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Choosing a Sponsor

Guest Author - Lara F.

Many people say that in fact, you can't choose your sponsor, your sponsor can't choose you and that it's a certain amount of circumstances that brings you both together at the right place at the right time. I personally still have a hard time resolving my thoughts on fate, coincidence and what is commonly termed in the program as 'God shots'. So I will continue to say that I chose my sponsor, after all I'm the one that mustered up enough courage to call a complete stranger and ask her in effect, to 'date me'.

So how do you choose a sponsor? What is a sponsor? And what happens if your sponsor doesn't work out? What is a sponsor? Sponsorship did not exist in the early days of Alcoholics Anonymous. Sponsorship nowadays has become a strong part to ones recovery. Typically a sponsor is an individual of the same sex who has more sobriety than a sponsee and has completed the 12 steps of the recovery program. A sponsor will guide their sponsee through the steps sharing their experience, strength and hope along the way. No one sponsor guides their sponsees in the same way, there are no set rules, however, they always model their suggestions to the program outlined in the big book of alcoholics anonymous.

I mentioned same sex for the simple fact that many of us would not be able to stay clean and sober without our special relationships with our sponsors, with this relationship grows a strong and intimate bond. Many people feel this is best to happen with members of your own sex to avoid any possible boundaries being crossed during the relationship.So how do you choose a sponsor. Choosing a sponsor can be a daunting task, especially in new sobriety. Already we are feeling anxious and vulnerable and it's difficult for us to reach out to new people, especially ones that are not familiar to us.

Be sure to listen intently to the other members when they are sharing or speaking. The best way to choose a sponsor is to pick someone who you have something in common with regarding their experiences. Reach out and ask members of the fellowship for their phone numbers or start attending the 'meeting after the meeting' which is usually social get-together at a restaurant or coffee house. When you find someone who you think may be a good candidate for sponsorship don't hesitate to ask! Most members are anxious to help newcomers- remember - you are as important to their recovery as they are to yours.

Find someone in the rooms that has what you want. This does not have to be something monetary - look deeper for their inner peace and their comfortable in their own skin. This is what is lasting in recovery - not a big house in the suburbs. Don't agonize over your decision, when choosing your sponsor you are not committing to a life long relationship. Many members of 12 step organizations have had multiple sponsors during their sobriety. Some remain with the same sponsor for the duration. It is all up to you and how you feel your needs change over the years. Your sponsor does not have to be your best friend. I made this mistake in recovery and spent a good deal of time having hurt feelings when I did not receive the level of friendship I thought I should. Sponsors are mentors and are there to help you through the 12 steps and share their experiences on different issues that come forward.

Some meetings will have phone lists with a section marked if they are accepting sponsees or some may have an announcement at the end of the meeting for potential sponsors to remain after to meet newcomers or members looking for a new sponsor. Your 12 step program may also offer sponsor workshops on a regular basis. Be sure to ask your secretary at the end of a meeting for any information on this.

What happens if your sponsor doesn't work out?
In discussing this with other people in the program I have happily found out that this does not have to be a messy process. You are not 'breaking up' with your sponsor. Sponsors want for you what you need to stay sober. If that's not them then they would prefer just as much as you that you found another sponsor. During this process don't leave your sponsor before getting a new one. Just like you wouldn't quit an old job before getting a new one (right)? In essence don't be without a sponsor just because your first one did not work out and you haven't taken the time to find a new one.

What is a temporary sponsor?
Some people use this term to mean they will be your sponsor on a temporary basis until you find someone more permanent. Others shy away from this all together. I've heard it being said this way, 'If you have a temporary sponsor, you will only be temporarily sober.' 12 step programs love little phrases like that but ultimately the decision is yours and one that will benefit you greatly in your recovery.


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