Getting a sponsor is strongly advised for those who attend twelve step programs. This individual will be able to offer support and advice on a one to one basis. It involves a lot of trust, and this is something that can be difficult for those who are recovering addicts. There will also people who just do not feel comfortable with this type of relationship. There is little doubt that sponsorship can be highly beneficial, but it is probably not something that is going to work for everyone.
Sponsor derives from the Latin word spondere which means to promise. When one person sponsors another it implies that they are taking some type of responsibility for them. In AA, and other 12 step programs, a sponsor refers to a recovering addict who is willing to share their knowledge with those who are less experienced in the program. The hope is that their wise counsel will encourage the sponsee to make good decisions and stay strong in recovery.
An AA sponsor can provide a number of important functions such as:
* A good resource for information about recovery. The sponsor will have more experience of life away from substance abuse. This should mean that they will be able to provide answers to many questions.
* The sponsor is somebody who will listen. There is usually an agreement that he sponsee can contact their sponsor at any time of the day or night. This is useful because problems can occur at any time. Just having somebody to listen will often be enough to help the individual put their problems into perspective.
* The sponsor will keep an eye on the sponsee. If it appears that this individual is taking the wrong path, or showing symptoms of the dry drunk syndrome, they will be able to step in and offer advice.
* The sponsor helps the sponsee work the steps.
* They can act like a good friend or teacher depending on the circumstances
* The sponsor should be a good role model for the sponsee
One of the most important jobs of the sponsor is to help the sponsee complete the twelve steps. They should have already completed this process (although it is never really completed) and will be in a position to guide the sponsee. The fourth step involves taking a fearless moral inventory. This is where the individual lists all the wrongs they have ever committed. In step five they are asked to share this information with another human being. In most cases the sponsee will share their moral inventory with their sponsor.
A sponsor can be a great resource to turn to when a person feels at risk of relapse. This advisor will understand what is happening and so will be able to offer more than just platitudes. The sponsor will often be able to talk their sponsee down from their thoughts of a return to alcohol or drug abuse. They will also be able to work with the sponsee to discover what has led to this crisis. There is no doubt that the assistance of a sponsor can prevent relapse.
Sponsoring others in recovery is a privilege that can strengthen the recovery of both parties. It is not a job that should ever be taken up with the hope of personal glory or desire to save the world. It is offering help without any personal agenda. The sponsor is likely to gain a lot of satisfaction from this work, but it should never be their primary driving force. By helping others in recovery the sponsor will be helping themselves so there should be no pride or arrogance involved.
Choosing a sponsor it not something that should be done lightly. It involves putting a lot of trust in another individual. A bad sponsor can be detrimental to recovery. It is suggested that the things to look for in a sponsor should include:
* It needs to be an individual who has a strong recovery. The advice in AA is to stick with the winners.
* It should be somebody with experience of working the steps
* It is considered best if the sponsor is not of the opposite sex for heterosexuals; homosexuals may find that a sponsor of the opposite sex is preferable. This is to ensure that sexual feelings don’t interfere with the important relationship between the sponsor and the sponsee.
* The sponsor should be a trustworthy individual who is not going to break any confidences
* It is usually preferable that the sponsor has more years of sobriety under their belt than the sponsee
There are dangers associated with twelve step sponsorship. This type of relationship can prove disastrous if the wrong people are involved. Twelve step sponsorship dangers include:
* If the sponsor has a relapse it may encourage the sponsee to do the same. Even those individuals who have been drug free for decades can still relapse.
* It can be difficult for newcomers to judge the strength of recovery of other people. This may mean that they choose a sponsor who is inappropriate. Relying on somebody with a weak recovery can put the sponsee at risk.
* 13 Stepping is where a more experienced member takes sexual advantage of those who are new and vulnerable. The relationship between a sponsor and sponsee can be intense. It is possible for the sponsor to take advantage of this to satisfy their own sexual desire.
* There is a risk involved in sharing a moral inventory with a sponsor. They can use this information to manipulate the sponsee. There is also the chance that they might share this information with other people. If the sponsor later relapses, it can leave the sponsee feeling vulnerable to know this individual has so much personal information about them.
* Some sponsors abuse their role in order to stroke their own ego. Their real motive will be to benefit themselves and not the sponsee. This will make them very ineffective, but those who are no to recovery might not be able to see through their façade.
* Sponsors can give bad advice which the sponsee may feel obligated to accept. This is particularly dangerous when it comes to medical advice. An individual who is finding recovery difficult because of another mental health issue might be convinced that the problem is that they are not working the program hard enough. This will mean that they fail to tackle the real issue and recovery will remain unsatisfactory. It is important to not accept medical advice from a sponsor unless they are qualified to give it.