Aug 27, 2015 | By Tim Stoddart

4 Qualities You Should Look For In A Sponsor

12 Step Recovery

what to look for in a sponsor

All 12-steppers can attest to it.

“Don’t drink. Go to meetings. Get a sponsor.”

Recently 12 step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have been criticized due to ideology differences, alternative options to A.A. and low overall statistics when looking at long-term success rates.

A.A. is still the most widely used, widely celebrated and most recognized track to sobriety. People are very passionate about AA, and they should be. For millions of people, AA saved their lives and gave them a life worth living.

A.A. is not however a fool proof system. One important criteria in completing the 12 steps is to have a sponsor who is willing to take you through. A sponsor is someone who has been through the steps and will assist you on your journey. Many times this includes going through the Big Book together, working through the steps together and giving and providing overall support.

Newcomers need someone with experience to walk them through the Big Book, and to give them objective perspectives on problems they may have in their lives and why it is they drank or used in the first place.

It is said that you should find a sponsor who “has what you want.” Someone you would want to emulate and that lives their life in a way that you would want to live yours. There are no rules for the right sponsor, and many times people go through more than one sponsor on their journey through sobriety.

With that being said, there are a few good personality traits or characteristics one may want to look for when trying to find a sponsor.

1 – Patience And Tolerance

Working with recovering drug addicts is difficult. No doubt about it.

They are emotional, they are impulsive and they just don’t know how to live their lives in sobriety. Many times people get sponsors in their first few days out of rehab. At this point in their recovery, there are still a lot of insecurities and confusion.

To be a good sponsor, you have to be patient. You need to not take things personally. Sponsees don’t always call when they say they will, and they don’t always follow guidance, but that is okay. Bringing someone through the 12 steps is a slow process that requires lots of self-reflection and lots of honesty.

RELATED: Honesty – The First Step In Sobriety

Breaking down the barriers and getting to this place of healing is difficult and many times it is met with resistance. A good sponsor knows this and knows that the most important thing is that the sponsee doesn’t drink. Tomorrow is another day.

2 – Long Term Sobriety

I know what you’re thinking… and in most cases I agree.

Having lots of sober time doesn’t make someone a good sponsor. We have all seen people who have long term sobriety that are still miserable and live unhealthy lives. However, there is something to be said about commitment.

I heard a guy say to me once – “If you don’t think time in sobriety is a big deal, then try to get some.”

I never forgot that. At the very least, I recommend your sponsor has a year of sobriety under his/her belt. You won’t realize it when you’re new, but a year in recovery is nothing. When I look back at my thoughts and behavior of when I was a year sober sometimes I still get embarrassed.

There is nothing wrong with this. If you find a sponsor who has a year and is helping you then by all means, keep that sponsor. Do what you need to do and what feels right.

A simple suggestion is that time in sobriety does mean something. It means that this person has probably dealt with pain and death and money problems and depression and stayed sober throughout it all.

3 – Their Words Match Their Actions

This is the truest testament of a man or woman’s character.

Anyone can get in front of people at a meeting and talk a big game about spirituality and helping other people. But what do they do? What are their actions?

What a person does will tell you a million times more than what they say. When someone is unaccountable or say they will do something and don’t do it, that is the ultimate sign of weak character.

Doing what you say and saying what you do means a lot. If someone’s actions match their words then they respect themselves because they are willing to do what it takes to hold themselves accountable.

Look for a sponsor that walks the walk. Look for a sponsor whose actions matches his or her words.

RELATED: 7 Step Process To Regaining Trust In Recovery

4 – They Do The Right Thing And Expect Nothing In Return

This is all part of the deal.

Being a good sponsor requires someone to be selfless. To help someone without expecting anything in return is a sure sign of a virtuous person that can help you on your road to recovery.

Being a sponsor is a commitment. Hours of talking on the phone, reading with sponsees, being available when they are needed. All of these hours really do add up, not to mention they are going to top of what is probably already a busy life. But a good sponsor will do it, they will go out of their way to help someone in need.

If you are lucky, you will find a good sponsor that shows you how to be selfless. That shows you the real reward for helping someone is the feeling you get from doing so.

Some may say sponsorhsip is a selfless act, but that’s not really true. The work of sponsorship is a reward within itself because it makes you feel great to be a part of helping another person get sober.

A good sponsor will show you what that means, and will teach you how to pass the message to someone else in need.

Just Go Out And Get One!

If you are doing the steps, you should have a sponsor!

Even you are not doing the steps, finding some kind of mentor or guide will only benefit you. Having someone who cares about you and is willing to help you see the truth in a matter is invaluable. It can be hard to see things that we are emotionally involved in.

If you are scared to get a sponsor, you’re going to need to get over it. Yes, it can be awkward and uncomfortable but the fact is that a sponsor’s job is to help you stay sober. If you are new in recovery, you probably don’t know how to stay sober on your own.

If you want to stay sober, you will do what it takes! Go get a sponsor, it will be worth it! I promise.

2 responses to “4 Qualities You Should Look For In A Sponsor

  • Thank you for the advice on what to look for in a sponsor. I have not had luck in my last two sponsors and I am stuck on step 4 and 5. Do you have advise on how to get through these two steps? I was told that I need to write down a resentment list and look at my part and make amends so I can move on and that seems very hard.

    • leith Douglass

      8 years ago

      Forst tome i did my step 4/5 i did it verbally with my sponsor mostly cause i had trouble getting it out quick enough on paper…it doesnt really matter how you do it, its about getting things out amd having another person hear it. Im doing mine again but this time im writing it in a book (the one day published type). As for.makimg ammends u dont alway have to do it directly. Sometime its not possible…somethimes the best ammends you can make is to stay sober

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