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How to Find a Sponsor in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

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Finding the right sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can profoundly influence one’s path to sobriety. A sponsor isn’t merely an adviser but a beacon of hope, representing someone who has overcome the perils of addiction and is eager to guide others. 

With a vast global membership exceeding 2 million, AA fosters a deep pool of potential sponsors, rendering the selection process both vital and, at times, overwhelming. Choosing an appropriate sponsor can mean the difference between fragmented recovery and a sustained commitment to sobriety. 

While the pursuit may initially seem formidable, grasping the essence of sponsorship and the strategies to pinpoint a compatible mentor can simplify this pivotal decision. Through this exploration, we aim to elucidate the steps in securing that invaluable ally in your AA journey.

What is the Role of a Sponsor in AA?

In Alcoholics Anonymous, a sponsor is pivotal, serving as a mentor and a guide throughout the recovery journey. Their primary function revolves around sharing personal experiences and insights to help newcomers navigate the challenges of sobriety. Here are some key roles and responsibilities:

  • Sharing Personal Experiences: Drawing from their journey, sponsors provide firsthand insights into the challenges and triumphs of recovery. This imparts practical advice and offers hope to those starting their journey.
  • Guidance Through the 12 Steps: A cornerstone of AA is the 12-step program. Sponsors assist sponsees in understanding and working through each step, ensuring they grasp its essence and purpose.
  • Emotional Support: Overcoming addiction is an emotional rollercoaster. Sponsors are there to provide support and listen to concerns, fears, and victories, ensuring no one feels alone in their journey.
  • Accountability: Sponsors help maintain a sponsee’s commitment to sobriety, reminding them of their goals and the reasons they sought recovery in the first place.

The sponsorship bond is built on trust, experience, and dedication. Their role extends beyond mere guidance; they symbolize the success and possibility of a life free from addiction’s grasp.

Why is Finding the Right Sponsor Crucial?

Choosing the right sponsor in AA is foundational to successful recovery, as their influence can significantly shape the trajectory of one’s sobriety, fostering trust and providing personalized guidance tailored to individual needs. 

The relationship between a sponsor and sponsee is a profoundly personal bond, with several pivotal aspects:

  • Impact on Recovery: A sponsor’s influence can bolster or hinder a sponsee’s progress. A positive, understanding, and experienced sponsor can provide support, making challenging moments more navigable.
  • Trust and Understanding: Recovery unveils a plethora of emotions and vulnerabilities. It’s paramount for a sponsee to trust their sponsor implicitly, ensuring they can share their deepest fears and challenges without judgment. This trust fosters a conducive environment for healing and growth.
  • Personalized Guidance: Each person’s journey with addiction is unique. The right sponsor understands this individuality, tailoring their advice and support to suit the specific needs of their sponsee.

Securing the right sponsor isn’t just about enhancing the recovery process; it’s about ensuring the journey to sobriety is as supported, understood, and effective as possible. This bond becomes a cornerstone of a renewed, sober life.

How to Find a Sponsor in AA?

To secure an effective sponsor in AA, one needs to actively participate in the community — by attending meetings, listening intently for similar experiences, raising your hand to express your need, and inquiring about your journey in sobriety, which are the few initial steps. This approach ensures you’re proactive in your search and positions you to find a sponsor that best resonates with your journey. Let’s delve deeper into these methods:

Go to meetings

Finding a sponsor often starts by attending AA meetings. While this might sound straightforward, attending these gatherings allows you to observe potential sponsors in their element. Not all AA meetings are the same; you have open discussions, speaker meetings, and study groups. Attending various types lets you discern your preference and identify a sponsor that aligns with your recovery needs. Additionally, engage in post-meeting chats or coffee meetups. This informal setting offers an opportunity to build connections and get to know members personally, increasing the likelihood of finding a sponsor you resonate with.

Listen for the similarities

H3: Listen for the Similarities

Listening closely to others’ stories during meetings can provide insights into who might be a good sponsor match. By identifying individuals who share similar experiences or challenges, you’ll find a sponsor who truly understands your journey. Furthermore, pay attention to sponsorship styles. Some sponsors may be more hands-on, guiding you intensively, while others might adopt a more laid-back approach. By listening, you can also identify those who’ve successfully navigated similar challenges, offering specific insights and guidance that will be invaluable for your recovery.

Raise your hand

AA encourages active participation, so don’t be shy. Raising your hand and expressing your need for a sponsor can be the first step toward finding the right match. Remember, it’s about finding someone who aligns with your recovery journey, and if the first sponsorship doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to make a change. AA values open communication, so sharing and receiving feedback is a natural part of its culture. Moreover, outside of meetings, it’s a good idea to connect with AA alums or individuals with long-term sobriety who might recommend potential sponsors based on their experiences.

