5 Additional Things to Consider When Looking for a Sponsor

A few weeks ago I talked about five things to consider when looking for a sponsor.

What’d you think?

How do these concepts apply to your quest for a sponsor?

For me, there are three initial questions I would ask a potential sponsee when he’s looking for a sponsor:

1. Have you been in meetings long enough to connect with other members in the group?

If you’re brand new to the SAL meetings, be patient. Finding a sponsor is not necessarily a check-list item you do and then move on.

If you’ve been in meetings for a while, you do need to get a sponsor. But rushing into it may not be a helpful thing either. Get to know the other members in the group. Then, ask someone you feel you connect with. Even it’s only a temporary sponsor, that’s a good start too.

2. Do you have the list of names and numbers of members in the group?

This is one of the best ways to get to know other members in the group. If you bolt out of meetings right when they finish, you probably won’t make connections. Staying after the meeting for the “meeting after the meeting” can be a good option to begin talking with others and getting names and numbers too.

3. Are you reaching out to members of the group during the week to see how you connect with them?

Making calls. Receiving calls. This is how you make real connections which can lead to finding a good sponsor.

If you never reach out to anyone except for at the meetings, it may take you quite a bit longer to find a sponsor.

The only way to really connect with others is by getting out of my comfort zone and making calls.

If you’re not reaching out to others to get to know them, this is a big first step.

Those are a few initial questions to consider as you look for a sponsor.

Now to the remaining five things to consider when looking for a sponsor.

finding-a-sponsor

6. A sponsor should have a sponsor themself and should attend meetings regularly.*

Have you ever heard the cliche: “Practice what you preach.”

This is applicable to finding a sponsor. An addict has never “arrived” at a point where they don’t need to be humble and reach out to their sponsor for guidance and support.

I’ve realized that making calls, no matter where I’m at in sobriety, is crucial to developing the humility that I’ve lacked for most, if not all, of my addict life. Making calls is vulnerable and requires me to get out of my comfort zone.

7. The main objective of a sponsor is not to be a “friend” but to help you work the 12 Steps of recovery consistently.

This can be difficult. We want to make connections in meetings and eventually friendships with those we are sharing vulnerabilities with. However, I’ve seen firsthand what happens when two friends attempt to work as a sponsor/sponsee – not much.

The sponsor is afraid to say anything that might hurt the friendship.

The sponsee may try to please the sponsor by saying what he thinks the sponsor wants to hear.

It’s not healthy.

I tell sponsees right up front, “I’m your sponsor first, your friend second.”

This means I may tell you things you might not like to hear.

8. Distance doesn’t have to be a barrier in regard to sponsorship – there are many ways one can communicate with a sponsor (phone, email, Skype, etc.)*

Reminds me of the song in Napoleon Dynamite, “I love technology…always and forever, always and forever.”

If you’re part of online meetings where you may be meeting with people from all over the world, get their contact information and reach out to them.

Like we talked about earlier, this may not be “comfortable” or easy, but if you want to make the real changes you’re going to need to make, remember that “pain is the pathway to progress.”

9. A sponsor doesn’t do the work of your recovery and doesn’t provide magical answers to your problems.*

Magical answers are something that we addicts are generally looking for, especially at first.

In fact, in Step 6 of the Step Into Action: Four, Five, Six, Seven it says:

We needed a different attitude from the old pleading that some of us did with God: ‘Help me stop acting out!’ ‘Save me from my jealousy!’ ‘Don’t let me rage again!’ In those prayers our self-will was looking for a magical answer. We were looking for rescue, not recovery. We wanted instant relief rather than a change of mind and heart.” (p. 46, bold added for emphasis)

Sponsors aren’t your mom who calls to wake you up in the morning.

Sponsors aren’t going to micro-manage you.

As a sponsor, I rarely if ever reach out to a sponsee to see how they’re doing. It’s their responsibility to contact me, to get outside of themselves.

It works when YOU work it!

10. A sponsor shares his experience, strength and hope and points you back to the tools of recovery found in the 12 Steps.*

This is one of the best things I’ve learned from my own sponsor.

