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What Makes a Good Sponsor?

When a person begins recovery from an addiction to alcohol or drugs, they often seek help from multiple sources. One of the most common places is a 12 step or similar support group, which helps provide the person with an opportunity to find a sponsor. Many people new to recovery wonder what makes a good sponsor. 

Why a Person Needs a Sponsor

There are many types of support group programs that feature sponsors for their newer members. Twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous being the most famous. People new to recovery often feel lost and as if no one in their lives truly understands what they are experiencing and feeling. 

Part of what makes a good sponsor is that they understand exactly what others new to recovery or fresh out of relapse are going through. Sponsors have been there and done that, which allows them the unique ability to understand the situation their sponsee is in. Having a built-in support system to unload to and seek advice from gives many people the boost they need to stay in recovery, even when life is throwing huge challenges and temptations to relapse at them.

Basic Requirements for Being a Sponsor

Most programs require that members who work as sponsors have a minimum of one year of recovery under their belt. For many, the longer amount of time they have spent in recovery, the better. The sponsor should regularly attend support group meetings and show a true desire to help others sustain their sobriety and move forward. The position of a sponsor is voluntary and they do not receive nor should ask for compensation, monetary or otherwise. 

A sponsor should demonstrate a basic understanding of several stages of recovery, from what it’s like to just come out of treatment to having banked a lengthy amount of time being sober. Some people prefer to choose someone who already has experience being a sponsor, but many who are new to sponsoring do an excellent job. A sponsor should not have several people who count on them for support, thus allowing them to have an appropriate amount of time to help the person they do sponsor. 

Types of Support Sponsors Should Provide 

Part of what makes a good sponsor involves being able to help offer both general and specific advice. The sponsor should be helpful, but not insist the sponsee follow the exact same path that they did. Sponsors will help validate a person’s feelings and give them a safe place to vent about the difficulties of recovery. They will provide honest feedback, even when it may make the sponsee uncomfortable or disagree with them. 

Sponsors help people identify their emotions, not immediately jump to labeling them “right” or “wrong”, and formulate a healthy way to deal with them. They may give a sponsee an assignment designed to help them think or make progress with a particular step; this homework should be completed.

A big part of what makes a good sponsor involves upholding the anonymity that is key to all addiction support groups. Sponsees reveal private and potentially embarrassing details about their lives. Anonymity makes the sponsee feel what they say goes no further than their sponsor. 

Avoid Romantic or Sexual Relationships With a Sponsor

Virtually all support groups recommend that their members avoid entering into a romantic relationship for the first year of sobriety. Dating and relationships can take the focus off recovery. Additionally, romance becomes a new thing to obsess over for someone with an addictive personality.

Becoming romantically or sexually involved with a sponsor is a definite no-no. It compromises the ability for both people to interact with only sobriety-related issues and goals in mind. Furthermore, disagreements or a breakup can make things awkward not just for the couple, but the entire support group. 

Some support groups recommend that heterosexual find an same-sex partner; and homosexual members seek it from the opposite gender. Because many people identify as LGBTQ+, it can complicate this rule. Generally speaking, it is recommended not to let a sponsor/sponsee relationship extend beyond that role. 

Expectations of the Sponsee

Just as a person has certain expectation of their sponsor, they must also be willing to adhere to certain rules. Sponsees should regularly attend support group meetings. They should also fulfill all obligations they make to meet alone with or otherwise contact their sponsor. If something prevents them from doing so, they should cancel in a timely manner. 

Any agreement upon the number of times a sponsee may contact their sponsor, by what methods, and during what hours must be respected. When seeking support, it should be regarding things directly related to their recovery. 

If a Sponsorship Isn’t the Right Fit

If after a certain amount of time, the sponsee does not feel a bond or trust has developed, it’s fine to end the sponsorship. Similarly, if the sponsor makes it clear they don’t wish to continue the arrangement, this decision should be respected. Sponsor/sponsee relationships work best when both people feel they are a good match. 

Addiction Treatment in Nashville

At Detox Nashville, we understand how hard it is to ask for help for an addiction to drugs or alcohol. We provide caring professional help with our detox, residential, and aftercare treatment programs. We also utilize holistic methods to help treat the entire person and allow them to fully heal.
If you would like more information about getting sober, contact Detox Nashville today and we will be happy to answer your questions.