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[ Opinion ] [ Personal Narratives ]

My Guide To Sponsorship

Sponsorship is an important part of 12 Step Recovery. The term first came about in the early days of Alcoholics Anonymous. This was a time before withdrawal management services. Alcoholics who needed to be detoxed in a hospital had to be “sponsored” by a member, in good standing, of AA. The sponsor would be responsible for the person prior to, during and after their stay in the hospital. This type of 12th Step work eventually evolved into the type of sponsorship we have today.

A sponsor’s main job is to take a person through the 12 Step program. If that someone hasn’t completed the 12 Steps then I don’t think they have any business sponsoring someone. It’s my opinion that a sponsor is not there to be the boss of a sponsee. A sponsor is neither better nor worse than the person they are helping. We are equal when it comes to a 12 Step program. Some of us have more experience and are therefore suited to help another. A sponsor is there to provide their experience and not anything else. If you have a sponsor (or any Fellowship member) who starts to give you medical advice I’d stay far away from that person. I had a sponsee ask me for advice on a big financial decision he had to make. I had never faced the type of decision he was mulling over, explained this to him and suggested he talk to a professional trained in the type of advice he needed. Some people tend to let their egos get ahead of them and provide advice that could be disastrous.

Many sponsor’s dump their sponsees for not being willing enough. In my opinion this goes against the Responsibility Pledge, “I am Responsible when anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that I am responsible”. I don’t see anywhere in the pledge stating, “I’m only responsible if they show enthusiasm.” I believe that if someone asks for help then give it. Maybe the person only asks for help when they get into trouble and then, “can’t remember with sufficient force the pain and suffering of a month or even a week ago” (Big Book, 1939) and disappear for a while. Eventually, they may reach a point in their lives where the willingness stays and they follow through with their initial motivation to seek help. If I’m telling them, “too bad, you haven’t shown the proper motivation in the past to follow through”, then I’m not being very responsible.

There is no single way to find a sponsor. I only know how I did it. I went to a lot of discussion meetings when I first entered into recovery. I noticed that there was a group of men who were at the same meetings I went to and were there on a consistent basis. I liked what these guys had to say and could tell they were not bullshitting but were walking the talk. One of the men had appeared to have the same sense of humour as me and we got along well. I was attracted to his recovery and so asked him to be my sponsor.

Some newcomers need help right away so chose to get what’s called a temporary sponsor. Sometimes the temporary sponsor becomes a permanent sponsor and sometimes not. When I use the word permanent I don’t mean forever. As all things in 12 Step recovery sponsorship is open to change. One can change a sponsor when one wants to. If one is doing this a lot though I’d recommend you take a look as to why. I am also a firm believer in men sticking with men and women with women – why open yourself up to possible problems?