Many people new to recovery have some hesitations about sponsorship. Some think that a sponsor is like a parent- someone who tells you what to do, and when to do it, and who to do it with. Someone who will dictate everything you do, and who might judge you for mistakes or slip-ups. Understandably, most adults don’t want to sign on for something like this. But the good news is, sponsorship is totally different from this idea.
So What Exactly is a Sponsor?
A sponsor is someone who has been through the 12 steps of a twelve-step program, and whose sole job it is to guide you through those same steps. A sponsor is a helpful and necessary addition to a twelve step program, particularly for someone who is brand new to the steps and the program. Their job is to share their experience, strength, and hope with you, so that you can walk the path of recovery and eventually help others as well. I once heard someone describe sponsorship as solely the act of helping someone else find their higher power and putting their sponsee’s hand in the hand of that higher power. The steps can be a tricky business. They are simple enough in theory, but left to our own devices, many of us would have made crucial mistakes. For example, the 8th step- making amends to others. There is a right time and place, and a right approach for each amends you will need to make, and a lot of people that attempt this step without the guidance of a sponsor end up causing further damage to already broken relationships. Also, there are some people that we have harmed that will simply need to be left alone. Many newcomers will “make amends” to ex-girlfriends or boyfriends in an attempt to rekindle those relationships or gain some personal benefit. A sponsor will help you to approach your amends selflessly, and to know when your motivations may be less than honorable.
While the Big Book does not specifically refer to sponsorship (mostly because when it was written, there weren’t enough people in recovery to make it possible!), such a person is perfect for sharing a 4th step with, and disclosing what we consider to be shameful and damaging things about ourselves. A sponsor has been there themselves- the right sponsor will have “been there, done that”, or known others who have, and will not judge you. Also, most sponsors will not attempt to dictate your every move. They may provide their own experience and guidance when asked, but as any recovering addict or alcoholic knows, it is important that you have your own experience in life and recovery. You need to learn to develop your own sense of “right and wrong,” and learn to lean on your higher power through prayer and meditation when faced with a tough situation. To clarify, a sponsor’s job is not to judge or condemn or boss you around. A sponsor is there to help you through the steps the way their sponsor helped them, and by doing so, help you to find a higher power of your own understanding, that will help you to stay sober and help others. A sponsor will always be there, and it is important to have someone who you trust to bounce ideas and problems off of, and to get help when you are in a tough spot. But don’t let misconceptions about sponsorship scare you off. Most people with long-term recovery will tell you that they still talk to their sponsor on a consistent basis, and that they are someone they are honest with. And that sponsoring others is the bright spot in their lives.
So What Should You Look For in a Sponsor?
This is a tough question to answer, as it is highly personal. But there are some good things to look out for if you are stuck. For one, it should be someone who you “want what they have”. Not in terms of a spouse, or a nice car, high-paying job, or material things. But someone who seems to have the inner peace and demeanor that you yourself would like to have. Someone who seems willing to help others, and who has been through the twelve steps. Someone who works those twelve steps in their daily life, and who is “happy, joyous, and free”. You can easily find these people by just listening at meetings. When people share, pay attention to what they say, and how they conduct themselves before, during, and after the meeting. It shouldn’t take you long to figure out who takes recovery seriously, and who has a real connection with a higher power. Don’t be afraid to ask these people for help, or to talk over coffee. It isn’t absolutely critical that you have had all the same experiences, or that your addictions looked the same. It’s more important that you relate to how they say they felt before they got sober, and that you want the peace of mind they portray in recovery. And as a final note, sponsorship isn’t written in stone. Many people end up switching sponsors over time. This can happen as a natural function of your needs in recovery changing, or sometimes the sponsor may become unavailable. People are fallible, and sponsors are only human. The important thing is that you feel comfortable being totally honest with them, and that they help you to find a higher power, and show you how to help others- because it is by relying on our higher power and being of service that our sobriety is able to remain intact.
Help is Available
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the professional staff at Serenity Acres is ready to help. Call today for your free confidential assessment, to see if inpatient treatment may be the answer you are looking for: 1-800-203-2024.