It’s not unusual for addiction treatment programs to incorporate lessons from the 12-step movement into the plans they provide for clients. Many people find that it’s comforting to meet others who are in recovery, and they draw strength from the stories of struggle and victory that they hear in the group meetings they attend.

Incorporating the 12 steps into treatment can also be smart because researchers suggest that these plans can bring about a tremendous amount of relief, especially when they’re paired with formal treatment programs. For example, a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment suggests that people who get help from both support group participation and formal treatment tend to achieve abstinence more frequently than people who use just one type of treatment. Putting them together really seems to help.

But it’s not just the meetings that make 12-step programs so beneficial; it’s the connections you make. And there’s one connection that might be instrumental to your healing. That connection forms between you and your sponsor, and later on, between you and another person that you sponsor.

Understanding Sponsorship

The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) movement, which is the basis of all 12-step programs, is based on sponsorship. In fact, the founders of AA were simply two people who wanted to support one another on a journey to sobriety. In essence, they were a sponsor and a sponsee.

The 12-step movement has grown to such a degree that it’s not unusual for meetings to contain dozens of people. But it’s that one-on-one connection that might provide the most help for you as you work on sobriety, and that might come to you through sponsorship.

A study in the journal Addiction, which included 495 people, suggests that a great deal of sponsorship involvement is associated with a higher level of abstinence. In other words, people who work closely with a sponsor tend to stay sober for longer than people who don’t have a sponsor. Even if these people go to the same number of meetings, those who work with a sponsor just have benefits that the others do not. It’s a special relationship that brings special benefits.

And those benefits can go both ways. When you’re new to recovery, you might lean on your sponsor to help you understand the steps, and you might ask for tips on overcoming triggers you’re dealing with at home, such as:

  • Family members who use
  • Repeated calls from your former dealers
  • Guilt about the choices you made while under the influence
  • Reminders of the times you spent using

When you’re a little more comfortable with recovery and you take on a sponsor, you might get a reminder of how far you’ve come in your sobriety when you hear that person discuss his/her triggers. You might also benefit from undertaking a close study of the steps, and you might enjoy the opportunity to experience new sobriety through the eyes of someone else.

Becoming or Finding a Sponsor

An ideal sponsor, according to literature published by Narcotics Anonymous, has the ability to help a newcomer work through the 12 steps of recovery. Typically, this means that the sponsor has already completed those steps in his/her own life. This doesn’t mean the sponsor is a perfect person. No one is perfect. But it does mean that this person has a personal experience of recovery through the steps. This person has studied, learned, and grown, and is ready to pass those messages along.

If you’ve reached that point in your recovery, it might be time for you to consider taking on a sponsee and working through the steps through the eyes of a newcomer. But if you haven’t reached that point, it might be beneficial for you to get a sponsor.

Literature produced by AA suggests that sponsors and sponsees should be of the same gender, but otherwise, there are no ideal requirements. You should choose someone with whom you feel comfortable talking about your recovery, and you should look for

someone who has a track record of success. If that person agrees to work with you, and all you must do is ask, you’re on your road to wellness.

And, if you find that a relationship isn’t quite working out, you can always switch sponsors, too. There’s no paperwork to fill out or formal permission to obtain. If you need to make a change, you can simply do so. That’s part of the freedom the program offers you.

If you’re ready to get started on your recovery, and you’d like to use a 12-step program to make it happen, we’d like to talk with you. At Orlando Recovery Center, we pair top-notch treatment with comprehensive support group work. We can even help you to find meetings in your community, so you can continue to grow and learn when you’re done with formal therapy. Just call the number at the top of the page, and we’ll tell you more.

Medical Disclaimer

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.