For most people in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, being part of a 12-Step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) plays a very important role in their long-term success. An essential component in all 12-Step programs is sponsorship. Choosing the right sponsor can be a key element in maintaining your sobriety.
What Are Sponsors?
A sponsor is a person who has been in a 12-Step program and sober for a significant amount of time and who volunteers to help a newer member adjust to and maintain sobriety. Sponsors have many roles: role model, mentor, friend, confidant, teacher, and advisor. They provide support as they guide their sponsee through the 12 Steps.
The Role of a Sponsor
A sponsor assures the newly sober person that they understand their situation and care about them. They offer their availability for whenever the person needs to talk or is having the urge to drink or use drugs. By making contact with their sponsor, a person can avert potential relapse.
Additionally, sponsors offer a judgment-free space for a person to open up about any problems, doubts, or questions regarding sobriety. A sponsor encourages, provides honest feedback, and praises achievements. The sponsor can also help the newcomer meet other sober people and feel comfortable in the 12-Step meetings.
Sponsors: Choosing the Right Person
Before choosing a sponsor, go to a few meetings. Pay attention. Listen to the speakers as they share their stories, think about the dialogue that takes place between members as they ask and answer questions, and talk to others before and after the meeting. By doing this, you will find someone who you relate to. Ask that person if they would sponsor you; if they cannot work with you, ask them to recommend another person. If you are uncomfortable asking someone to be your sponsor, talk to the chairperson and ask if they will help you find a sponsor.
What to Look for in a Sponsor
Although the choice of sponsor is personal, consider the following questions:
- How long has the person been sober? It is generally recommended someone maintains sobriety for at least one year before becoming a sponsor. Some groups may require five years of sobriety before a person can become a sponsor.
- Does the person have other sponsees? Will they realistically have enough time to give you the attention you need?
- Does the person have a positive attitude toward their sobriety? Do they have stable relationships, a stable job? Will they encourage you to take an active part in group meetings?
- Are you sexually attracted to the person? If so, choose a different sponsor. Recovery is challenging enough without adding sexual tension, and it’s usually easier to be honest and open about your struggles when you aren’t also trying to navigate a romantic relationship with the person.
Choose a person who makes you feel comfortable and whom you trust. Don’t be afraid to change sponsors if that trust is broken or if you feel you’ve outgrown the relationship.
Do You Need Help?
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. At English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, you will find a caring professional staff who will help you to regain your sobriety. The treatment philosophy at English Mountain Recovery is deeply rooted in the 12-Step Program. Give us a call and begin your journey to living a clean and sober life.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.