What to Look for in an AA Sponsor
One of the first suggestions you will probably hear once you get sober and begin attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous is that you should get a sponsor. In some organizations, a sponsor is someone who introduces you to other members of a group and presents you as being suitable for membership. Once that’s done, existing members decide whether they want to admit you. AA isn’t like that. The only requirement for membership in AA is a desire to stop drinking. Even though having a sponsor isn’t a requirement, there are a lot of benefits to having one.
A sponsor is a member of AA who is willing to share his or her experience, strength and hope with you on a one-to-one basis. You might think of a sponsor as a mentor or your closest friend in the program. What should you look for when selecting a sponsor?
Willingness to Listen
Without the crutch of alcohol, you may feel like you have no idea how to face life, particularly when times are stressful. To get started on your journey of healing from alcoholism, it is very helpful to have the guidance of one person who has the time and the willingness to listen to your questions and concerns.
At meetings, you start to meet a variety of people. You may feel nervous and confused, and it’s hard to know where to begin to live a sober life. Look for one person you feel comfortable talking to and you believe that you can trust. Ask that person to be your sponsor.
Experience With the Program of Recovery
Although a sponsor can be thought of as a friend, it’s best to look for a person who has proven that he or she has experience living sober. There are no hard-and-fast rules about the length of time that person should be sober, but it takes more than a few months to really understand how to live a sober life. At a minimum, a sponsor should have a full year of sobriety. Many people suggest that a sponsor have at least five more years of living sober under his or her belt than you have.
However, the length of time a person has been sober is not the only factor to consider. There are people who stop drinking but don’t really work hard to change, and these people may not have a lot to teach you. Other people are actively involved in working the 12 steps and in doing a variety of service work, such as setting up meeting halls, making coffee or giving rides to people who need them. You can learn a lot more about living sober from someone who is setting a good example of how to lead a sober and useful life than from someone who hasn’t worked on changing.
A Comfortable Fit
Your sponsor should be a comfortable fit in your recovery. Some people prefer having a sponsor who tells them exactly what to do, while others prefer a gentler approach. You need a sponsor you feel comfortable spending time with and learning from. The important thing is to find someone who can fill the role of a sponsor for you for now, and don’t waste a lot of time looking for the perfect person. There are no perfect people.
Don’t be afraid that asking someone to sponsor you is a bother to them. When you call your sponsor, it often helps him or her to go over with you what he or she has learned. Your questions remind your sponsor about how sobriety works, which is helpful to both of you.
If you can’t find someone who feels like the right person right away, ask someone to be your temporary sponsor. This allows you to see if you are comfortable with this person, and it also allows you to have one person to turn to with your questions while you continue to meet other people. In the end, you may have a long-term relationship with your sponsor, or you may change sponsors several times before you find the right one. In any case, you will be able to learn something from every person who serves as your AA sponsor.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.