After spending time in a rehabilitation facility or going through a drug detox, having someone who has gone through similar struggles to support you through your recovery is pivotal in making strides towards recovering from substance use disorder.
A sponsor is someone who has lived experience and has been sober for at least a year, has completed the 12-step program, and acts as a mentor and guide during your recovery. There are many benefits to having a sponsor, and getting a sponsor early on in your recovery can improve your chances of being successful, so finding the right person is important.
The easiest way to find a sponsor is to attend recovery support meetings in your local community. There you will find a group of people who all are striving towards living a happier and healthier life. You can probably get your hands on a list of people that are willing to become a sponsor by talking to the host of the meeting.
Simply by talking to others at the meeting, you could meet someone who is willing to sponsor you. Connecting with others in your community helps to build a support system while you are working on yourself. It can feel intimidating to open up about your desire to find a sponsor, but the best thing you can do for yourself is speak up about it. Even if you mention it to just one person, words can travel fast. Plus, people want you to be successful, and if it’s mutually agreed upon that you will benefit from each other’s support, they want to see you recover.
Find Someone Trustworthy
The point of having a sponsor is to feel comfortable enough opening up about your insecurities and fear surrounding the path to recovery. You might want to share intimate and serious thoughts with your sponsor, so comfort is essential. It can feel lonely and isolating to be alone with your thoughts, and a sponsor’s goal is to provide support to you without shame or judgement.
You are supposed to feel comfortable confiding in your sponsor, so finding someone that you believe will maintain your confidentiality can be critical. If you don’t feel that something is working out between you and a sponsor, then trust your gut and find someone else.
The comfort with each other should be mutually shared, so if one person feels that they are not benefiting, then the other won’t either. If you do believe that you need to find a new sponsor, it’s always best to meet with your current sponsor and end things in person and on good terms.
Availability and Experience
If you are new to recovery, then you will want someone who is available to you most times during the day. Of course, around the clock support might not be possible, but someone who lets you call them up at 4:00 AM to share your inner turmoil in a voicemail with no questions asked is someone you want in your corner.
It’s important to discuss with your potential sponsor if they have the time and space to take on a sponsee. If your potential sponsor has other people that they are sponsoring they might not have the time to take on an additional person. It’s especially important early on in your recovery to find someone with availability because you may not realize the amount of support you will need from them.
On the other hand, someone who is currently sponsoring people or has sponsored people in the past is someone who probably has the tools and experience to be beneficial in your recovery. It’s important that your sponsor has the experience to maintain a good mentor/mentee relationship. If you are new to things, you will want someone to guide you, rather than learning through your own trial and error.
You want someone who understands accountability and maintains a confidential and beneficial partnership. If you are sponsored by someone who understands the process of recovery, and who has helped others like you, you can feel confident knowing that you are in good hands.
Avoid Family and Romantic Partners
When finding a sponsor, there are certain people that you might want to avoid. While you might think that it would be easier for a family member or a romantic partner to be your sponsor, that’s not always the case.
Just because you are with them all the time and feel comfortable with them, the comfort you feel with them is not the kind that you will receive from a sponsor. Because you will be sharing secrets and your inner thoughts with your sponsor, it might not be best to have a personal relationship with them.
With family members, there might be things that you’d like to keep from them to preserve your relationship, so consider a sponsor who you did not know prior to your treatment or recovery. Similarly, being romantic or becoming romantic with your sponsor can make things complicated for your path to recovery. The main focus of the relationship you will have with a sponsor should be on recovering, and anything other than that will not benefit you. If you find yourself having feels for your sponsor, it might be time to find a new one, so that you can refocus on what’s actually important一your recovery.
Differences Can Be Good!
Sometimes someone who you have a lot in common with is not who you want to be your sponsor. When you find a sponsor who is not so similar to you, it’s easier to focus on your path to recovery. There are benefits to having a sponsor who has a different background than you.
They offer a different perspective than what you’ve got, offering solutions you might not have thought of on your own. You want someone to be honest with you so that you can be as successful as possible in your recovery path. You want them to tell you how it is. A sponsor is meant to tell you things you don’t want to hear so that you can get better.
Create a Plan and Stick To It!
Once you have found someone to be your sponsor, it’s time to come up with a plan that works for both of you, and stick to it! Being consistent will help you in your recovery. Planning to attend the same recovery meetings with your sponsor or finding a time for a weekly phone call to check-in with each other can be very helpful in maintaining communication with your sponsor.
Consistency creates patterns, and these patterns can help you to focus on what works best for you in your recovery. If you feel that you need to change things up, talk to your sponsor to figure out what steps you can take to ensure your recovery.
Finding the right sponsor can seem scary, but in the end, it’s completely worth it to find the person who is dedicated to helping you recover from your substance use disorder. You shouldn’t feel that you need to go through this challenge alone, and there are people who have been in the same situation as you that want to help.
Make sure that you express to the people in your recovery meetings that you are in need of a sponsor because they will step up to help you. Find someone you can trust with your best interest in mind, someone who is available, and someone who knows what they are doing so that you are successful in your path to recovery.
Recovery and Recovery Support | SAMHSA
12 Step Programs: 12 Steps to Recovery for Drug & Alcohol Treatment | American Addiction Centers