Alcoholics Anonymous is an inclusive support group where people go to get sober. Getting sober is hard, and we shouldn’t have to do it alone. Luckily, AA is a great resource—it provides support, structure, and a pathway to lifelong recovery. One word you’ll frequently hear at meetings is “sponsor.” What does an AA sponsor do? How can they help you on your sobriety journey and how can you become one? Here is what you need to know.
What’s An AA Sponsor?
A sponsor in AA is someone who can help guide you through the program of AA and more specifically, the 12 steps. This person is generally someone who has a good amount of sobriety under their belt and feels comfortable guiding others through difficult times in sobriety. A sponsor is an understanding and sympathetic person who you can trust and turn to with problems associated with alcohol and sobriety. Sponsorship is a vital tool for the 12-step pathway of recovery. Although there are no formal sponsorship rules, it’s recommended that a sponsor has at least one to two years of sobriety before they begin to sponsor.
When you attend a 12-step meeting, you might hear the group talk about sponsorship and how if you become a member of the fellowship, you should find a home group and a sponsor. This is important because both a home group and a sponsor can help keep you accountable. Additionally, when you’re new to sobriety, you’ll have a lot of questions and concerns that a sponsor can help you address. You might not agree with everything your sponsor says, and if their ideas or suggestions seem unusual, you are free to ask questions and speak openly and honestly. Each member of AA has one sponsor. Although it is suggested that you choose someone who you are comfortable with and someone who has a sense of sobriety that you desire, you may feel at some point that a sponsor isn’t right for you. You may freely select a different sponsor when you choose. The goal is to have someone who will help your growth in the program of AA.
AA Sponsor Responsibilities
Sponsorship is beneficial for both parties involved. By helping another person, sponsors will find that they are also helping themselves and strengthening their own sobriety. It will strengthen their sobriety and makes it easier to live without alcohol. Sponsorship can be satisfying; it fills the need to help others during dark times and it allows you to take action by passing on the message of sobriety. AA literature tells us that, “A.A. members who have actually worked the Steps of A.A. as a way to attain sobriety, are often in the best position to share their experience, strength, and hope. The most successful sponsors seem to be men and women who have been in A.A. long enough to have a good understanding of the A.A. program outlined in the Twelve Steps.”
As a sponsor, you should have the willingness, understanding, patience, and time to devote to sponsoring new members. Here are the common responsibilities of an AA sponsor:
- A sponsor does everything they can within their personal boundaries and knowledge to help a newcomer get sober and stay sober using the tools of AA.
- Leads by example through sobriety and drinking history what AA can do for a person’s life.
- Encourages sponsee to attend different AA meetings to obtain several viewpoints and interpretations of the AA program.
- Suggests to sponsee to keep an open mind about AA and alcohol use disorder.
- Introduces sponsee to new members or new groups.
- Shows the newcomer AA literature like the Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
- Explains the 12-step program and the meaning of the 12 steps, emphasizes their importance.
- Guides sponsee through the 12 steps and then encourages them to pass on what they’ve learned.
How To Be A Good AA Sponsor
There is no one way to be a sponsor. The rules are not set in stone. Each person has their own recovery program in AA, and this means that each sponsorship relationship will be unique. All members should approach sponsorship with their own morals, experiences, and personalities. Some sponsors are rigid and want their sponsee calling them every day and give specific reading homework. Other sponsors are casual and want the newcomer to take the initiative in requesting advice and asking questions.
In order to be a good sponsor, you must have the qualities of patience, understanding, compassion, and the gift of time. The best you can do is share your experience, strength, and hope and tell newcomers what worked for you. Use your moral compass and the principles of the 12 steps to guide you. Strive for progress not perfection and the power of the steps will lead the way.
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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.