If you’re in recovery, you’ve probably encountered the word “sponsor.” While it may sound like a formal term, the concept is a simple one. Explains the Recovery Research Institute, “A sponsor is a fellow 12-step mutual-help member with lived recovery experience that is intended to guide a newer member (i.e., with less recovery time) through the 12-step program, and in some cases, provide advice and support when needed.”
According to research, this relationship can be vital to recovery. Having a sponsor is linked with better attendance and involvement in meetings, as well as improved abstinence over time.
This begs the question: how do you choose a sponsor who can best support you on your journey to recovery? Here’s a closer look at six tips for choosing an AA or NA sponsor.
1. Reach out.
Sponsors aren’t one-size-fits-all. What works for one individual won’t necessarily work for another. Attending meetings can help you hone in like-minded people. While you’re there, make sure to let others know that you’re looking for a sponsor. If you find someone who seems like a good fit, feel free to ask. Furthermore, the meeting leader may be able to offer additional insights into identifying available and appropriate candidates.
2. Don’t underestimate experience.
Sponsorship is not merely about providing support. It’s also about understanding, which can be used to provide uniquely applicable support. For this reason, it’s crucial to enlist a sponsor who has successfully been through the program and has a minimum of a year of sobriety (and preferably more) to show for it. Not only that, but enlisting a sponsor who has a sponsor themselves demonstrates that they understand what is involved in the role.
3. Minimize the chance of distractions.
Just as avoiding starting a relationship during the first year of sobriety is recommended, so is avoiding choosing a sponsor where there may be a romantic interest. For example, heterosexual addicts can reduce the chance of complications by choosing same-sex sponsors. For the same reasons, gay and lesbian addicts may wish to choose sponsors of the opposite gender. In both cases, avoiding the potential of a romantic entanglement allows you to focus on your recovery without distractions.
4. Prioritize availability.
Frequent, regular, one-on-one contact is a component of the most successful sponsor relationships. Furthermore, triggers can happen anytime. While 24/7 availability may not be possible, the best sponsors don’t have commitments and/or obligations which impede their ability to attend meetings, talk on the phone, and work the steps with you.
For this reason, choosing someone who is sponsoring several other people may be a bad idea as it’s likely to mean they’ll have less time for you. Plus, the more time you spend with your sponsor, the better he/she will know you and be able to spot potential warning signs of an impending relapse. Lastly, make sure you’re on the same page regarding the commitment by discussing both of your expectations in advance.
5. Look for someone with a positive outlook.
A growing body of evidence points to the remarkable power of positivity, including everything from better psychological wellbeing to greater resistance to the common cold. It’s also contagious. Says Psychology Today, “Simply put, when you hang out with happy people, you tend to feel happier, have more energy, and feel less stress.” These attributes are hugely beneficial in recovery. Seeking out a sponsor with a positive outlook can help you be more positive and therefore enjoy an easier path to recovery.
6. Be open to differences.
While a natural pick might seem to be someone with whom you have a lot in common, this may not be a good thing when it comes to addiction recovery. Why? Because your focus should remain on your sobriety goals. Additionally, a sponsor with a different background and experiences may be better positioned to challenge your assumptions in order to provide the most helpful and honest feedback. On a similar note, the best sponsors don’t tell you what you want to hear; they tell you what you need to hear.
One last thing to keep in mind? While ideally, you’ll have a long and productive relationship with your sponsor, sometimes a change of sponsor becomes necessary. If you do need to change sponsors, ending the relationship on good terms and in-person is recommended whenever possible.
The right sponsor can be an integral part of your recovery. Also essential? Finding the right substance abuse treatment program. Enter the leading St. Louis treatment program Harris House. Call us today to learn about admissions.