For quite some time, I would call my sponsor to ask him what I could tell sponsees who I felt were off, struggling or just not “getting it.”

He listened to my fears and frustrations, empathized, and then shared what he had learned from his own experience.

The best thing, in my opinion, that a sponsor can do for himself and for his sponsee(s) is to listen to the struggles, think about a time he felt the same way or was in a similar situation, and then share what he did (or didn’t do) to get through the pain.

Not only has this helped me really practice listening and being curious (also known as empathy), but it’s also helped me remember where I’ve been and see that my sponsees are where they are – that it’s about PROGRESS, not PERFECTION.

In the White Book it states clearly:

“When we want to communicate to another member, we speak in terms of “I,” not “we” or “you.” We don’t tell them what’s wrong with them or give advice; we relate what happened to us. When we thus identify with another, it may not only help that person, but often reveals something about ourselves we’ve missed before. We don’t tell; we share.” (p. 186, The White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous)

Conclusion

What’s working for you?

Are there things you’d like to mention about finding a sponsor that have helped?

Finding a sponsor is essential as you work the steps. But I warn you to not make it a check-list item that you just do to appease a wife, a therapist, or others in the group.

I look forward to your comments!

9 thoughts on “5 Additional Things to Consider When Looking for a Sponsor”

  1. I wasn’t in SAL very long before I got a sponsor but I did take my time in choosing one. I talked to him a couple times after meetings (not about sponsorship, just life) and I asked around to see if I could learn more about him. I was able to get a good idea if it would be a good fit for me. For me having a sponsor who works the steps who also has a sponsor has helped me beyond words can describe. As I have become a sponsor I have turned to him for guidance many times and I’ve learned to share my experiences just as he has with me. I’m grateful to have someone to turn to for guidance and friendship.

  2. Something that is important for me is the length of sobriety of my sponsor. An individual with a comfortable length of sobriety gives me confidence. I feel like he has something to teach me. Or better, I have something to learn. I can learn by working the steps and listening to such an individual share his own experiences.

    1. Thanks for the comment Daniel. I agree that I need to feel confidence that my sponsor is working his own recovery and sharing from his own experience. After all, “it works when I work it.”

      I also have to be aware of my ego and my addictive tendency to compare or put myself up on an invisible pedestal. This is one of the character defects that I feel comes out in me more often than I’d like.

      Talk soon my friend.

  3. I have not participated in SAL, only in the LDS ARP PASG meetings. I have also participated in ARP Support (a.k.a., the 90-day program which now also includes a 12-week preparatory program). However, I believe the principles are the same.
    I attended a PASG group for three months the first time I attended. My Bishop had told me he wanted me to attend for at least 3 months. I put in my time and worked the manual by myself. Since this is about sponsorship, I will skip where I fell short here, but just mention that I did not get a sponsor.
    A year later I was back to attending meetings because I wasn’t “fixed”. I attended for a full year without even thinking about getting a sponsor. The meetings helped me stay sober but not get into recovery (i.e., I could tell I still had the fundamental underlying issues). After that year, often talking with others after the meeting, I was ready to listen when somebody suggested I get a sponsor through participating in the 90-day program.
    I was assigned a sponsor in the program and it worked very well for me. He kept me accountable for working the steps and I could reach out and ask for guidance. I must say, there were times I thought some of his ideas were downright false, but I also knew he could help me through the program. I felt that God had told me to participate so I was going to accept this person as a sponsor. Once I finished the 12 steps and “graduated” to sponsoring, I stopped reaching out to this sponsor because I didn’t respect some of his ideas. Instead, I reached out to his sponsor, the developer of the ARP support program. I have used him as my sponsor since then. I also reach out to a peer who is currently a sponsor to others.
    I have been sponsoring for over two and a half years. In that time, I have learned that I succeed as a sponsor when I share my experiences, point to the 12 principles, and hold my sponsees accountable. It is not uncommon for a sponsee, at one time or another, to get a little upset with me. I hold them accountable and they struggle with that. But those that are ready to recover find a way to accept whatever it was that upset them. I must say there have been at least two where our relationship ended as sponsor and sponsee who later returned several months later and either thanked me for holding them accountable and terminating the relationship or admitting that they were out of line to terminate the relationship and thanked me.
    My main thought related to sponsors is that they are most useful when they are honest, they share personal experiences, and they hold sponsees accountable. However, the sponsor – sponsee relationship works for fails by the commitment and willingness of the Sponsee to trust that the sponsor knows better than they what needs to be done.

