For decades now, 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have been popular and influential tools to get sober. Not only do they have a history of effectiveness with even the most hopeless cases of alcoholism and addiction, but the programs are free and accessible all over the world.
12-step programs provide a social support system and a systematic guide to recovering from alcoholism and addiction. While the 12 steps that AA and NA recommend are rooted in spiritual principles, these principles are derived from philosophies and religions the world over and are designed to accommodate many disparate belief systems. Following these steps, whatever they mean to you, is an important part of recovery. But it is difficult — and not as fun — to follow them alone.
A sponsor someone who guides you along as you complete the 12 steps of your program of recovery. While not an official part of AA or NA, sponsors are generally recommended. The first year of sobriety is notoriously difficult. Sponsors are someone you can lean on when the going gets rough.
The best part is, you don’t have to pay them! In fact, most sponsors will argue that they get just as much out of sponsoring you as you get from them. This is because 12-step programs are all about staying sober by helping others. After working through the 12 steps with a sponsor, there’s a high chance you might find yourself sponsoring some freshly sober alcoholics yourself someday!
For many, choosing a sponsor can seem like a difficult undertaking. How does one go about selecting a sponsor? How do you ask someone to sponsor you? There are many factors that make someone a good sponsor, but to a newcomer to Alcoholics Anonymous, it can all seem rather mysterious.
Ultimately, the journey to good sponsorship is a simple one. Just take a few basic actions and look for a few crucial qualities — and don’t forget to take things one step at a time.
If you expect to find a good sponsor, it’s important that you have a chance to meet as many people in the program as possible. This will not only give you a better idea of what the program involves, it’ll give you a better sense of what a sponsor does.
You’ll come to understand that there are a wide variety of people in recovery and therefore a wide variety of sponsors to choose from. When you attend a meeting, you can introduce yourself as a newcomer and even tell people that you need a sponsor. A sponsor seeking sponsees may introduce himself or herself to you, or a helpful person may recommend someone to you.
It is generally a good idea to avoid choosing a sponsor from the gender you’re attracted to. If you have a romantic relationship with a sponsor, it will be difficult for them to help you — or for you to listen to their advice. Sponsorship also often involves talking about some pretty difficult and dark subjects from your past. For this reason, love and sponsorship rarely mix.
A sponsor isn’t just someone who appears wise. Their job is to guide you through completing the 12 steps. The only people who should be asking to sponsor you are people who have finished the 12 steps themselves. Anyone else won’t be able to help you. While sponsors are great people to talk to, it is important to understand they’re not spiritual leaders or mental health counselors.
Nor are they there to advise you on whether or not to take a mind-altering substance a doctor has prescribed for you. Their expertise is in recovery from substance addiction via the 12 steps. Talk to them about their personal experiences doing so. If you feel that they have what you want, chances are they’re a good fit.
It’s okay if you haven’t found a perfect sponsor yet. You can ask someone to be your temporary sponsor while you look for someone more long term. They can help you stay sober and begin work on the 12 steps while you continue attending meetings and making new acquaintances in the program.
It is also good to remember that sponsorship doesn’t have to be forever. Even if you find someone you love working with, it’s absolutely okay to choose another sponsor at a later date.
Like many inpatient treatment programs and sober living homes, Design for Recovery is rooted in 12-step principles. For residents at Design for Recovery, much of the mystery and fear surrounding sponsorship is removed.
More experienced residents and graduates of Design for Recovery can make sure you get a sponsor with a solid foundation of recovery. As you progress in your sober journey, you can be assured that you won’t have to take any step alone. Contact Design for Recovery today to learn more.