When we are newly sober and just beginning the journey of recovery, immediate and regular attendance at 12-Step meetings is a crucial part of that beginning. We quickly learn that we are going to need someone to act as a guide and mentor in our recovery, someone whose primary purpose is to help us successfully work through the 12 Steps to their completion. For many of us, this sponsor-sponsee relationship is among the most important and meaningful human connections we have ever experienced.
What a Sponsor is
Although a sponsor can be a great many things to a sponsee, the most important of these is to be a guide for helping the sponsee understand and work the 12 Steps. Your sponsor is someone who has successfully worked the 12 Steps and is continuously applying the 12 Steps in his/her life. The word “sponsor” cannot be found in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, but AA’s 12th Step directly asks everyone who has recovered to “carry this message to other(s),” to, in essence, become a sponsor.
Outside of treatment center communities, newly sober people often choose their sponsors by directly asking for their help at 12 Step meetings. At Burning Tree West, the staff will assist in this sometimes awkward process by selecting a qualified sponsor for you.
In addition to working the 12 Steps, your sponsor can act as a crucial recovery resource. Each 12 Step program—be it AA, NA, CA, or any other variation—consists of a fellowship, or group of likeminded individuals, who work together to support a common purpose: to help the still-suffering person begin to recover. Your sponsor can answer questions about this fellowship and guide you in 12 Step meeting etiquette, or things you should and should not do at meetings.
What a Sponsor is not
When we are newly sober, our lives are often peppered with a vast array of problems. We may be completely broke and feel as if we desperately need money. We may have strained or even destroyed many of our most meaningful relationships. We might have broken laws and may now be experiencing legal difficulties. Many of these seemingly insurmountable problems will be lessened and, in some cases, become completely resolved, as we work through the 12 Steps of recovery under the guidance of our sponsors.
What our sponsors cannot do is solve these problems for us, for if they did they would rob us of the vital experience of using the 12 Steps to repair and improve our lives. We should never ask our sponsors to loan us money or to fix for us any sort of problem we have caused while active in our disease of addiction.
Characteristics of a Successful Sponsor
What qualifies a sponsor to be a successful 12-Step guide has little or nothing to do with how success is defined in the outside world, but instead is based upon some very simple qualities. A successful sponsor:
- has worked each of the 12 Steps
- is actively doing 12 Step work in his/her life
- is being sponsored by someone who also has a sponsor
- is regularly attending 12 Step meetings
Although a successful sponsor may possess many other appealing qualities, these four carry the greatest weight in 12-Step recovery.
Characteristics of a Successful Sponsee
While sponsors have the responsibility of helping their sponsees work the 12 Steps, this relationship is not a one-way street. As sponsees, we bear the responsibility of doing the 12 Step work that our sponsors suggest. We must be committed to our own recovery and must express that commitment by making our strongest effort at completing our 12 Step work fully and on time—that is, when we and our sponsors have agreed it will be finished.
When we first got sober, one of the things many of us had learn to do was become accountable for ourselves. In active addiction, all of our goals centered around the getting and using of our drug(s) of choice and as a result we were only accountable to our disease of addiction. As newly recovered people, we must become accountable to our sobriety and the crucial 12 Step work at its center. We do this by taking our sponsors’ suggestions very seriously.
The Road Ahead
Although recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction is not easy, it is not only possible but highly likely—if we keep an open mind and embrace the suggestions of our sponsors and recovery staff. The rewards for doing so are immense. As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us: “If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through.” If you haven’t begun to walk the road to recovery, the time to do so is now. Call Burning Tree West at 888-530-942 to begin your journey today. Join other like-minded students who are committed to their recovery and “walk the road of happy destiny” with them.