One of the cornerstones of the Alcoholics Anonymous program is sponsorship. Sponsors act as a guiding influence for the newly sober and are a significant component of a recovery support system. The importance of a sponsor in recovery cannot be overstated and can be the difference between maintaining long-term sobriety and only having interludes of success.
The Importance of a Sponsor in Recovery
Traditionally, sponsors are members of AA (or other programs) who have maintained sobriety and are willing to assist other alcoholics in achieving the same. While there is no formal training, there must be a commitment to the program and working the 12 steps. Often, sponsors are a bridge to help the newly sober make lasting changes. They also offer encouragement to stay the course. For many, the sponsor relationship is life-changing and the key to success. Having someone available who has been there, can answer the hard questions, and give the harsh truth when needed is invaluable.
The Role of a Sponsor
For most, the role of a sponsor is that of a trusted friend and mentor. A sponsor is someone who has already experienced the early trials and pitfalls of early sobriety, has faithfully worked the steps. Because of this, a sponsor is committed to “carrying the message forward.” A good sponsor will always point the newly sober to work the program, attend meetings, and create plans for difficult situations. Just some of the roles and responsibilities of a sponsor include:
- Offering a listening ear
- Being available in a crisis
- Giving sound advice
- Being an encourager
- Sharing hard truths
A Double Benefit
Unsurprisingly, the benefit of sponsorship applies to the sponsor, as much as the newcomer. Many people claim that sponsorship reinvigorated their commitment to the AA program and helped them remember what it was life before getting sober. As they encourage the newcomer, they revisit their own early sobriety and have an opportunity to assess their progress and relive milestones.
What To Look For In A Sponsor
While anyone with sustained sobriety can be a sponsor, there are a few things to look in a candidate. First, the potential sponsor should be secure in their sobriety and enjoying it. You can’t expect someone to help you when you are struggling if their sobriety is also a struggle. Also, even though it’s not an absolute rule, sponsors should be of the opposite gender or opposite sexual orientation to minimize any possibility of a sexual or romantic relationship developing. Finally, if you feel like someone would be a good sponsor, ask them. If they say no, don’t take it personally. Remember, we don’t know what burdens someone else is carrying, or their reasons.
Be a Sponsor
If you have been sober for an extended period, consider undertaking the critical job of supporting someone else’s recovery. Remember that AA works because we share the message and encourage each other. Already have a great sponsor and want to thank them? We have a great line of gifts that would be perfect!