Special thanks to one of the fellows in our Texas in-person meeting for sharing his thoughts on Sponsorship. If you’d like to contribute to the men’s discussion with your strength, hope, and experience, email us today.
“I want to give away what I’ve got. I have to give away what I’ve got.”
“It’s the truth about myself-the imperfect truth–that attracts others; not all the preaching in the world.”
From the White Book
Why Be A Sponsor?
The best way for me to answer that question is to answer the question,
“Why Am I a Sponsor?”
Being a Sponsor is critical to and one more step in my recovery.
When my sponsor first suggested I consider being a sponsor I thought he was nuts.
How can I be a sponsor?
I was new to recovery and sobriety. I did not have a year sobriety. I had acted out for over 40 years.
During that time period I had made 3 months sobriety once until I joined SAL, got a sponsor and worked the program, steps and my recovery.
How could I be a sponsor? Clearly I was not good enough.
After a few conversations I agreed with my sponsor and I raised my hand in a meeting that I was available to sponsor. This has been helpful and critical for my sobriety and my recovery.
I hope I help my sponsees, but I know they help me.
Being a sponsor helps me with my recovery and has helped me with humility. I have had two sponsees go to other sponsors. They did not feel like I was helping them the way they needed.
Though this is humbling it is very important to remember as a sponsor, my recovery is mine and my sponsees recovery is theirs.
I say all the time: “Your recovery is yours, not mine.”
3 Common Objections to Being a Sponsor
Here are three objections I hear from men on being a sponsor.
- I do not have enough sobriety to be a sponsor.
- I have not gone through the 12 steps.
- I’m too busy.
From the White book, page 74.
“There are few absolute requirements a prospective sponsor should have, but a period of comfortable sexual sobriety, including progressive victory over lust, is surely a must.
“Another requirement is that he or she be ahead of us in working the Steps.”
In addition, you must have a sponsor to be a sponsor. Your sponsor can help you with being a sponsor.
How long is comfortable sobriety?
I think the best way to answer that is to ask your sponsor if he feels you are ready to sponsor. Sponsors, and this is critical, when you feel your sponsee is ready encourage them to become a sponsor.
For some I have seen this period be 30 days and for others 90 days and for others it may be a different period. 30 days is generally a minimum if for nothing else to build a cushion with step work between you and your sponsee so you can provide your own experience.
What about the too busy excuse?
As for I am too busy – what if your sponsor had said that? Silence the noise and be a sponsor to grow in your own recovery.
One thing I hear is you have to give back.
You have to be a sponsor. I am not much on mandating or being mandated to. In some ways this is how I got here.
I think being a sponsor is critical in my recovery, and I recommend all of us be a sponsor when we have the minimum requirements:
– comfortable period of sobriety (recommend you and your sponsor discuss but I feel this starts at 30 days)
– be ahead of your sponsee in the steps
– have a sponsor.
I did not mention you needed to be ready to be a sponsor as I am not sure I was “ready” and some of this requires a leap of faith. I am not a sponsor because I had to be, I am a sponsor because it is one more step that helps on my recovery.
I also get great joy, satisfaction and help in talking to other men about their recovery.
Will you take the sponsor challenge with me?
What is the sponsor challenge?
Meet the requirements above and raise your hand at your next meeting you are willing to sponsor.
For our discussion I have a challenge and two questions:
The Challenge: Do you accept the sponsor challenge?
- What is keeping you from being a sponsor?
- How has being a sponsor helped you in your recovery?
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16 thoughts on “Why Should I Be A Sponsor?”
As one who was sponsored through the steps recovery and has been and currently is a sponsor to others who are walking this path, I have some thoughts on this.
No, a sponsor does not need to “know everything” about recovery, BUT, I think that a sponsor needs to have gone through at least steps 4 and 5 (and preferably step 9 too), as these steps bring a massive amount of understanding and experience that can be shared to help guide and lift those coming along the path.
A sponsor should be someone who has his or her head above the tree line of sobriety a bit. Otherwise, it can be “the blind leading the blind” and that can get both even more lost. So, that “comfortable period of sobriety”, in my opinion, should be longer than 30 days. In my experience (I am grateful for over 3 years sobriety today, and pray for that to continue one more day), I did not start really seeing things as they really were until after a year of sobriety. And there are still blind spots that I need others (for example: my sponsor, or other accountability partners) to point out to me from time to time.
