Choosing a Sponsor
Choosing a 12-Step sponsor for substance abuse recovery involves many steps. However, it doesn’t need to be a daunting task. The most important aspect of the process is simply to ensure you have the right connection with someone invested in your wellbeing.
Does this mean he or she will always agree with you? Probably not. It’s also better not to expect a sponsor to give you a free ride on excuses or neglect to hold you accountable for your intentions and actions.
Working with a 12-Step sponsor is an opportunity to have someone you can count on during this new phase of life. This person not only empathizes with what you’ve been through, but is also confident you have the ability to progress through treatment and recovery. If you have the desire to be free of substances and live healthfully, your sponsor should respect you and your goals, and partner with you to make success a reality.
Creating Your Sponsor Partnership
Many post-treatment support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Dual-Recovery Anonymous, and other 12-Step programs include one-to-one sponsorship as a method to rebuild interpersonal connection and trust with other people. A sponsor is also a beacon if you feel the dark is closing in: available by text, call, or in person to listen to your concerns, validate your feelings, and help you work the 12-Step process.
This individual is often required to have continuous sobriety for more than a year, but also be involved in an effective program. An individual doesn’t take on the role of sponsor without a complete understanding of recovery challenges.
These might include:
- Environmental or psychological triggers
- Handling stress—not only that associated with sobriety, but also simply adjusting to daily life
- Managing co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders
- Feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, judgment, shame, and guilt
A recovery mentor might not be your closest friend—in fact, some 12-Step guidelines advise against this—but he or she will certainly be your most gung-ho advocate on this wellness journey. If ever you have reason to doubt that sobriety is the best path for you, a sponsor is often the person who walks beside you as you find your way—providing far-reaching support, advice, encouragement, and reassurance.
Sponsee and Sponsor Roles
Once you and a sponsor enter into a partnership, you both have responsibilities to adhere to for the best outcome.
- Be absolutely honest. As a sponsee, the only way you’ll receive any benefit from this arrangement is with the truth. As soon as a little lie here or there slips between the two of you, the foundation of trust is broken. Likewise, a sponsor must maintain integrity by keeping your business private, providing a “safe space” for you to talk anything, and extending truthful feedback—even if it’s hard to hear sometimes.
- Stay open-minded. Sometimes, a sponsor might offer a different action or way of thinking. You might feel out of your comfort zone with these suggestions, or a bit rebellious. It’s important to cross that bridge of trust and consider the advice kindly, even if it’s not for you. A mentor must also respect your individuality and not force you to follow the same recovery course as he or she did. To nurture a sponsee means to have respect for him or her and help solidify the right choices.
- Respect boundaries. Sponsees and sponsors mustn’t become romantically involved. A sponsor shouldn’t act as a therapist. It’s also important for a sponsee to clarify from the start what to expect in this relationship, and the sponsor has a responsibility to outline certain conditions. These might include requirements for maintaining the partnership, such as focus on recovery, keep in contact, attend a certain number of 12-Step meetings, and progress through the required homework.
- Cultivate appreciation. Both individuals need to understand time commitments and honor all scheduled meetings. They should also acknowledge the efforts of the other in their roles and provide positive feedback when necessary.
There are numerous requirements for someone in recovery, and sometimes, taking them on is overwhelming. But if you choose to have a 12-Step sponsor, make space for this decision, as you have every right to “interview” this person to see if you’re the right fit.
This article from The Fix offers five points:
- Consider what type of individual might be a good sponsor for you. Personality, communication, and listening skills are important characteristics to match.
- Meet first before committing. You may approach someone to be a recovery mentor, but that shouldn’t seal the deal. Have coffee, take a walk in the park, and get a feel for each other. Determining compatibility makes a difference in the long run.
- Take time to listen to their sobriety story. Most people are willing to share their journey. Knowing this will help you ask follow-up questions about their sponsor/sponsee relationship, accomplishments, challenges, and perspective.
- Ask for your sponsor’s expectations. As pointed out above, this will help define how the relationship works.
- State what you desire from the partnership. Being upfront and clear about what your hopes and needs are will create better communication between you.
Remember: most people go into a sponsor/sponsee relationship with the best intentions. Sometimes, it simply doesn’t work out, and you’ll need to choose a different sponsor. As long as you stay true to your goals, you’ll find the right person to help.
Twin Lakes Offers Extensive Support
When our clients complete rehabilitation, they’re ready to live more fully in their sobriety. To help with this, Twin Lakes offers various aftercare resources throughout Georgia so they always have access to people committed to their success. Learn more about our sober living communities, continuing care groups, and alumni gatherings.