Taking part in one or more of the many 12-Step meetings that are available across the country is a great way to connect with people in your community who know where you are coming from in terms of addiction and sobriety and similarly working to stay sober as well.
It has proven to be such an effective tool for helping people to remain sober for the long-term that many drug rehab programs incorporate 12-Step meetings into their treatment structure. This not only helps people to benefit from the group’s support but also to get people started on the 12-Step program so when they transition into independent living, these meetings will feel familiar and supportive.
One part of the program that has proven to be effective for attendees is taking part in the sponsor-sponsee relationship. Having a sponsor, especially early on in your 12-Step participation, can provide you with a number of benefits, but these relationships are not necessarily for everyone nor are they necessary to get everything you need out of the 12-Step program.
Would you benefit from having a 12-Step sponsor?
Connecting with a Sponsor
What exactly a sponsor will do for you and with you will vary depending upon the individual. In many cases, however, a sponsor should:
- Help you work through each of the 12-Steps, offering guidance and support along the way
- Meet up to attend at least one meeting per week together
- Meet with you on occasion over coffee to work on the steps or discuss any questions or challenges you may have in sobriety
- Be available to you via phone should you feel you are in crisis and about to relapse
Some sponsors will meet with you more frequently or personally come to meet you if you are concerned you will relapse, no matter what time of day or night. None of these things are required, however, and it is up to you and your sponsor to determine what works best for you.
What a Sponsor Is Not
In addition to all that a sponsor can do for you, it is important to note all the things that a sponsor is not as well. For example, your sponsor is not:
- Your therapist: Though it is a blurry line when you are talking about personal issues that you face in recovery, it is one thing to talk to your sponsor about the things that have been happening that led up to you feeling like you were going to drink, and it is another to endlessly rant about all the things your roommate is doing to irritate you.
- Your lover: Having a romantic relationship of any kind with your sponsor puts your sobriety in danger. It is not appropriate under any circumstance.
- Your best friend: You may eventually develop a friendship of sorts with your sponsor but it is not appropriate for someone who already knows you well and has a personal relationship with you to also be your sponsor.
- Your ex–anything: If you have a history with some – an ex-romantic interest, ex-boss, ex-running partner, ex-friend, ex-someone-who-used-to-run-in-your-circle – it’s better not to have them as a sponsor.
It is a good idea to start fresh with someone you don’t know but someone you respect who has a lot of “clean time” in recovery.
Benefits of a 12-Step Sponsor
Many find a great deal of personalized support and encouragement when they meet regularly with a 12-Step sponsor. Depending on the individual and the situation, possible benefits of this setup can include:
- The guidance of someone who has been where you are and heard the stories of hundreds of people who made it work – as well as those who did not
- Accountability for your actions – that is, someone who will notice and say something if you relapse
- A regular meeting time that will keep you actively engaged with your recovery
- Someone to call when you feel like you might relapse or you need someone to talk you through a tough time
Connecting with a Sponsor
When you attend some meetings, at a certain point, the speaker may ask that any in attendance who are interested in taking on sponsees raise their hands. If you see someone you would like to work with raise their hand at this time, you can approach them on a break or after a meeting and ask them if they would be interested in working with you or, if not, then if they know of someone who would.
If you attend meetings where this offer is not made, you can raise your hand and share with the group that you are looking for a sponsor. Though no one will respond to you at this time, someone may come up to you at the break and let you know they can help you if you are interested or give the number of someone who can.
Is a 12-Step Sponsor a Good Idea for You?
You cannot know for sure whether or not you will benefit from having a sponsor until you try. And remember that they are all called “temporary” sponsors because neither of you is obligated to take part in the relationship for any length of time. You could have someone as your sponsor for 10 minutes or 10 years – they will all still be called “temporary” sponsors.
Are you interested in working with someone as you go through the steps? Do you have questions that you would like definitive answers to? Are you willing to test someone out and see if it works before making a commitment? Do you feel like you can walk away if things don’t seem to be a good fit? Maybe a 12-Step sponsor is a good choice for you.