There are recovery programs that rely on certain relationships to help people recover. One of those is the 12 step program known as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA does not require members to have a sponsor to attend meetings or be a part of the fellowship. Sponsorship in AA works by providing those seeking to recover from alcohol addiction someone they can identify with. Many addicts and alcoholics feel isolated and as if they are the only one that feels the way they do. AA sponsors provide people who have been where those who recover desire to go and offers them a way out through experience. So let’s look at how AA sponsors help you as you progress through your recovery.
Sponsorship from the Start
From its very beginnings, AA as an organization recognized the value of a sponsor, although the word itself was not used right away. The idea that people grow best with a mentor is a time-tested idea. Founder Bill W. knew that he needed another alcoholic to talk to when the urge to drink became too strong for him. He reached out to Dr. Bob for support, knowing he was also trying to stop drinking, and together they formed what would be known as Alcoholics Anonymous.
Each of the two founders realized they could safeguard their own sobriety by relying on each other for support. They also realized that by sharing with others, by sponsoring other participants, that their own lives were enriched. They met each other as equals and that tradition continues today with AA sponsorship.
The Process of Sponsorship
Typically, a sponsor is someone who has completed the 12-steps of recovery and has received the spiritual awakening that is promised as the result of working all 12 steps. Thus, they begin to work step 12 which is being willing to share their experiences with another individual who is trying to maintain their sobriety, as they recover from an addiction to alcohol, through AA. The process of sponsorship is very informal and can lead to quality, long-term relationships.
The group is always very supportive, of course, and individuals in the group meetings are willing to answer questions. However, there may be questions that arise in between meetings or the individual may find that they need direct support from another individual as they learn how to live a sober life. The person who is relatively new will generally reach out to someone who has been around for a while, usually longer than a year, to ask them to be their sponsor.
Benefits for the Sponsor
Although most people think of sponsorship as helping the one being sponsored, it can also serve to strengthen the experienced member’s sobriety. By sharing and being supportive of another, the member who has been in recovery longer may actually find it easier to live without alcohol. Helping others is a great way to help themselves. It can also give them the satisfaction of knowing that they have some responsibility for another person as they help that person through challenging and difficult times.
What a Sponsor Does Not Do
It is first important to understand what a sponsor does not do before we can look at what they do for new AA participants. A sponsor only engages in the participants life up to the point he is asked. He/she is not responsible for what they are not invited to help with. They do not impose their personal views on the person they are sponsoring. Sponsors should not pretend to know all the answers or act as if they are right all the time. Humility is a huge part of recovery. Also, the sponsor does not provide professional services but can act as a guide and a support in helping another individual find the professional assistance they need if requested to do so.
What AA Sponsors Do
The overall goal of a sponsor is to be an accountability partner for the addict and to do everything reasonable and possible to help the individual they are sponsoring get and stay sober. A good sponsor will do many of the following:
- Provide encouragement to the person attending meetings and introduce them to others at the meeting.
- Make sure they’re aware of all that AA has to offer in terms of support and materials.
- Emphasize the value of anonymity, in person and in public, including on social media.
- Provide a practical example of what it means to have AA in their life.
- Explain the AA program to the individual’s family members, when necessary and appropriate.
- Show what living a sober life looks like.
- Always be available when the individual experiences challenges or problems in their recovery.
San Diego Sober Living has the resources you need for sobriety
When you are addicted to alcohol and need help finding resources for treatment and recovery options, we can help. At San Diego Sober Living, we provide the resources you need to overcome your addiction and move forward with a successful recovery. We can help because we have been there.