Sponsoring has been one of the greatest blessings of my recovery process and continues to keep me working my own healing process. It is the best and most direct way I have found to work my step 12.
I love this topic. It is one that is very close to my heart and has been critical in my recovery. Both being a sponsor and a sponsee.
For all of us that attend recovery meetings, we see that there are not very many who raise their hands as being willing to sponsor. I was apprehensive about becoming a sponsor, because like what was mentioned above, I felt like I wasn’t ready. It was true that during a specific time period during my recovery I wasn’t ready. But, as time went by I became ready. I didn’t necessarily want to be a sponsor but, I knew that it was essential to my recovery and it was a way that I could do a little bit to give back so much of what I had been given.
I have recently been emailing back and forth with another brother in recovery. He has voiced concerns that the group that he attends is lacking a sufficient number of sponsors. There are a lot of meetings at which no one raises their hands as being willing to sponsor. He reached out to me to see if I had any ideas.
I just want to add as well that I am not an expert in the “how to get more sponsors arena.”
Let me share…
When I was the moderator of one of the online meetings we had the same predicament. Not enough sponsors. Yet I knew that there were guys in the group that I attended that would make great sponsors. So, what I would do is during the portion of the script where we ask for willing sponsors to raise their hands, I would call them out. I never named names, but would say something to the point that, “there are those of you out there that can sponsor, but aren’t, and you know who you are. We need you.” And at the next meeting some of those guys raised their hands.
I am not a perfect sponsor, and I have lots of ways that I can improve. I don’t know everything. But despite those things it is so important that I give back in this aspect.
The last thing I shared with my brother in recovery was that just because someone isn’t raising their hand as being willing to sponsor doesn’t mean that they can’t be asked to be a sponsor by a sponsee looking for one. Sometimes when an individual is put on the spot by someone looking for a sponsor helps to encourage them to take on that responsibility. When looking for a sponsor, I wanted to find someone that I connected with. There was a recent discussion about this topic.
I recall when I first got into the program, I really had no what I was doing and 2-3 people quickly asked me to sponsor them, and I agreed to. Not sure why they asked me, and I’m sure why I agreed to be their sponsor? I found that it helped me in my recovery, but I felt that I was useless to my sponsees, as I simply had no idea what I was doing and I had no real sound advice/feedback to help them.
After that experience (3 year’s ago), I decided to wait until after I had gone through Step 4 again, and had 6 months of sobriety to hopefully have a better understanding of recovery so I could help others. In a sense, I guess I have felt like I need to be almost an expert on recovery, which is totally wrong! Well, I now have 15 months of sobriety and I’m still feeling inadequate and I’m saying “Well, maybe I’ll wait another year”, before sponsoring someone. I see people like Nate, Steven, Rob, Damon, etc. etc., and I think “Well, I’m not even close to their level and understanding of recovery , so I’m wasting my time to even think about being a sponsor. I can’t possibly help anyone, like they can.” In a sense, I can see how this thinking is a completely flawed, because I may never really have a complete understanding about recovery and I may never be where these other guys and others are in their recovery, but there certainly must be some things that I can offer people? I guess this is another one of my character defects – Comparing and beating myself up for not being enough?
I can see how sponsoring may benefit me again, if I took the leap of faith and agreed to sponsor someone. I’m hopeful that it could help me in my recovery, and I certainly do something good for others. Certainly, I have had some wonderful experiences in my personal recovery and I could share these with others. Would they help others? Maybe? Maybe not?Even though I may not have all of the answers for my Sponsees, I certainly would have some things to share with them.
As you mentioned, I’m learning that my recovery is about me and a sponsee’s recovery is about them. That if one leaves me for another, that’s probably a good thing, and that I shouldn’t feel bad about it. Another thing I have done in the past, is I put too much responsibility on my shoulders for their recovery, I think I would do better with that this go around. Although, before I became discouraged because many of my sponsees would struggle so much with relapse and I just didn’t know what to do to help them get over it. This go around, i think I would deal better with it.
One thing I love about sponsoring is I feel I have to be just a little bit better, and make sure I’m working the steps with a stronger commitment; Otherwise, I feel almost like a hypocrite asking them to do things that I’m not doing myself. In the past, it kept me on my toes and I felt some responsibility there, which was a good thing.
