate.
- Do I have a personal relationship with this person that might blur the lines between friendship/sponsorship? It’s a good idea to choose a sponsor who can be objective, which can be difficult if you already have a friendship/personal relationship with this person outside of recovery.
The best place to find a suitable sponsor is at a meeting. After you’ve selected a person who might be a good fit, all you have to do is ask. If the person you choose initially is not available as a sponsor (which can happen for a number of reasons—perhaps, they are sponsoring too many other people or they might not have the time to commit), be persistent and pursue a different person.
Also, keep in mind that it’s rare for a sponsor-sponsee relationship to last “forever.” Your needs are likely to change as you grow in recovery. At that point, it’s perfectly reasonable to find a different sponsor with whom you feel comfortable.
If you’re in need of addiction treatment or recovery support, the professionals at First Step Recovery can help! Contact us today at 330.369.8022.