Ask about experience

Before finalizing a sponsorship, ask potential sponsors about their experiences. This includes understanding their ongoing journey in sobriety: Do they still attend meetings? Are they engaged in reading literature or any other growth activities? Their answers will provide insights into their commitment to the AA program. It might also be beneficial to seek testimonials. Connecting with individuals they’ve sponsored before can give you a firsthand account of their sponsorship style and effectiveness. Lastly, ensure you’re on the same page regarding boundaries and availability. Clarify how often they’re available for check-ins, if they’re open to emergency calls, and any other boundaries crucial to the sponsorship.

Choose someone you can be honest with

One of the primary aspects of selecting a sponsor is ensuring a comfortable environment for genuine openness. A sponsor should be someone with whom you can share your deepest fears, past mistakes, and future concerns. Mutual honesty paves the way for true healing and growth, creating a sanctuary where real issues are addressed. Furthermore, trust is pivotal in this relationship. Your sponsor should reassure that your shared experiences remain confidential, reinforcing the bond between both parties and ensuring a safe space for effective communication and recovery.

Consider their length of Sobriety

Evaluating a potential sponsor’s duration of sobriety helps gauge their experience and understanding of the recovery process. A longer period of sobriety often implies that the individual has successfully navigated various challenges and can offer guidance through personal experience. Moreover, a sponsor with an extensive sobriety record can be a living testament to the effectiveness of the AA program, offering inspiration and showing that long-term recovery is achievable. While individuals with less sobriety time might be more relatable, especially to newcomers, those with a longer track record can provide insights into sustaining recovery in the long run.

Consider the gender of your sponsor

The decision regarding a sponsor’s gender often hinges on personal comfort and societal or cultural factors. While some might find it more fitting to choose a sponsor of the same gender due to shared experiences, others might be indifferent about this aspect. It’s essential to recognize and address any potential challenges arising from gender dynamics. Cultural norms, personal biases, or past experiences can influence this choice. The key is to ensure that the sponsorship relationship remains platonic and centered on recovery, regardless of the sponsor’s gender. Establishing and respecting boundaries is paramount to maintaining the relationship’s integrity and purpose.

Avoid romantic interests

Steering clear of romantic entanglements with your sponsor ensures the primary focus remains on recovery. Engaging in romantic relationships can complicate the sponsorship dynamic, potentially leading to skewed guidance, emotional complications, or even a complete breakdown of the mentorship. Romantic entanglements also divert attention from the primary goals of sobriety and healing. It’s crucial to establish boundaries early on and be vigilant about maintaining a professional and supportive relationship centered on mutual respect and recovery.

Be available for communication

The foundation of a fruitful sponsorship lies in open communication. Being readily available for dialogue, whether to share a victory, discuss a challenge, or simply chat, solidifies the bond between the sponsor and sponsee. Regular communication fosters trust, ensures continuous guidance, and provides an avenue for real-time support, especially during challenging moments. It’s essential to set clear expectations about communication frequency, preferred methods (calls, texts, in-person chats), and response times so both parties are on the same page.

Attend meetings with your sponsor

Attending AA meetings alongside your sponsor can be a powerful tool for recovery. Not only does it provide a shared experience, but it also allows for immediate discussions and reflections on topics addressed during the sessions. Having your sponsor by your side during meetings can offer comfort, especially for newcomers who might feel overwhelmed. Furthermore, it allows the sponsor to introduce the sponsee to other members, fostering a sense of community and belonging. This mutual journey through meetings can strengthen the bond, providing a consistent environment of understanding and support.



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What are the Benefits of Having an AA Sponsor?

Having an AA sponsor furnishes you with expert guidance, emotional support, accountability, and a shared connection through the recovery journey. A sponsor’s role is invaluable, acting as a seasoned guide as they provide:

  • Expert Guidance: From their personal experiences, sponsors offer practical advice on navigating sobriety’s unique challenges.
  • Emotional Support: An AA sponsor listens during tough times, ensuring you never walk your journey alone.
  • Accountability: Regular check-ins with someone accountable can deter relapses by promoting responsibility.
  • Shared Experiences: Sponsors resonate with the struggles and triumphs of the recovery process, offering genuine empathy.
  • Networking: Sponsors, through their journey, often have valuable connections within the AA community beneficial for newcomers.

When do you get an AA sponsor?

The optimal time to seek a sponsor varies for each individual but is generally recommended early in the AA journey. Soon after starting AA meetings, having a sponsor can provide immediate support, preventing early relapses. It’s essential, however, to feel comfortable and ready for this step. Some might choose a sponsor after a few meetings, while others may attend several sessions before feeling ready to commit. The key is recognizing when you could benefit from personalized guidance and support on your journey to sobriety.

What are the characteristics of a Beneficial AA Sponsor Relationship?