I like your question and this has caused me to reflect on my past experience with sponsoring, although it wasn’t always the best experience. I think I need to step it up and recommit to being a sponsor again.
When the moderator asks this week who can sponsor , I will commit to raising my hand, although I don’t feel I’m 100% ready. It’s sad, but so few in group are willing to sponsor, and I have been right there with everyone else.
The truth is this, even though many may not feel they’re ready to sponsor, there are several who need a sponsor and need someone who cares about them and someone who will be there to listen to them.
Thanks, I hope this helps.
Thank you for responding Jim. Thank you for considering being a sponsor. The program works when we work it and that include brotherhood and fellowship that includes sponsorship.
Whenever I ask Steven C what I can do to better solidify my recovery and make it more long-term he usually talks about the “maintenance” steps (Steps 10-12). A major part of Step 12 is sponsoring. There is an AA saying “You can’t keep it unless you give it away.” The early AAs knew their life depended on taking the message to other alcoholics, as quickly as possible. They used to burn through the steps in a matter of weeks, and get sponsoring right away. Then they would spend a lot of their time working with these sponsees, and found great joy out of it, as well as long term recovery. I am a perfectionist so like to take my time, keep going back and restarting the steps, waiting until I’m more ready before sponsoring, etc. But, my life and their life can’t wait around that long. So now I look forward to sponsoring. With alcoholics, they can go to bars, hospitals, and other places to drum up sponsees. It’s a bit more difficult with sex addiction. We have to basically wait for them to show up at meetings. Then we have to wait for them to pick us. I went quite a long time hoping for sponsees and not getting any. So, one thing I tried o do was call new people the week after their first meeting. And of course, always raising my hand at meetings. In a few months time I picked up four sponsees. I’m not sure I know yet how to be a good sponsor, but hopefully I am helping someone and furthering my own recovery in the process. Sponsoring helps keep addiction and recovery on my mind, and helps motivate me to be a good example (and follow my own advice).
I have been sponsoring for four and a half years. I took a 10 month break due to personal family trials that required my full undivided attention. I felt that God wanted me to focus on those family trials. I have recently started up again.
What have I learned from my sponsoring? First, sponsoring has been critical in keeping me in a good solid recovery. When I first started sponsoring I had plan to sponsor only one person at a time, but the program I was in strongly recommended sponsoring two at a time, at least to start out with. This required that I devote more time to sponsoring. This was a blessing as it kept me working the program, if not by working the step work for each step, but being a support for my sponsee’s work their steps. I began to understand more deeply the principles in each step as I testified of them to my sponsee.
One of the things I learned is that I am not there to teach my sponsee. He is there to learn from God. I am there to testify of principles and share experiences. He takes what is useful for him — or, he does not.
After doing this for a while, I see the changes it makes in people’s lives — at least, some people. Their life changes. They become happier, have more joy and peace in their life. I can see it even though in most cases my only contact with them is over the phone or email. I have some sponsees that I have become very good friends with and have traveled hundreds of miles to visit with them and with their families. There is a bond of brotherhood and a deep love we have for each other. My life is much richer and happier because of this.
As I mention, I was away from sponsoring for 10 months due to family health issues. Since I have been back, I see that my own personal recovery — the effort and anxiousness with which I work my recovery — has suffered due to my lack of interaction with others in recovery. I need that association!
I decided that now was the time to come back when a sponsee I hadn’t worked with for a while reached out to me. We spoke for a long time as I was able to testify of principles of recovery and refer him to God to receive his answers. After this call, I found that I had been uplifted significantly by this interaction. It was time to return to the fold and both receive and give strength.
I would say, however, that while a person who is ahead of another can be their sponsor, that it is best to have somebody who has at least done their step 4 inventory and steps 8 and 9 amends. This gives a good foundation. I am learning that continuing and good practice in steps 10, 11, and 12 are also essential to maintain a good recovery and to be able to help sponsees maintain a good recovery.
If a person is not sponsoring because of the time it would require, then I believe they do not yet understand the steps of recovery completely and sponsoring will help them better understand. Submit to God’s will and act on it. Then you will gain that understanding.
