5 Guidelines For Choosing A 12-Step Sponsor

The idea of asking a stranger to be a mentor of sorts was intimidating, but I couldn’t have gotten sober alone.

help-sponsorGetting sober was never something I could have done on my own.

But I didn’t always feel that way. In the beginning, when I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to be sober, I was convinced I didn’t need anyone’s help or advice. As time passed, I realized I was in over my head. I became overwhelmed with the idea that sobriety was potentially a forever thing, and I realized I needed someone to talk to who had been where I was.

I had heard the word sponsor thrown around in my outpatient rehab group. It had even been suggested that I find one. However, I hadn’t started attending 12-step meetings regularly, so I hadn’t met anyone I could ask to be my sponsor. Not only that, but the idea of asking a stranger to be a mentor of sorts was intimidating when I was only a month sober.

Once I started attending meetings more regularly, I spoke to someone willing to be a sponsor. However, we didn’t really click. In fact, I don’t even remember her name. All I remember is that I didn’t feel connected to her or comfortable telling her my deepest, darkest thoughts. As time passed, I started pulling away and not responding to her texts or calls, or reaching out on my own. I didn’t relapse, and I told her this. I just made it clear that I needed to find a person to whom I related more.

A few days later, a woman in her 20s came in and spoke at one of my outpatient group meetings. Let’s call her Jill. As I listened, it was like Jill was telling my own story. I looked at her, beautiful, put together, sober and grateful, and thought, “That. That is what I want.” After she finished speaking, I gathered the courage to approach her and tell her the similarities in our stories were uncanny. I tentatively asked if she was taking sponsees, and rather than agree right on the spot, we set up a time to meet and talk more over coffee. That meeting went well, and I felt an immediate connection. There was no doubt in my mind that I had found my sponsor.

Though my first go-round with a sponsor didn’t work out, my second did. In a way, finding a sponsor is a little bit like dating. You have to find someone who clicks with your personality, who pushes you to be a better version of yourself. By taking the following guidelines into mind, you may have more luck finding a sponsor you connect with right away.

1. Determine what type of person would make the best sponsor for you. It is often recommended that potential sponsors have at least one year of continuous sobriety and are the same gender as you. Having at least a year of sobriety under their belt is important because a potential mentor should have personal experience with sobriety and be working a program that is effective. Additionally, it is often recommended to choose a sponsor of the same gender (or someone whose gender you are not romatically attracted to) so as to avoid romantic entanglement, as that can often impact or distract from sobriety and recovery. In addition to these key factors, think about the type of mentorship you need. This could mean someone who is gentle but stern, or someone who always tells it like it is. The question is, what will be best for you and your sobriety?

2. Take time to meet with someone before officially asking them to be your sponsor. Though I asked Jill if she was taking sponsees right away, she didn’t agree to be my sponsor right off the bat, for which I’m grateful. Instead she suggested meeting for coffee and taking it from there. Meeting for coffee together was a good opportunity to tell her more about myself and my story, and explain what I was looking for in a sponsor. Getting to know each other before agreeing to be sponsor and sponsee was a better way to go about it than having a complete stranger agree to be my sponsor without knowing anything about me and vice versa. It was a way to build a foundation that later led to a solid relationship and friendship.  Read more “the fix”…

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