Sponsorship can be a touchy subject in programs of Recovery. As a true AA Newcomer, the whole thought of going to AA or NA for the first time can be overwhelming. What do I do? Do I even belong here? Can I trust these people?
How can they not have used or drunk for so long? Why do people keep talking and approaching me? These and many other questions can cross our minds.
If we continue to go to AA meetings or NA meetings, things will begin to get a little more comfortable. We will start to recognize people and be recognized ourselves. We will begin to learn something about one another. We will begin to hear talk of Steps and Sponsorship.
The 12 Steps are pretty clear. Often times, they are posted on the meeting walls for us to read. When it comes to AA Sponsorship, things can get a little confusing. This can refer to an NA Sponsor, an AA Sponsor or a person in any other type of recovery program.
Who makes for a good Sponsor?
In programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, quality sponsorship usually begins with a person who has done the 12 Steps and is incorporating those principles in their life. How could a Newcomer know something like that? Ask.
It’s ok to ask questions and learn about others who have recovered. As Dr. Bob says, there is a certain sense of duty that comes along with this program. It’s to pass on what we have learned to others seeking the same relief.
How do I know if and when I need a sponsor?
Often times, one can feel pressured to seek an AA or NA sponsor. Seeking sponsorship without an honest desire to stop using or drinking can be problematic. Many Newcomers will come in and get a SPINO, Sponsor In Name Only. They will go to a bunch of meetings and approach a person that seems to be an active member in the fellowship. What can happen is that they receive a sponsor but no sponsorship. A sponsor can only be as useful as allowed by the sponsee. The willingness to communicate honestly is critical. As is says in How It Works, we should have the capacity to be honest and be ready to take certain steps.
Is there Bad Sponsorship?
Bad sponsorship can often, but not always, be rooted in the sponsor not having taken the 12 Steps. It’s tough to transmit something we do not have. Our book suggests that we be properly armed with the facts about ourselves and have found a solution. Sponsoring others without having been through the process is dishonest. It can also be damaging to a degree. Our greatest asset we can pass on to the Newcomer is our experience with the steps. We can tell how our life has changed from going through the process.
Sponsorship Gone Awry
There can be some unusual or unhealthy situations that can arise from dysfunctional sponsorship. Like anything else, we are forming a relationship. Many of us have had a tough go of it in this department. Quality sponsorship can usually nip this in the bud. A common pitfall is when the sponsee turns their life and will over to the care of their sponsor. A sponsee can get “tunnel vision” and operate on the assumption that their sponsor is all knowing. That their word is the final word on all matters. This form of co-dependency can stunt the growth of an individual and create a scenario where their reliance is on people and not a Higher Power. At this point in their development, a sponsee should be convinced of A, B, and C in the Big Book. They should know that they are beyond human aid. AA and NA meetings, the Big Book or a sponsor are just middle men to get us to connect and rely upon a Higher Power. If our journey to that point stops at the Sponsor then trouble will almost certainly follow.
It’s not my intention to scare anyone away from immediate sponsorship.
Good AA and NA people will help those that need help and not “force” it onto the unwilling. Temporary Sponsorship can often be a good way to start a relationship. Learning about one another and developing trust is a good basis. Reaching out to different people for help will guide one into quality sponsorship. Bonds can form between people without having to say “will you be my sponsor?”. The right person is often nearby when the Newcomer is ready.