In this post, we discuss a number of tips you should bear in mind when choosing a 12-step sponsor. The very act of asking a stranger to act as your ‘mentor’ may seem strange to many. However, at Rehab Recovery we truly believe in the power of 12-step sponsors. It’s a proven formula that works, and literally, hundreds of thousands of people succeed in their recovery each year thanks to their mentors.
Many of our clients say that having a sponsor increased their motivation to stay in recovery. The truth is, in early recovery, many people will miss alcohol and drugs. This is because they have not yet fully filled the void created by abstinence. Having a sponsor is one easy way to help fill this void.
The troubles of early recovery
Many people addicted to alcohol and drugs will struggle to cope when they first start living their life in recovery. Many report feeling ‘over their head’. This is because living in recovery takes skill and experience. This is likely a skill that you lack if you have been addicted to drugs or alcohol for the last five years. In these circumstances, it is highly desirable to gain the support from an individual or group of individuals who have been where you currently are but have ultimately succeeded.
Warming to the idea of having a sponsor
When you begin to attend outpatient therapy sessions or 12-step based support groups, you will, sooner or later, come across the term ‘sponsor’. This may seem like an alien concept to you. After all, what value could this sponsor possibly derive from helping somebody like yourself? And it’s equally true that you will be intimidated by this concept.
However, as you begin to attend more and more meetings, the idea of having a sponsor will make more and more sense. Eventually, you will probably have several offers from potential sponsors. However, it’s essential that you choose the best-suited sponsor. If you do not ‘click’ with this person, it’s unlikely the relationship will be entirely fruitful. Why? Because if you don’t ‘click’ with your sponsor, you will not feel comfortable sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings with this person.
The importance of finding a good sponsor
It’s thus essential that you choose a sponsor who you connect with on an emotional level. One tip is to ask potential sponsors to tell you their recovery journey. If you can find similarities in their journey and your own, you may be onto a winner. It’s essential that you can see somebody similar to yourself has succeeded in recovery. If the person is entirely dissimilar, it’s unlikely this person will stir enough motivation up within you for you to succeed.
When you have located a person with a similar backstory and interests, it’s essential that you communicate these similarities to them. This ensures they realise your true motivation for considering them to be your future mentor. Arrange to meet this person for a coffee. This allows you time to get to know one another and ensure a connection is indeed established or not.
Why it’s similar to dating
Some people feel that locating a sponsor is akin to dating. If your relationship with a sponsor doesn’t work out, don’t scorn yourself. Treat the experience as a learning experiment and move onto somebody else. You may need to court several potential sponsors before you finally settle down with one. And remember, having a sponsor is not like being married. There is no rule prohibiting you from having several sponsors at once.
Five tips to locating the perfect sponsor
We now list five tips for finding your perfect sponsor. These tips are merely guidelines and not rules. You may locate the perfect sponsor even though the below tips do not ring true. However, whilst locating the perfect sponsor is not foolproof, following the below advice will significantly increase the odds of you landing a suitable sponsor.
Without further delay, we now list five tips for finding the perfect sponsor:
1. Describe your perfect sponsor
In a notepad, write down the qualities that would describe your perfect sponsor. Experience has taught us that your perfect sponsor is generally the same sex as yourself. Also, we recommend you select somebody who has been in recovery for at least twelve months, if not longer. This means this person is fairly established in his or her recovery. This is also an indication that this person is ‘working a programme’ that’s effective.
If you chose a sponsor that’s not the same sex as yourself, we recommend that you chose somebody who you are not romantically attracted to. This avoids the potential for romantic involvement that could potentially derail both of your recoveries.
We also urge you to consider the personality traits of your ideal mentor. You may wish to be sponsored by somebody who is blunt and to the point. Or perhaps you would rather your mentor is more gentle and indirect. Consider this early to avoid the situation where you chose a poorly suited sponsor.
2. Court before you commit
Before you ask somebody to be your sponsor, we recommend that you first begin by getting to know this person. This dramatically reduces the risk of you choosing a poorly suited sponsor. You could suggest going out for a coffee with potential sponsors before you both formally commit to the relationship.
When you meet with potential sponsors outside of the support group, the environment is less formal and more relaxed. This gives you the opportunity to get to know a potential sponsor whilst he or she is more relaxed and comfortable. This means you avoid the scenario where you are asking a complete stranger to be your sponsor.
We recommend you meet up with a potential sponsor at least twice before you ask this person to officially become your sponsor. This lays a solid foundation for you to build a future relationship. It also gives you both the opportunity to ‘bail’ if there is no obvious connection between the two of you.
3. Ask potential sponsors relevant questions about their own experiences in recovery
This tip means you must be willing to ‘qualify’ potential sponsors, and then filter out those who you do not share any commonalities with. This means you must be willing to question potential sponsors on their own life experiences, particularly as they pertain to their recovery. If a potential sponsor is reluctant to answer these questions, you know this person is likely a poor match.
It’s also essential that your sponsor shares the same or similar interests with you. This is because to remain in recovery, you will need to balance your abstinence with activities, hobbies and tasks. If you enjoy knitting, then there is no point choosing a sponsor who prefers to go skydiving.
4. Find out what’s expected from you
Getting a sponsor shouldn’t be a one-way relationship where the sponsor does all the work and you receive all the benefits. It’s thus essential that you find out what your sponsor expects in return for becoming your sponsor. Typically, all your sponsor will require is that you turn up to meetings and contribute to the group as pre-agreed. Obviously, your sponsor will also require you to take your recovery seriously.
Some sponsors may expect you to contact them every day. This is probably because the sponsor knows this formula works. Other sponsors may require that you contact them only if needed. It’s important that you do not violate each other’s expectations, so work out what your sponsor expects from you early on in the relationship. This will ensure the relationship does not turn sour.
5. Determine your relationship goals
This last tip is about letting your sponsor what you expect from the relationship. Letting your sponsor know your goals early on establishes a strong foundation upon which to build your sponsorship. Generally, your goals should cover the amount of weekly interaction you expect to see from your sponsor, particularly as it pertains to ‘checking-in’ and how often you expect to meet your sponsor in person.
Rehab Recovery assist people who seek alcohol rehab treatment. For more information, contact us today on 0800 088 66 86.
Keith stopped using drugs and drinking alcohol more than 10 years ago. He now spends a lot of time writing and editing content for this website. His mission is to assist people who are also looking to embrace addiction recovery. Keith believes a key way to accomplish this goal is through his writing.