Sponsorship and the 12 Steps

While many people enter recovery, some of the most widely accepted and proven groups are 12-step fellowships. You may or may not be familiar with all of them. Some attend AA, NA, CA, CMA, HA, and due to the growing popularity and success that the fellowships have seen over the years, there are many other fellowships or groups that have popped up. No matter the substance, or the behavior, there is more than likely a 12-step meeting that can help you and the problem that you or a family member are currently facing.

Some fellowships cater to alcoholics, some cater to addicts, while others cater to the emotional problems that stem from being related to an alcoholic or addict and other behavioral issues. Upon attending these meetings and getting involved, there are a few things that are suggested so that one will have a successful experience while being involved. One of those suggestions is getting a sponsor. Someone new to the program might be confused as to what a sponsor is in this capacity or what his or her purpose is.

The purpose of a sponsor is to be a mentor, a guide to the 12-steps, and walk with you on the road to recovery. A sponsor not only gives you suggestions on how to live a healthier, more productive life without your vice or behavior, but also has walked the road and can relate to you on a personal level.  Here are six things that someone should look for in a sponsor:


Take Your Time

First, you want to take your time – it’s important to not make any quick or hasty decisions. In theory, a sponsor is going to be the person who helps you in your recovery and serves as your confidant. Many in the chemical dependency based 12-step programs say that you should look for someone “who has what you want.” Being sure that the person you ask to sponsor you is not something that has to be decided overnight. When you meet the person, you will know.







Look for Someone with Experience

It is suggested that you choose someone who has worked the 12-steps as outlined in the book that is specific to the fellowship that you are attending. The process of matching with a sponsor is as informal as everything else in these programs are. Often, people simply approach a more experienced member who seems compatible, and ask that member to be a sponsor. Most members of the program are happy and grateful to receive such a request.



Sober & the Same Sex


Program experience does suggest that it is best for men to sponsor men, women to sponsor women. This custom usually helps members stay focused on the program. Some gay men and lesbians feel an opposite-sex sponsor is more appropriate for similar reasons. You will also want to look for someone who is clean, sober and not currently acting out in the behaviors that you are trying to overcome. You want to look for someone who has dealt with the problems that you are currently experiencing and can show you the way to overcome them yourself.


Look for someone who is happy

When most people find themselves in a 12-step based meeting of any sort, they are more than likely not the happiest. In the search for a person who will be a good match for you, you will want to look for someone who is happy. Speaking from experience, many people came into the rooms of a 12-step meeting very broken. Happiness may have seem like a very far state of mind to even imagine yourself in. Happiness comes from contentment and contentment comes from being grateful for what you have and all those qualities are a direct result of working the program as outlined in the respective book that that fellowship uses as it’s guide.

“Happiness is an inside job” is a quote that is used in many different programs and fellowships and the fact is – it’s true.  You can never really be happy unless you are willing to put the work in that is required to gain the happiness that you are seeking.  A lot of times, that work entails taking a deep look at yourself and asking pressing questions as to why you may not be happy. After many years or destructive behavior or using drugs and alcohol, you might have a lot of work necessary to discover, or find that happiness that you may be seeking.

It is very vital that you are given the appropriate steps to take to the road to happiness and the only one who can give a direction to the steps is a person who has achieved happiness. Many times, when entering recovery, people are not aware of what true happiness is supposed to look like; that is why they need someone to guide them in the right direction and help them not only identify feelings as they arise, but also direct them on how they should process those feelings as they crop up.


Look for Someone Who is Independent

Independence is something that most people desire. Being able to take care of yourself is a trait that is not only sought after but is also a very attractive trait that you will want to possess. Many people come to 12-step fellowships in need of a lot help. They come in need of learning a new way of living in every aspect of their life. Being independent is not something that they have probably experienced for a very long time, if ever. A sponsor who is independent is something that someone will want to look for if they ever have the hopes of one day being solely dependent on themselves. A job, their own car, their own house or apartment, and paying their own bills are all qualities that someone will want to look for in a potential sponsor.

Remember, that independence in the material sense is not the only aspect to look for. Independence in every aspect of life is very important. One will want to be independent from any form of emotional attachment to others or destructive behaviors. Remembering that the person who you may potentially be asking to sponsor you may have overcome the very dependence to other people and behaviors, is very important. With that being said, this person will be the best to show you a comprehensive way to overcome the dependency that you may be experiencing.


Look for Someone Who has a Good Reputation


A good standing reputation in the community is not something that many of us, as members of 12-step fellowships are known for when we are actively using, drinking, or participating in the destructive behavior that led us to the program. While many of us are not concerned with this upon entering the program and making attempts to become well, repairing the damage of the past and striving for a better name and future is something that will want to be done. The ability to do what we say will do is a quality that we all want to possess. A person who has a good name is someone who has something good.

While looking for a person to be a potential sponsor we will want to look at his or her standing in the community and the reputation that he or she has built is over the time spent in recovery. It has been said that “it takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” We have found this to be very true in our own lives and have also found that after recovering from the destructive behaviors and habits that we implored for many years, a good reputation will make for a great name and an even better feeling of self-worth.

While it can be said that there are many more qualities and different ones that one should look for in the person who will be aiding you in your daily recovery, this list should provide enough to guide one in the right direction. While one can dream, the perfect sponsor may not exist but the perfect one for one person does exist and finding that person is not as hard as one may make it out to be. This person may not emulate all the qualities that you may think are right but keep in mind that you do not always possess the best judgment. Upon entering the program , keep in mind that you are the one seeking help and they are the one you are asking for help.

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