12 Step Co-sponsorship
8- 12 Step Co-sponsorship
Finding a sponsor may sometimes be difficult, especially for those living abroad and looking for a sponsor who can speak their native language. But there is another way called 12 Step co-sponsorship. Though not traditional this method can be a feasible alternative. In co-sponsorship, two or more addicts new to recovery join together to work the 12 Steps and support each other towards recovery. This page provides some information and suggestions on how to find and work the program with a co-sponsor.
- Benefits of co-sponsorship
- Guidelines for co-sponsorship
Under certain circumstances, finding a sponsor may be difficult. For instance, an Iranian addict living in a foreign land and trying to recover may find it difficult to benefit from the support of the Fellowships because of language barriers. You may be a refugee or an asylum seeker who has escaped to a new country and now want freedom from your addiction as well. Yet because of cultural barriers you cannot find a sponsor you can relate to who can guide you through the Steps. Or you may be in a restricted place like a prison or institution with no sponsors. Luckily, though, there are alternatives to the traditional sponsor-sponsee relationship, and one of them is co-sponsorship. Under 12 Step co-sponsorship two addicts sharing the same type of addiction join together to work the Steps towards recovery. In such cases, they can use the material from the Fellowship they identify with as a guide to systematically work through the 12 Step. Most Fellowships have their own Step study guides. For example, if your problem is with drugs and you wish to recover through the Narcotics Anonymous program, then you would use the “Step working guide” or the N.A. basic text to jointly work through the Steps.
In addition to co-sponsorship, the phenomenon of Internet has made it possible for many of us to learn about 12 Step programs in our native language. There are online meetings, chat rooms and forums, which you can participate in to start your journey into recovery as well finding an online sponsor who can guide you through the Steps. The truth is if we are desperate to overcome our addiction and are “willing to go to any length”, we need not be deterred from finding recovery. Remember that in the early days there were no “sponsors” in the sense the term has come to mean today. While meetings were few and far apart, addicts worked their program by sharing their experience and supporting one another, no matter long they were clean or how many Steps they had worked. The irony is that the rate of recovery was higher because the message was simple and fundamental – reliance on a Higher Power to work the program towards recovery. So remember, if you want to recover, you will always find a way. Though co-sponsorship is not ideal – since it is much better to have as a guide someone with working knowledge of the Steps — it is a feasible method that has helped some of us into recovery.
Bear in mind: 12 Step co-sponsorship is not the ideal way to work through your steps. If possible, it is always better find someone in recovery who has a good working knowledge of the steps to guide you through them.
Benefits of co-sponsorship
There are certain benefits to two newcomers working the Steps with one another. They are:
1) This is a “we” program, and we always accomplish more when joined in our efforts.
2) You share the same problem and are united in a common solution towards recovery.
3) There is less likelihood of faltering in your efforts, since you will draw strength and motivation from each other.
4) You will encourage each other to continue if one feels overwhelmed or wants to quit.
5) You have the benefit of each other’s support and can learn from each other’s views, interpretations and experiences.
6) Your individual perspective can shed light on places in the Steps that the other may have difficulty with.
7) You will progress more surely and be less likely to procrastinate if you have agreed to a time frame with your co-sponsor.
Guidelines for co-sponsorship
Co-sponsorship, like sponsorship, is about establishing a relationship, which is specific, and goal-oriented. Below are suggestions to help you establish this relationship based on the right motives and some guidelines for the logistics of making it work effectively.
1. Principles to establish
1) Motive & goal
Before starting to work your Steps with one another, it is best to first establish your motives and your aims. Do you both suffer from the same type of addiction and do you agree the Steps are the solution for your recovery? Discuss and come to an understanding of your goals and expectations for this working relationship. Remind yourselves that you have a life or death situation — and that this is the reason you are working your Steps together. If you keep your focus on this primary purpose, there is less likelihood for it to get diverted or fall apart because of side issues.
2) Willingness & commitment
Discuss and come to an understanding about your willingness to recover and commitment to work the Steps. Are you willing to go to any length for your recovery — and what this means to each of you? Do not co-sponsor one another if you are preoccupied with other life issues or if recovery is not your number one priority. Can you commit to the work involved? Remember that working through the Steps — especially from Step 4 onwards –requires a good chunk of your time and efforts.
