Nobody can effectively work the program alone. “To recover, I had to begin coming out of isolation and connect with people.” (The White Book, p 163)
A sponsor is an individual who has been practicing recovery long enough to have strength, hope, and experience to help newcomers. A sponsor facilitates the recovery of a sponsee by assisting them one-on-one as they learn to surrender, set boundaries, and work the steps.
The primary function of the sponsor is to point the sponsee back to their Higher Power.
"As we get into the Steps, we find it indispensable to rely for help on those who have gone this way before." (Sexaholics Anonymous, p. 72)
Take some time and turn to your Higher Power for this. Talk to people and notice how you feel when talking to them. Ask someone you feel comfortable with (many SAL groups have an “available sponsor” list). Perhaps it’s someone whose shares resonate with you or someone you admire. Be aware that there will never be ‘a perfect sponsor’ and it’s not uncommon for people to switch sponsors while working the program. For SAL women, there is a master sponsor list that can help people find an available sponsor. Email [email protected] for access to this list.
You may want to establish a trial period for the sponsorship relationship. After this time, both parties can decide if they are compatible and want to move forward. You may find it helpful to communicate regularly and frequently at the beginning of your sponsorship relationship. Many people use a "30 for 30" practice, where a sponsee will call their sponsor daily for 30 days. This can be helpful to build trust and break the fear of reaching out. Establish clear expectations on when is the best time to make regular contact. Establish clear guidelines for working the steps. Decide how and when step work will be reviewed. Establish clear guidelines for your longer-term relationship, check-ins, and surrender phone calls.
Most sponsors encourage their sponsees to call and surrender in times of distress. Many people have also found that a weekly check-in can help bring accountability and progress to step work. A sponsor does not check up on the sponsee. It is up to the sponsee to find a sponsor, reach out to the sponsor, and take accountability for his or her own recovery. This is an important shift in mentality as one begins recovery. The sponsor can provide valuable guidance and empathy to the sponsee who is coming out of the darkness of isolation. The sponsor can also provide accountability and suggestions to guide the sponsee as they work the steps. The sponsor does not give advice, but offers insight from their own strength, hope, and experience. Ultimately, the sponsorship relationship becomes a gift to both the sponsor and the sponsee as they share their journey of recovery.
An SAL sponsor will have boundaries about his or her communication with sponsees. He or she likely won’t answer if they can’t talk. Learning to be vulnerable and reach out is part of the program and will be helpful to your healing. It takes courage to take this step each time, but a sponsor is a safe person. Try to remember that the call you make is not about your sponsor, it’s about working the program in your own life.
When you are dealing with triggers or temptations, a call to your sponsor can help you avoid acting out. When you have lost your serenity. When you need help knowing how to work the SAL 12 step program. When you need to make a surrender. When you are in a crisis situation with your emotions and need help seeing things from a recovery perspective. When you are triggered and need help knowing how to move through the emotions associated with the trigger. When you have questions about your recovery.
Be honest and vulnerable with your sponsor and trust will develop quickly. You will see trust grow as your Higher Power guides your through your sponsor. Try what the sponsor suggests but be aware that your recovery will look different than your sponsors.
This will vary and depend on the sponsor. The sponsor will let you know how best to communicate with him or her. If you feel you would like more contact with your sponsor, communicate and find a solution that works for both of you. Surrenders should ideally be made in the moment of distress, and can be left on an answering machine.
It is suggested that you have a network of support people who are also working recovery. A sponsor will not always be available when you need to talk to someone.
A sponsor will point you to working the steps and help you be aware of the problem of using him or her as a crutch for emotional help without working the steps. The sponsor will help you be accountable for your own recovery goals. He or she will tell you how they work the steps and you can use their input for your own work. A weekly check-in can be a useful time to review progress on step work. Surrender calls should be made in the moment of distress, rather than postponed until the weekly check-in.
Sponsors need to have their own boundaries surrounding sponsorship. Discuss boundaries with your own sponsor for ideas. Problems may stem from a simple boundary issue, but it may also be that the sponsoring relationship has become unhealthy and a change in sponsor is needed.