Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other 12-step programs are based heavily on tradition, because those traditions work. One of the most important traditions in AA is sponsorship (while sponsorship exists in other programs, too, we’ll use AA in this article for simplification). It is recommended that everyone in AA get a sponsor, but many newcomers to the program will ask the question, “What is a sponsor?”
What is a Sponsor?
In its official literature, AA describes a sponsor as “one person to turn to without embarrassment when doubts, questions, or problems linked to alcoholism arise.” A sponsor is also described as an “understanding, sympathetic friend.” Essentially, a sponsor is a mentor. A sponsor is someone who has significant experience in AA and sobriety and helps mentor someone with less experience, especially when that person is a newcomer.
There are no official rules on who can be a sponsor; sponsorship in AA is very informal. As a general guideline, however, it’s recommended that a sponsor have at least one-two years of sobriety. Some recommend that a sponsor have at least five years of sobriety. Sponsors should be confident in their sobriety, have a positive attitude, and have the time and willingness to dedicate themselves to being a mentor.
Why Should You Get a Sponsor?
When you’re a newcomer to AA, there is a lot to learn about sobriety and how AA works. It can be overwhelming at first. You should get a sponsor so you have one person that you can count on to help you get adjusted to AA and sober living. You’ll undoubtedly have questions and concerns, and with a sponsor, you can address those issues on an individual basis. Sponsors can be particularly helpful for people who are struggling with the idea of spirituality. You shouldn’t look for a sponsor to give you answers; a sponsor should help you find your own answers.
Working the Steps
When AA members reach the 12th step, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs,” sponsorship is considered a way to carry the message and help others. A sponsor can offer support as you go through the 12 Steps by helping you to understand the Steps and offering their own experiences as guidance.
How Can You Get a Sponsor?
The most common way to find a sponsor is through attending AA meetings. Members of AA usually try to reach out to newcomers by introducing themselves and offering their phone numbers for support. Someone might offer to be your “temporary sponsor” so that you have one person to count on immediately until you find a more permanent sponsor. Some groups have lists of members who are willing to be sponsors. As you go to meetings, look for active members of AA who you think you might be compatible with, and ask them if they will sponsor you. Or, reach out to any member of AA and ask if they can recommend a sponsor. Also, remember that if it turns out you’re not compatible with your sponsor, you can get a new one.