A popular question in addiction support groups is, “Do I need a sponsor?” This is a loaded question for many reasons and the best answer to it can only come from one person – you. However, there are many things to consider when contemplating this decision. Below we share insight and information about the role of a sponsor/sponsee and what to look for if you decide to choose someone for sponsorship during recovery.
To answer this question, it is essential to first understand what a sponsor is – and what it isn’t. According to the traditional AA and NA format, a sponsor is a person who has successfully completed the 12-Step program and can help others do the same. Other groups may have different philosophies on sponsorship and depending on your preference, one program may be more in line with your values than another – so do your research.
A sponsor is not a counselor or a therapist, but a mentor or guide who helps you to stay sober by taking an honest look at your situation. On a recent episode of the popular podcast That Sober Guy, host Shane Ramer discussed this topic with his long-time AA sponsor, Buddy. On the subject of what a sponsor does, he states, “It’s not a counseling session, but they are the ones we tell our secrets to – so we have to feel comfortable with him or her.”
Buddy goes on to say that he can’t tell someone why they may need a sponsor, but instead, he shares why he needed one. “I need a person to hear the things I’m thinking in my head – both good and bad. Because when I can get them out to someone in confidence, I can see what I’m thinking much clearer and make better decisions,” he said. “I now have someone who has the same experience in the things I’ve experienced. They can tell me how they handled problems or issues honestly and be able to apply the program’s practice and principles.”
If you decide a sponsor is right for you, the process of searching for one can feel a little overwhelming. Questions may arise during this process such as:
Below are some guidelines and thoughts to consider when choosing the right sponsor. This is by no means a complete list, but more information can be found in most 12-Step programs.
During the initial phase of recovery you usually feel very raw, so having trust in your sponsor is critical in the relationship. A sponsor is someone who you will be sharing your fears, secrets, and significant insecurities with. Your sponsor should respect your confidentiality, and talking with him or her should feel safe and non-judgemental.
When searching for a sponsor, you want someone who is actively involved with the program, so ask lots of questions. For AA or NA, a person who has sponsored other members and worked through all of the steps tends to be ideal. But remember, your sponsor can guide you through the recovery process, but they can’t keep you sober.
Can your sponsor help you work through the steps at any time? Are they available when you call? Can they attend meetings with you? Can they handle moments of crisis? These are a few questions you may want to consider when choosing a sponsor.
Getting to know others in recovery groups like AA or NA can help your search to find the right sponsor. Listen to their shares during a meeting and see if they have similar stories, values, or experiences as you. A sponsor-sponsee relationship needs to connect on some level, and it always helps if you share similar personality traits and beliefs. It doesn’t have to be a perfect fit – just the right fit for you.
Groups like AA and NA advise choosing a member of the opposite sex to avoid any romantic involvement. They believe this practice prevents any potential complications. This rule also applies to the gay or lesbian community, where it is better to choose a sponsor of the opposite gender for the same reasons. However, it is important to note that no matter how you identify in terms of gender (or if you are non-conforming), when picking a sponsor make sure there are no romantic feelings or concerns involved. This rule allows you to focus all of your efforts on recovery.
Your post-rehab support group may be different than the traditional AA or NA model, and that’s okay. What matters is that you have a network of people who can get you through a craving or talk you through triggers. Make a list of these people and speak with them to see if they are willing to help you on your road to recovery. No one should go through sobriety alone and it does take a village.
The Kimberly Center understands this and offers a continuing care program that provides education, therapy, and 12-Step group meetings under one roof. You will also have access to group and individual counseling appointments, life skills lectures, family education sessions, and 12-Step support groups curated to help you take your final steps towards independence and a healthy life. Our continuing care program lasts approximately 12 weeks and is available at flexible times to fit your schedule. Call The Kimberly Center today at 855-4-KCENTER (855-452-3683) to see if our continuing care or other programs are right for you.