3) Focus on program
Make sure your co-sponsorship meetings are focused on the solution and working the Steps. You are sponsoring one another for a specific purpose — to recover from your addiction — so don’t waste your time talking about irrelevant issues or idol gossip. This may include not diverting your attention to non-recovery problems, trying to fix each other’s problems, or amusing yourselves with tales of your war stories. Remind yourself that the motive for working together is to work through the Steps towards recovery, so use your for this purpose. You can always catch up for social purposes later. Another way to keep your co-sponsorship focused on the program is to agree beforehand to steer clear of issues that don’t touch on recovery and which you may have differences of opinions on. It is a pity to fall out over politics or religion when it’s a question of our recovery or back to addiction.
4) Honesty & open-mindedness
To help keep you focused on your joint effort towards recovery, apply the three main criteria of 12 Step programs when working through the Steps. Having an attitude of willingness, honesty and open-mindedness will help you:
a) The 12 Steps are a set of suggestions so nothing in them is set in stone. You are entitled to your own experiences of them and can apply them how you see fit for your recovery. If there is material in the Steps you do not agree with, disregard it and move on; you may understand its value at a later stage in your recovery process.
b) Be more open towards each other’s views and opinions; avoid being judgmental or argumentative. Co-sponsorship is not about who is better or worse, or who is right or wrong. If you have the humility to put aside your differences of opinions and egos, you are more likely to learn and benefit from each other’s experiences of working the Steps. Be aware that our disease of addiction will do anything to deter us from recovery; this may include zooming in on a personality trait of your co-sponsor to make an excuse not to work the program. It may be a good idea to discuss beforehand any limitations or any issues you wish the other to respect or not talk about. This will help the relationship be more honest.
5) Confidentiality & trust
It is essential that you agree on keeping each other’s confidentiality before working with each other. What you share with each other should remain confidential. Don’t break the bonds of trust you are building with one another, as this may lead to a relapse and relapse can mean death for us.
6) Same sex co-sponsor
It is best to have same sex co-sponsors. You are bound to talk about intimate details of your life, and most of us feel comfortable doing so with people of the same gender.
7) Professional support
Do not replace your Fellowship meetings with your co-sponsorship meetings. Each has a vital purpose in your recovery. Many of us have found attending a Fellowship incredibly supportive, even if they do not speak our native tongue. Just being in the presence of other addicts in recovery, other people suffering from the same problem as ours and working towards their recovery can give us the courage and resolve to work our own program. Those of us who are foreigners in recovery have found that meetings are great sources of comfort and camaraderie, and that our fellow members are always willing to help regardless of their nationality. In addition use any other means that can help you in your recovery process. Co-sponsorship is about working through the Steps, and some of us need outside help as part and parcel of our recovery process. This can mean seeing our doctor, therapist or refugee officer to help with our non-recovery issues.
2. Practicalities to establish
Now that you have established the principles by which you will work with one another, below are suggestions to help with the practicalities of 12 Step co-sponsorship.
1) 12 Steps format
Decide which Fellowship literature you will work from. Many Fellowship have their own approved 12 Step working guidebooks. Decide on which one you will be working on and stick to that one. Although there are a vast number of books and literature available, “keep it simple” and focus on one book to inform and guide you.
2) Time & Place
Establish a mutually convenient time and place to meet regularly to work through your Steps. For example, once a week at a coffee shop. Stick to your agreed meeting intervals and do not let the other person down. Sticking to the schedule will help keep your recovery as the number one priority.
3) Session length
Decide the length of time you want to spend each time on working the Steps. It is best not to exceed two hours per meeting since you are bound to get tired.
4) Working schedule
Decide on a rough schedule of how you want to work through the 12 Steps and then proceed systematically in a structured and organized fashion. For a sample of how to devise a 12 Steps working schedule, please refer to: Sponsorship relationship
Start your meetings by saying a prayer such as the Serenity prayer and bring the God of your understanding amongst you for guidance and support. This will also remind you why you are meeting and keep you focused on working the Steps.
At the end of your meeting, decide together on the amount of work you will do for the following meeting. This way you will both be progressing at the same rate, and not have one getting ahead of the other. Also, don’t leave the homework you have agreed on until the last minute. It is a good idea to allocate at least 1 hours of your time in a day to reflect and process the work you have covered and for doing the homework. If one of you keeps on procrastinating, doesn’t do the work, or only wants to share in his or her problem, then it is best to look for another co-sponsor. To remain with a co-sponsor who is not serious about recovery may endanger your own progress and recovery.
The Serenity Prayer
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.