12 step sponsor and sponsee

12 Step Sponsorship: Do you need a recovery sponsor?

04-23-2023Recovery Tools

From the first time many of us entered the rooms of recovery and 12 step support groups, we heard people talking about their sponsors, their sponsees, and how valuable those relationships can be. It’s common to wonder whether a 12 step sponsor is a necessary part of the recovery process.

The role of a 12 step sponsor is to guide us through the process of the 12 steps. A sponsor is typically a sober individual who is active in their recovery and has worked or is currently working the 12 Steps. Additionally, they provide their sponsees with support and experience on the many issues that arise through the recovery process.

Most people who have been in recovery for a while recommend that you get a 12 Step sponsor early in the recovery process.

However, this process can be very overwhelming, especially when you’re going through so much in the first 30 days of recovery.

Just what is a sponsor, and how should you go about choosing one? In this article, we’ll provide all the information you need to make good decision that will support you in your recovery for years to come!

What is a sponsor in recovery?

Most importantly, a 12 step program sponsor is a trusted individual in the recovery support group who is capable of guiding you through the 12 steps during your initial 90-in-90. However, a sponsor takes on many more roles over time.

The recovery sponsor is usually an individual in the fellowship who is ahead of you in the process of recovery. This can mean that they have more time sober, more experience, and are sometimes older than the person who they are sponsoring.

Finding a sponsor is an integral part of the 12-step recovery process for those working to address a substance use disorder.

A sponsor has many roles but the most important role is that of a friend in recovery and someone we find it easy to be truly honest with about our struggles in recovery. It is someone who is willing to guide and support a person new in recovery and is there to walk with you on your journey in recovery. 

  • A 12 step sponsor provides guidance and support to individuals in recovery.
  • It’s generally a sober individual with at least a few years of sobriety under their belt.
  • They help newcomers navigate the 12 step program and offer personal insights and experiences on how to stay sober.
  • Sponsors are available to listen, offer advice, and provide accountability to their sponsees.
  • They encourage sponsees to participate in 12-step meetings, work the steps, and practice spiritual principles in their daily lives.
  • Once the sponsor knows you well, they can be invaluable in helping understand when aspects of your sobriety have lost their priority.

The sponsor to sponsee relationship is one of the most important factors in achieving lasting recovery.

How does someone get a 12 step sponsor?

When you’ve just entered early recovery, it’s common to wonder how to get a sponsor, and it’s sometimes not obvious to the newcomer.

When you attend meetings in your first few weeks of recovery, you’ll likely be offered plenty of phone numbers by sober individuals looking to help. Try calling a few of those people, taking note of who you connect with and who answers the phone or calls you back quickly.

Once you’ve decided on a potential sponsor, the next step is to simply ask the person. Sponsors are not paid, they don’t work for the fellowship, and they are true volunteers. They don’t receive anything for their time other than the fact that their service to you helps them stay sober.

Newcomers often describe getting their first sponsor in that it’s similar to asking someone on a date – they felt nervous beforehand. However, after asking for a sponsor you'll discover that your nerves were truly false evidence appearing real.

Most people in the fellowship will be happy to sponsor you or to point you in the right direction. The key is to step outside of your comfort zone and ask. You’ll be glad you did!

Do you have to get a sponsor right away?

When you enter a 12 step fellowship, you don’t have to get a sponsor right away. Sometimes, newcomers take their first few meetings, or even their first couple of weeks to decide on who they would like to ask.

It’s common to share in a meeting that one is looking for a sponsor. This is a great way to attract individuals in the 12-step program who are available and willing, although it’s not 100% necessary to do it this way.

Technically, you don’t have to get a sponsor, ever! Everything in the 12 step program is voluntary, and you need not feel pressure. That being said, it is not recommended to go without a sponsor for too long. After all, they are the person who takes you through the steps, and that’s where the real recovery happens!

Additionally, getting a sponsor early in the process can be extremely helpful in getting through the initial phase where we tend to feel worse after getting sober.

How to find a 12 step sponsor that’s right for you

Choosing a sponsor can be difficult, and it can be easy to pick the first person who reaches out to you or pick someone whose personality matches yours. However, there may be a few considerations to take into account before you ask someone to sponsor you.

It’s still important that you feel comfortable with them, as it would be hard to learn to trust a sponsor that you don’t feel comfortable talking to.

Here are some tips for what to look for in a sponsor:

What to look for in 12 step sponsorship

It may be difficult to determine upon meeting someone whether they would be the right person to be a good sponsor, so here are a few things to consider:

  • Look for someone with good working knowledge of the 12 steps. After all, the sponsor’s primary role is to walk you through the steps.
  • Look for someone with a solid recovery program. Choose someone who is actively working the steps, staying sober, and dedicated to their own recovery.
  • Find someone who you feel comfortable with. You need to be able to open up and share personal thoughts and feelings with your sponsor, so it’s essential you find someone you connect with.
  • Consider choosing someone who is reliable and available. Someone who is willing to make themselves available to talk to when needed, and that keeps the commitments they make to their sponsee.
  • Pick someone who is honest and transparent about their own struggles and experiences.
  • Lastly, empathy and accountability are important. Look for someone who is not only empathetic to your experiences in recovery, but also one who will hold you accountable for your actions in order to help you grow in your program of recovery.

Choosing the sponsor that’s right for you

Each person's journey in recovery is going to be a little bit different. For example, for some people, relapse is a part of their journey, for others it is not. So, when choosing a sponsor it is important to choose someone that is going meet you where you are on your journey.

So, how do you choose a sobriety sponsor that is right for you? Here are a few guidelines to follow when looking for the sponsor who will most benefit you in your recovery.

  • Find someone who has what you want in recovery. It’s important to consider what you want in recovery and to choose someone who is a good role model that you look up to.
  • Look for someone with similar experiences. A sponsor who previously had similar experiences to you is better equipped to understand your challenges and offer advice.
  • Find someone who matches your learning style. For some people they need a sponsor who's going to give them tough love and blunt honesty. For others, it’s quite the opposite. Figuring out what works best for you will help you find a sponsor that you ultimately feel comfortable talking to.

Remember, the decision is ultimately yours. Trust your intuition and choose someone who you feel will offer you the best support in your recovery.

Benefits of getting a sponsor

12 step sponsorship in recovery is important whether you're new in the program or you've got over a year of sobriety. Those who have lasting recovery have strong ties with their sobriety sponsor. But what does the sponsorship provide?

  • Guidance through the 12 steps
  • Extremely helpful in maintaining sobriety in the long run
  • Support and accountability
  • Sense of fellowship and belonging
  • Provide practical and emotional support
  • A sober sponsor acts as a friend, mentor, confidant, and guide
  • Provides experience, Strength, and Hope

A 12 step program sponsor provides a sense of community and belonging to someone who is working to overcome their problems with substances. They are often the first person that an individual can turn to when they are feeling isolated or alone. They are a tangible reminder that recovery is not a solitary journey, but rather a shared experience.