Sponsorship plays a pivotal role in the recovery process. The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program is powered by people recovering together.
AA members call it a “we” program, but it’s more than a support group. It’s about people learning from other people how to live sober one day at a time.
People in the throes of drug and alcohol dependence typically live in isolation. Life is reduced to looking for substances, getting substances, and ingesting substances. The only relationship is with the addiction.
The AA program turns that lifestyle upside down. New members in early recovery are encouraged to attend meetings two or three times every day if possible. Newbies are encouraged to hang out together and to check in with other members by text every day.
Interacting with friends in the program gives you something to do besides drink and drugs. It can redirect your thinking in productive and positive new ways. It relieves feelings of loneliness, despair, and isolation.
In AA, there’s plenty of support available, but many people find it difficult to reach out. The willingness to ask for help is central to the AA program, and it’s especially true when it comes to sponsorship.
What Makes AA Sponsorship So Important?
It’s easy to make fast friends and instant sober buddies in the program. After all, everyone has the same problem and intuitively understands what everyone else is going through.
There’s no need to hide anything or even explain. Everyone understands the heartbreak of addiction firsthand. It’s a bit more challenging when you start wondering how to find an AA sponsor.
A sponsor is a special kind of AA buddy. Someone once said that sponsorship involves learning how to have a healthy intimate relationship with another person. That person knows all your flaws and character defects but loves you anyway.
Researchers have found that people with sponsors have better treatment outcomes. Additionally, people in 12-Step programs who have sponsors attend more meetings and are more involved in their groups.
Other studies tell us that regular AA meeting attendance significantly increases the length of sobriety. AA members who work with sponsors have lower rates of relapse than members without sponsors.
What Does an AA Sponsor Do?
The primary responsibility of a sponsor is to guide you through the 12 Steps. The Steps are basically a list of the actions taken by Bill Wilson and Robert Smith (Dr. Bob) back in 1935 when AA emerged.
The 12 Steps contain precise instructions for staying sober. The Steps are set forth and discussed at great length in the AA Big Book. Some members call the Big Book “a guide for living that really works.”
An experienced sponsor will share their understanding of the Big Book and the principles of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Sponsors may share their personal stories and provide recovery-related materials for sponsees. Sponsors make suggestions. They listen to you, and they offer support.
How Do I Find a Sponsor?
Asking a friend or someone you’re attracted to for sponsorship can cause misunderstandings. People in early recovery should not sponsor other persons in early recovery.
The person you ask to sponsor you should have at least one year of continuous sobriety. A sponsor should be someone you trust, respect, feel comfortable with and who has what you want.
Look for someone you like, but make sure that person has enough backbone to be upfront with you when necessary.
The easiest way to find a sponsor is to shop for one at AA meetings, so go to lots of meetings. Don’t be in a rush about finding someone, but don’t drag your feet.
The sooner you get started on the Steps, the sooner you’ll get relief. Keep an open mind, and the right person will soon appear.
If you need support in the meantime, ask someone to be your temporary sponsor while you continue your search. Tell your group you are looking, and ask your sober buddies for suggestions.
Sometimes the perfect sponsor is someone you know and like but never thought to ask. Many AAs meet for coffee or go out for dinner after a meeting. It’s a great way to shop for a sponsor, and even if you don’t find one, you’ll still have a good time.
Ask potential sponsors whether they have their own sponsors and whether they are actively working on the 12 Steps. If not, this might not be the best person to ask.
A sober lifestyle is a happy lifestyle. Life, in general, gets better the longer you’re in recovery, so find a sponsor who enjoys life, has fun, has a purpose, is fulfilled, and seems happy. That kind of sponsor can teach you how to have that kind of life.
What If I Get Rejected?
Sponsorship is a big responsibility, and many people in the program are very good at sponsoring others. However, not everyone wants to be a sponsor. It might not be what they do best.
Other people don’t have the time. Sometimes the person you want for a sponsor is not the best fit. Don’t get overwhelmed by abandonment issues. Just keep looking and asking questions.
Benefits of Sponsorship
If you find someone with whom you feel a personal connection and a spiritual chemistry, it’s a promising sign. Here are some of the gifts that a good sponsor can offer you:
- You will gain a trusted advisor and confidante who can see your situation objectively when you cannot.
- As long as you remain clean and sober, a good sponsor will always be there for you. Helping you stay sober helps your sponsor stay sober.
- Your sponsor will increase your understanding of the AA program and teach you how to practice it to the best of your ability. Sponsorship benefits both participants equally.
- A sponsor can introduce you to others in AA and help you expand your social circle beyond the people you partied with. A sponsor can take you to AA events like conferences, potlucks, conventions, picnics, workshops and sober birthday celebrations.
The right sponsor can help you transcend perceived limitations and create the sober life you’ve always wanted. It takes work, but it’s worth it.