by Kelly McClanahan
Sponsorship is recommended in treatment and 12-step meetings. When it comes to addiction, a sponsor is not a financial supporter, but a mentor, a sounding board or a reminder of priorities for the sponsee. A sponsor guides the working of steps to achieve comfort and productivity, the recovery portion of the 12-Step process. Most members of 12-step communities need years of behavioral changes to live in abstinence. Coping skills will be developed over time.
Following are some guidelines for sponsorship:
- Sponsors do not make decisions for their sponsees. They listen to all sides of an issue and guide the sponsee to their own answers without giving opinions or advice, not taking sides in either the problems or the solutions.
- Sponsorship entails working the steps and incorporating recovery into the sponsee’s life. Guidelines are found in the literature of most groups.
- Common practice is for sponsors being the same sex as the sponsee.
- The sponsor should be working with a sponsor of their own. They provide backing when the sponsor needs guidance him or herself.
- Sponsors should not counsel or advise. Referrals to professionals are important in matters outside the sponsorship relationship.
- Trust is something that will develop as the sponsor exhibits integrity to the sponsee. Not sharing their personal information with others is a beginning of developing a relationship where trust is necessary.
- There can be no personal relationship that gives more satisfaction than watching sponsees achieve success in life without substance abuse. Sponsorship is a supportive relationship that allows the sponsee to embrace life with a safety net of understanding. Sponsors know the history of a sponsee’s recovery. They cheer them on, buoy them up and encourage their process.
- A sponsee has no obligation to do anything other than recover successfully and live well. A good sponsor claims no credit in this process, but understands the changes and the growing pains, because they were present during the process. This is recovery at its best. Mentoring, guiding, and sometimes lifelong friendship are the sponsor’s job and reward. It is a dynamic and powerful relationship that will undergo great emotional growth for both parties.