    1. Thanks Kevin. I too have worked in LDS ARP and ARP Support.

      I would say one of the biggest differences in SAL is that we focus on the White Book, Big Book, Step Into Action books, and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as our primary areas of study.

      What I’ve learned most from these books is that my addiction to pornography and everything that comes with that starts with a lust addiction (and even deeper than that – with the inability to deal with negative emotions in a positive and healthy way).

      In the book “Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship,” it explains this as the A => B and B => C relationship:

      A = Negative Emotions
      B = Lust
      C = Acting Out

      I started going to meetings in 2008 and my focus was on one thing: STOP acting out. Period. As you can see by this equation, I was only looking at C.

      Granted, I talked about the B, I admitted that I was “addicted to pornography, masturbation and lust” – a phrase many of us said in our introduction, but I never really thought about what that meant or did much of anything to stop “lusting like a gentlemen.”

      ARP Support really helped me get the ball rolling, work all the Steps with the help of a sponsor, and get into a new normal way of living.

      SAL meetings have helped me make working the Steps of recovery a way of life that I practice one day at a time with my sponsor and other fellows in the groups. I’m learning that working the Steps in not a task that I check off my list as done, but many, if not all, of the steps are “living Steps,” they are worked over and over again throughout my life.

      What I’m also learning is that, for me, it’s not my job to work the steps for my sponsee or be a micro-manager of his recovery. If I get into critiquing his writing or telling him what to do or that “he’s not doing it right,” this has been a red-flag for me. Ultimately, my sponsee’s step work is between he and God; if and hopefully when he has questions or concerns or needs guidance, I’m there to share my experience, strength and hope.

      Look forward to ongoing conversation about recovery with you.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  4. I have to be completely honest on this one. I feel the need to have a sponsor but am afraid of putting complete trust in someone else. For so long l have been traveling this road alone. I finally let in my wife and bishop a few years ago, but I’m not sure if i want to enlarge that circle. Maybe I have vulnerability issues. Joining the SA group was a big step for me. I did ask someone to be my sponsor but have not made a real effort at connecting with him. Like you mentioned, reaching out to more members of the group during the week might help break down the barrier I still keep up. Thanks for inviting to this discussion. It helps me to see myself more clearly and my need to work with a sponsor.

    1. Thanks for your comment and honesty Brad. I think I understand how you feel. Putting my trust in anyone, especially another addict, can be really scary, vulnerable, and sometimes, not helpful at all.

      However, in my experience, if I’m working my own recovery and am doing my best to be humble, honest, and accountable, I feel a sponsor is a crucial component.

      As it says in the Big Book, there’s a theory that “only an alcoholic could help an alcoholic.” (p. VI)

      What I’m learning is that my ultimate goal is to rely on God, the Higher Power of my understanding.

      However, many times by reaching out to my sponsor and others in the group, this is a way to show myself and God that I’m willing to humble myself and be accountable to someone else that truly knows what I’m going through.

      Yes, my wife wants to help me, but she’s not an addict and some things, if shared, may damage the relationship even more.

      Yes, I’m sure all of my ecclesiastical leaders have wanted to help me too, but most of them have not dealt with addiction either; in fact, some of their direction or advice may be way off (ie. don’t tell your wife, don’t tell anyone about this, just keep it between you and me). All coming from my own experience so I don’t know how it is exactly with others.

      Ultimately, for me, I realize that I don’t have it all figured out and that I need the experience and direction of others. By reaching out, I’m trying to surrender my will and my ego and trust in the process.

      Keep up the good work and remember, it’s all about “progress, not perfection.”

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