It is recommended that those who are following the 12 Step program do this under the guidance of a sponsor. This is usually a person who has a strong recovery and experience with the steps. Sometimes these relationships don’t work out and one party will decide to break the arrangement. It is not unusual for a sponsee to talk about how they need to fire their sponsor, but this is meant in a good natured way. In reality it is not the type of relationship where one party can fire the other.
* Has a one to one relationship with a more junior member of a 12 Step group – this other party is referred to as the sponsee.
* Is there to offer advice and support. Some sponsors are willing to offer this at any time of the day or night.
* A sponsor can be a trusted friend.
* They are an information resource about the 12 Step program.
* The guide the sponsee through the steps.
* They offer the sponsee encouragement and praise.
* They provide a shoulder to cry on and an opportunity to vent.
* They are a friendly face in the meetings.
* They individual can feel free to talk about things with their sponsor that they would not feel comfortable discussing in the meetings. Some sponsees will end up revealing secrets that they have never shared with anyone else on the planet.
* A resource for honest feedback.
* Somebody who can spot the dangers signs of an approaching relapse or that their sponsee has gone off course.
A sponsor does not get paid for the work and time they devote to the sponsee. They do this as a form of service in the group. The reason for why they do this is that not only is it a way to give something back, but more importantly it helps to keep them sober. 12 Step groups depend on service to provide and sponsorship can be the most rewarding service of all.
The reality is that there are some sponsors out there who barely seem to be hanging on to their own sobriety. There will also be relationships where the sponsor and sponsee just don’t fit well together, and it is causing problems. Valid reasons for firing a sponsor include:
* They always seem to be busy and are hardly ever available. Some well respected members of Alcoholics Anonymous will have many sponsees, and there will be a limit on how much time they can devote to one person.
* The sponsor appears to be having problems with their own sobriety. It is a terrible idea to choose a sponsor who is on the verge of relapse – they can take the sponsee down with them.
* Another good reason to change sponsor is if there is some type of sexual attraction developing – this can prove disastrous.
* Any attempts at thirteenth stepping are just provocation for instantly ending the relationship. This is when a more experience member of a 12 Step group tries to gain sexual favors from a less experienced member.
* If the sponsor and sponsee have vastly different views for how the steps should be completed this can be a good reason to end the relationship. For example, if the sponsee wants to do things by the book they can become frustrated with somebody who has a more laid back approach.
* The sponsor turns out to be hiding some negative or intolerant attitudes.
* The sponsor is too bossy or too interfering.
* The sponsee feels unable to develop trust in the relationship.
* If people are moving to a new location it may be more practical for them to get a new sponsor.
* Their current sponsor is ill or has too many things going on in their life.
There are some bad reasons to change sponsor as well:
* The sponsee has expectations that are too high.
* They want somebody who is never going to challenge them.
* The sponsee wants a sponsor who enjoys being cynical about the program and the people in it. This type of negativity can just hold people back.
* It is not a good idea to change sponsor over just one minor argument. No relationship is going to run completely smoothly –there will usually be disagreements along the way.
* Changing for the sake of change probably isn’t such a good reason.
* Wanting to have a more popular sponsor.
* Wanting somebody who is more attractive.
* It is not a good idea to change sponsor in the hoping of gaining some type of financial or career advantage. Choosing a boss or prospective employer as a sponsor may be viewed as manipulative move.
Firing a sponsor should not be like a scene from the Apprentice TV show. The goal is not to make this other person feel bad or to accuse them of being bad at their job. Firing a sponsor should be done tactfully and with respect.
* It is best to keep things simple and there is no need to go into elaborate explanations. Most sponsors will be fine with just hearing that their sponsee wants to try somebody else.
* Life in recovery is all about honesty so it is not recommended that people make up lies about why they wish to change sponsors – even if these lies are well intentioned.
* It is best to tell the sponsor face to face. Sending emails, text messages, or leaving a message on an answer machine is cowardly and not a sign of emotional sobriety.
* It is important to thank the sponsor for their efforts. They will have been providing their services for free.
* Even if the relationship has been a bumpy one it is best to leave on good terms.
* The sponsee should not use this as an opportunity to make negative accusations about their sponsor.
If people choose wisely in the beginning there will probably be no need for them to fire their sponsor. When choosing somebody to fulfill this role it is best to:
* It is usually recommended that heterosexuals do not choose a sponsor of the opposite sex, and that homosexuals avoid choosing somebody of the same sex. The reason for this is to prevent sexual tension from contaminating the relationship.
* It is best to only choose a sponsor who is firmly established in sobriety. If this individual has a shaky recovery it may mean that they will later relapse – even if they have already been sober for many years.
* If the sponsee wants somebody to help them work through the steps they should choose somebody who has experience with the process. There are some people who have been members of AA for many years but have no interest in the steps.
* If the sponsee is going to need a good deal of input from their sponsor they should not choose somebody who is too popular. If this person already has a number of sponsees they might not have that much free time available.
* This needs to be a trustworthy individual because of the nature of the relationship, and the information that is likely to be shared. If people have a bad vibe, or they know that this person is untrustworthy, they should not choose them as a sponsor.
* It is not a good idea to rush into choose a sponsor on the spur of the moment. It is best to consider options carefully, but this does not mean procrastinating indefinitely.
* Instincts can be useful when choosing somebody for this role – people who ignore their instincts often live to regret it.