We believe that for recovery to happen God must do “for us what we could not do for ourselves.” A huge part of how He does this is through the encouragement, fellowship, and help of other people in our lives. When we start looking at what other people’s help looks like, the word sponsorship begins to come up a lot. Many who are new in the recovery process hear that word and have questions. Why is sponsorship important? What does a good sponsor look like? How do I go about finding a sponsor? When should I get a sponsor?
Let’s unpack some of these questions…
WHY? The Importance of Sponsorship: I believe that the most effective path to healing from addictive behavior is by working the 12 Steps as laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This program of recovery has guided millions of people from addiction to serenity in the last 100 years. Yet many of us come into recovery with no idea what the 12 Steps are all about and what it looks like to “work the steps”. In order to find out, we need someone to show us the way. Someone who has been guided on this journey by someone who has been guided on this journey by someone who has been guided on this journey…well, I think you get the point! We need someone who can share their experience, strength, and hope with us when we are not sure what to do next. We need someone who knows our story and is willing to listen to our day-to-day struggles and successes. Without this guidance and support on arguably the most important journey of our life, we will wander aimlessly and have very little chance of reaching our goal.
There’s one other reason that sponsorship is important. When we ask someone to sponsor us, we are also helping them work their program of recovery. Step 12 says that “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts”. I always thank my sponsor for their time after a call, and one of my sponsors used to always say “thank you for helping me work my program.” It was cool to know that he was helping me, but I was also helping him.
WHO? What an effective sponsor looks like: When explaining the recommended way to share our Step 5 with another person, the Big Book recommends “someone who will understand, yet be unaffected.” (←click to read more) I believe this applies to our sponsor as well. Our sponsor should be someone who understands the choices we have made and has made similar choices in their own walk. And this person should not be upset or offended when we are rigorously honest with them about the choices we have made.
Next, this person should be further along the 12-step path than we are. It would be really hard for someone to show us the way on a path that they have not been on themself. I don’t think they necessarily need to have worked all 12 steps, but if they haven’t, they should be farther along the path than we are. And they should have something that we want – some amount of sobriety or serenity that we are looking for. It doesn’t make much sense to ask someone to help us if they don’t have something that we want.
Finally, our sponsor should be someone that we are comfortable sharing with and someone that we are comfortable taking advice from. When we ask someone to sponsor us, we are agreeing that we will share some things with this person that we might have never shared with another person. We need to trust that this person will handle our story with care, kindness, and confidence. We also need to be OK taking advice from that person. A good sponsor will ask us to do certain things to work our program. They will also make suggestions when we call and check in with them. We need to respect our sponsor enough to at least try the suggestions they give us – remember, they have something we want and they know a path to get there!
WHERE? HOW? Suggestions for Finding a Sponsor: To find a sponsor, we first need to go where sponsors are likely to be – recovery meetings! Choose a meeting that works with your schedule and start attending regularly. If you want to get a sponsor and start working the steps immediately, ask the meeting facilitator to help connect you with a temporary sponsor. A temporary sponsor can get you started on working a program of recovery, but may not be your sponsor for the long-term.
Once you have attended several meetings, hopefully you will start to see at least one or two people who meet most of the criteria described above. Once you identify these folks, just take one aside after the meeting and ask them to sponsor you. It’s pretty simple! That person may not agree to be your sponsor, and if that’s the case, keep looking until you are able to find someone. When you see the Step 9 Promises (←click to read more) start to happen in your life, you will know it was worth the effort!
WHEN? The Timing for Finding a Sponsor: Sponsorship is a critical part of your recovery journey. Most of us cannot do this alone. If you have recognized that you are powerless and that your life is unmanageable, now is the time to find a sponsor. If you have been attending meetings for a while but feel like your recovery is stagnant, now is the time to find a sponsor. If you are new to the program and are not sure what to do, now is the time to find a sponsor. Regardless of where you are in your journey, having a trusted guide is essential to success in recovery.
– A grateful member of the Awaken community
Awaken is a Birmingham, AL based ministry walking with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders who have been impacted by sexual brokenness & addiction. Our goal is to help people experience hope, connection, and healing through the gospel and the recovery process. If you want to know more about Awaken or our resources, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!