A beneficial AA sponsor relationship thrives on open communication, trust and confidentiality, commitment, empathy, and respectful boundaries. To foster a strong bond during the recovery journey:

  • Open Communication: Any topic can be discussed, ensuring no concerns remain hidden.
  • Trust and Confidentiality: Personal stories and feelings shared are met with discretion and understanding.
  • Commitment: The sponsor and sponsee are wholly devoted to the recovery process.
  • Empathy: The sponsor’s genuine emotional support is rooted in understanding the sponsee’s experiences.
  • Respectful Boundaries: While maintaining a close bond, respecting each other’s boundaries is understood, promoting a healthy relationship dynamic.

How to Initiate the Conversation with a Potential Sponsor?

To initiate a conversation with a potential AA sponsor, begin by understanding your reasons for wanting a sponsor, set clear goals, and be respectful of their time.

  • Mental Preparation: Before reaching out, take a moment to reflect on your sobriety journey. Understanding your reasons for wanting a sponsor will help tailor the conversation to your unique needs. You may be looking for someone who has dealt with specific challenges, or you may want a mentor who aligns with your long-term sobriety goals.
  • Respect for Time: It’s essential to remember that AA sponsors volunteer their time to help others in recovery. As such, they often have multiple commitments. Arrange a designated time to sit down and chat, ensuring the meeting is mutually beneficial and free from distractions.
  • Openness: Starting a conversation about sponsorship can be daunting. However, it’s crucial to remember that every AA member has been in your shoes. You’re more likely to foster a genuine connection by approaching the situation with vulnerability and sincerity.

What Questions Should You Ask a Potential Sponsor?

When considering a potential AA sponsor, inquire about their approach to challenges, recovery journey, and availability.

  • “How do you typically handle disagreements or challenges with sponsees?”: This question helps gauge their conflict resolution skills and ensures that both parties will handle disputes maturely.
  • “What was the hardest part of your recovery, and how did you handle it?”: By understanding their struggles, you can better determine if their experiences align with yours. Additionally, their methods of overcoming obstacles can provide insight into their coping mechanisms and resilience.
  • “Do you have other sponsees? If so, how do you manage your time between them and other commitments?”: This query provides clarity on their availability and dedication.

What if the AA Sponsorship Isn't Working Out?

It might be time to reassess the relationship if you’re experiencing consistent disagreements, feel judged, or notice that your recovery philosophies diverge significantly from your sponsor’s.

  • Regular Check-ins: By scheduling frequent check-ins, both parties can assess the health of the sponsor-sponsee relationship. These can act as a platform to voice concerns, discuss progress, and ensure that both parties are on the same page.
  • Open Communication: It’s crucial to maintain an open line of communication. Addressing concerns as they arise makes it possible to avoid bigger issues down the line. Your sponsor should be someone you feel comfortable discussing your recovery with—without fear of judgment or retribution.
  • Consider Transitioning: While finding a new sponsor might seem daunting, remember that your recovery is the top priority. If you believe another sponsor might be a better fit, don’t hesitate to communicate your feelings and make the necessary change.

What are some signs that it may be time to find a new AA sponsor?

Signs indicating that it might be time for a new AA sponsor include significant differences in recovery philosophies, feelings of being judged, and evolving needs not being met.

  • Divergent Recovery Philosophies: As you delve deeper into your recovery, you may find that you and your sponsor have different beliefs about the recovery process. For instance, your sponsor might advocate for a stricter interpretation of the 12 steps, while you might favor a more flexible approach.
  • Feelings of Judgment: A successful sponsor-sponsee relationship hinges on mutual respect. It might be time to reevaluate the relationship if you ever feel that your sponsor is judging you or invalidating your experiences.
  • Evolving Needs: As you grow and change over time, what you need in a sponsor might also develop. It’s essential to ensure that your sponsor can meet your current needs, whether that means more regular check-ins or different coping strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Finding a Sponsor in AA

While individuals traditionally have one primary sponsor in AA, some choose to have co-sponsors or secondary sponsors for different perspectives or additional support.

While individuals traditionally have one primary sponsor in AA, some choose to have co-sponsors or secondary sponsors for different perspectives or additional support.

The choice of the sponsor’s gender is personal; however, many recommend choosing someone of the same gender to avoid potential complications or distractions.

If your sponsor relapses, it’s essential to prioritize your own recovery and consider seeking a new sponsor while expressing concern and support for them.

Communication frequency varies based on individual needs, but many sponsees and sponsors start with daily or weekly check-ins and adjust as necessary.

While the primary role of a sponsor is guidance in sobriety, strong bonds can form, and some sponsor-sponsee relationships evolve into lifelong friendships.

Attending local AA meetings and expressing interest in finding a sponsor is the most direct way to connect with potential sponsors in your area.

Online AA forums, websites, and virtual meetings often have resources or platforms where individuals can connect with potential sponsors remotely.

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Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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