The 12 step model for recovery is built upon the principle that addicts are best equipped to help other addicts navigate the challenges of sobriety.
Your sponsor is someone who is willing to walk you through the steps and help you remain sober by providing a support system when you feel threatened by relapse.
You are encouraged to find your own sponsor based on who you feel would be a good fit. However, the prospective sponsor is allowed to decline if he or she doesn’t agree that the relationship would be beneficial.
When you’re choosing a sponsor in recovery, keep in mind these 7 tips.
1. Look for Experience
Your sponsor should be someone who has successfully worked the program for several years.
Someone who is confident in their sobriety has the skills necessary to offer information and guidance as you look to build a new life for yourself.
In addition to length of sobriety, you must also consider the person’s involvement with the program. Your sponsor should regularly attend meetings and apply the 12 steps to his or her own life. Having past experience as a sponsor is a plus, although certainly not required.
2. Choose Someone with an Open Mind
Recovery looks different for everyone, simply because no two people are alike. Your sponsor should be willing to share strategies that have helped him or her stay sober, but recognize that you are facing a different set of circumstances in your own life. A sponsor who is overly critical and judgmental can damage your confidence and self-esteem at a time when you’re already feeling vulnerable.
Having an open mind also means recognizing that there are some problems outside a sponsor’s area of expertise. Your sponsor should not be trying to offer medical, legal, or financial advice.
3. Value Honesty and Trustworthiness
A sponsor should be someone you consider honest and trustworthy. If you feel as though you can’t openly share your feelings about recovery, you won’t be able to make the most of the relationship.
It can admittedly be hard to judge whether someone is honest and trustworthy from a few initial conversations. However, keep in mind that you are allowed to choose a new sponsor if the first relationship doesn’t work out.
4. Don’t Discount People of Different Backgrounds
Although there is a natural tendency for people to be drawn towards others with similar backgrounds, your sponsor doesn’t need to be of the same age, race, or socioeconomic status to be able to help you stay sober. In fact, hearing a slightly different perspective may help you look at the 12 steps in a whole new way.
Typically, when you attend support meetings there is a point where members who are willing to be sponsors raise their hands. Make note of who is willing to be a sponsor so you can consider all of your options before making a final decision.
5. Recognize the Time Commitment
Some sponsors have multiple sponsees. There is nothing wrong with this on the surface, but you want to make sure that your sponsor has enough time to devote to your personal recovery needs. Sponsors may be more experienced in their recovery, but they’re still only human.
Asking a potential sponsor about other obligations before you make a decision can help you choose someone who is best equipped to support your recovery. And, if you approach if a potential sponsor who declines because of the time commitment involved, do your best to respect this decision.
6. Avoid Romantic Temptation
Typically, it’s best for heterosexuals to avoid choosing a sponsor of the opposite sex and for homosexuals to avoid choosing a sponsor of the same sex. This relationship with your sponsor can be emotionally intense, which can create a new level of problems if a romantic attraction develops.
Getting romantically involved with your sponsor is a major risk factor for relapse. Romantic relationships of any sort can be difficult to manage in the early stages of recovery, but they are especially difficult when both people have a history of addiction.
7. Have Realistic Expectations
A sponsor’s role is to listen and provide emotional support, but he or she is not qualified to serve as your therapist. In the early stages of your sobriety, it’s often recommended that you continue talk therapy with a trained professional in addition to communicating with your sponsor.
Although your sponsor will play a vital role in your recovery, remember that it’s ultimately up to you to maintain your sobriety. By staying committed to working the 12 steps, you can build a brighter future free of the burden of substance abuse.