Twelve AA Sponsorship Tips

Seagulls flying

October 27, 2020

By Andy F

Categories: Sponsorship

Tips for choosing a good sponsor

To conclude this series of blogs on sponsorship, I would like to condense and summarize my experiences with multiple sponsors over a thirty-nine-year period in AA. I hope they will serve as a useful guide for new members when seeking a sponsor:

There is no such thing as the perfect sponsor. Every sponsor is also an alcoholic and has to deal daily with the defects of character driven by their maladapted alcoholic ego.

Be patient and discerning before asking someone for sponsorship. Please get to know prospective sponsors and learn more about them. Older members of your group may know them better than you.

Perhaps you are uncomfortable with aspects of your sponsor’s behavior or competency as a sponsor. It may be an idea to discuss these issues with your peers in AA. Counsel with friends in the fellowship may help you to decide. Is staying or walking away in the best interests of your recovery?

Avoid offering your sponsor gratuities or lending or borrowing money. It is unacceptable for a sponsor to borrow money from a sponsee.

Please wait before letting go of a sponsor unless they are being overtly abusive, manipulative, or bullying. It’s not out of the question that you will uncover important issues in your step work. It can be very tempting to blame our sponsors when we are challenged with an issue that is difficult to face. Remember that sometimes “pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress” (12&12 p. 93)

Ensure that your sponsor has a sponsor and is still in contact with him/her.

Seeing your sponsor as a buddy in the early days is unhelpful. Your relationship may turn into a close friendship after step nine. A sponsor’s job is to guide you through the first nine steps. It was very helpful for me to see my sponsor as a mentor and guide. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

A sponsor can be a source of support and encouragement through hard times, provided they have personal experience with the issues you are struggling with. If your sponsor doesn’t have experience with a problem that you are facing, it’s okay to take it to someone else who does.

The sponsor/sponsee relationship is a unique opportunity to learn how to be honest in a relationship. I learned how to be honest with my sponsor for the first time. This commitment to openness and honesty with a sponsor creates a blueprint for honesty and integrity in all future relationships. I am only enjoying a satisfying and happy relationship with my partner because of the honesty I learned from my sponsor.

I have found it most helpful to respect my sponsor’s personal boundaries and that he respects mine. Keeping the sharing focused on recovery and the work of the steps allows the relationship to have healthy boundaries. Sponsors are not counselors or therapists.

A good sponsor should always invite you to disagree with or reject some information in the Big Book. If the sponsor is experienced and well-versed in AA literature, they will offer alternative interpretations of the material you are struggling with. Sometimes, written assignments can be a valuable tool in gaining a new perspective on material in the literature.

A good sponsor will always give you an adequate explanation of why he is asking you to take suggestions. Trusting the sponsor’s guidance becomes much easier when he/she tells you why they ask you to take certain suggestions. This makes for a deeper, more honest, and more meaningful experience of the program.

Prudence and discernment

All these tips and guides may be common sense for many alcoholics who arrive in AA, but not so for all of us. For some newcomers, a prominent feature of their alcoholism is that they are reckless, impulsive, and impatient when asking for help. That’s what I was like for a long time in my AA journey.

Coming to AA was the most important decision I ever made. Later on, I realized that finding the right sponsor was just as crucial as getting sober. Alcoholism is a severe and life-threatening illness. We must get an experienced and loving sponsor. I had to wait and find out as much as I could about the person I was thinking of asking.

Gradually, I had to learn patience, discernment, and prudence when making this all-important choice. I owed myself the chance to choose someone spiritually well enough to guide me through the twelve steps.

In choosing a sponsor, making a healthy choice based on discernment was a skill I had to learn in AA. My current sponsor keeps reminding me that AA is essentially a psychiatric hospital. Some people are well, and others aren’t. Experience shows that this is true even if they look and sound well.

The AA literature teaches us the importance of making a healthy choice when asking for sponsorship………

“Here, we ought to take much care, remembering that prudence is a virtue which carries a high rating.”

(12&12 p. 61)

In fellowship,

Andy F

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