Twelve AA Sponsorship Tips
Tips for choosing a good sponsor
In conclusion on this series of blogs on sponsorship: I would like to condense and summarize my own experiences of multiple sponsors over a thirty six year period in AA. I hope that they will serve as a useful guide for new members when looking for 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 egos
- Be patient and discerning before asking someone for sponsorship. Get to know the prospective sponsor and find out a bit about them. Older members from your group may know them better than you.
- Perhaps you are uncomfortable with aspects of your sponsor’s behaviour 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 it in the best interests of your recovery to stay or walk away?
- Avoid offering your sponsor gratuities or lending or borrowing money. It is not acceptable for a sponsor to ever 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 are about to 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 x 12 Step ten. Page 93)
- Make sure that your sponsor has a sponsor too and is still in contact with him/her
- It is unhelpful to see your sponsor as a buddy in the early days. 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 of the issues that you are struggling with. If your sponsor doesn’t have experience of a problem that you are facing, it’s okay to take it to someone else that 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 in my life. This commitment to openness and honesty with a sponsor creates a blueprint for honesty and integrity in all future relationships. I believe that 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 counsellors or therapists.
- A good sponsor should always invite you to disagree with or reject some information that you are offered in the Big Book. If the sponsor is experienced and well versed in AA literature, they will offer you alternative interpretations of material that you are struggling with. Sometimes written assignments can be a valuable tool in gaining a new perspective of material in the literature the literature
- A good sponsor will always give you an adequate explanation of why he is asking you to take suggestions. It becomes much easier to trust the sponsor’s guidance when he/she tells you why he is asking you to take direction. 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 that arrive in AA but not so for all of us. For some newcomers, a big feature of their alcoholism is that they are reckless, impulsive and impatient when asking for help. This was the way that I lived as a practising alcoholic.
Coming to AA was the most important decision I ever made. Later on, I realized that finding the right sponsor was just as important as getting sober. Alcoholism is a serious life-threatening illness. It’s important that we 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 it to myself to choose someone who was spiritually well enough for the task of guiding me through the twelve steps.