I’m fortunate to have been in a situation where I was unable to find a sponsor in an SA group, then upon joining a group called Called 2 Conquer, was immediately assigned a sponsor for a solid 90 days of sobriety and recovery work. Then, after 90 days plus, I was asked if I’d be willing to become an accountability partner (sponsor). I prayed about it, and realized that it to me was about allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me to help bring guys through sobriety to recovery. It is humbling and keeps me in touch with my feelings and my continued need for God’s grace and relationship. It is /was /will be an important part of my continued recovery work.
Justin would like you to consider sponsoring in SAL? Your experience would be great.
I am fairly new to recovery. Where I live there are no sponsors. I struggled through almost a year of going to a group that was sporadically attended and whose members, including myself, were all struggling with regular relapse. I think I made it to around 100 days of sobriety once at the beginning, white-knuckling my way through without knowing any better, just hoping that time would heal me somehow if my faith and will were strong enough. I was doing what I truly believed was the right thing to do. I knew sponsorship existed but I had never been exposed to it.
After one particular relapse earlier this year, I was so frustrated that I couldn’t stay sober that I started looking for other options for programs and groups. I was in a state of mild panic because I felt trapped and alone without anyone to help me. I had this feeling that sponsorship was the key that was missing for me. Having someone over these last few months who is further down the road and has some experience with working the steps has been such a relief and a blessing for me.
While I don’t currently fit the requirements to be a sponsor, I do look forward to it. I have had a taste of what being a sponsor might feel like through relationships I’ve made in SAL over the past few months. Being able to lend a heart and an ear to some brothers during a struggle has rekindled an awareness that I really love serving and helping others. Serving makes me genuinely happy. There have been many occasions where I’ve had a tough day and then I get an opportunity to serve one of my brothers and suddenly my whole day seems brighter. These glimpses into service and sponsorship have helped me to understand a little better how other feel when I need someone to lean on, which has been difficult for me because I sometimes feel like a burden. Being able to give back makes me feel useful and happy.
Seems I have the same trepidations about being a sponsor as many others. As one who battles perfectionism, I struggle to attempt anything that I may not be the best at. I have a hard time stepping off that figurative ledge without seeing the path ahead of me all the way to the end. But this is recovery work. And sponsorship is part of recovery. And a big part of recovery for me is doing things that are scary for me. I’ve already walked into the fog of uncertainty many times this year in the name of recovery. I shouldn’t expect sponsorship to be any different. Growth comes with discomfort. So I’m excited to be a sponsor when I’m ready. I might need a nudge to know when that is. 🙂 Until then, I’m grateful to be part of SAL and to contribute where I can.
Nathan your sponsor can help nudge you. Thank you for being open to the nudge when the time is right.
for me, one great reason to sponsor others is that the discoveries i have made about my own recovery through talking with my sponsees and listening to the struggles that they are having have been as beneficial as anything else I have done in recovery.
For anyone who might be scared of sponsoring and being there for someone else, keep in mind the reason the 12th step is there is because it is imperative that we, as has been mentioned, give away what we have. The greatest benefit to recovery for me has been helping others and educating others on what has worked for me. it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for them, but I know that is we keep to protocol and only speak speak only from personal experience, something we say will resonate with the listening ear and be helpful to them in some way. I think this is a manifestation of what is said in ‘a vision for you’.
Well put. Thank you.
I am SO thankful for my sponsors over the years. They have been a source of INVALUABLE assistance to me in maintaining my recovery. I have enjoyed returning the favor by sponsoring others over the years. I really have not had a negative experience sponsoring. If you are not, sponsor now!
I’ve found my sponsors advice and encouragement to be invaluable. I recently massed a good period of sobriety and was asked if I’d sponsor someone. I agreed and we started things off okay. Soon after, I relapsed.
I’m eager to sponsor and think I could help others, but I don’t want to be in a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do situation. While I keep working my own recovery, since I now don’t have the suggested 30+ days of sobriety, should I tell those I sponsor that I’m no longer available and to find someone else?
Brad good question and complicated. I would suggest you talk to your sponsor, let your sponsees know you relapsed and pray. Do you feel you can continue? Sometimes a relapse requires a change in recovery and or different or more work to get in track. This may not give you enough time to sponsor. In general a relapse probably requires a reset on focus on you and your recovery.