Why 12 Step sponsor
4- Why 12 Step Sponsor
12 Step sponsorship is the principle way the message of recovery is carried to suffering addicts in anonymous Fellowships. As a 12 Step sponsor we do this to maintain and grow in our recovery. We also act as sponsors to show our gratitude to the Fellowship, which freely helped us when we needed it. This page provides you with information on how sponsoring others can help your recovery.
1. Improve knowledge of 12 Steps
2. Grow in recovery
3. Gain life perspective
4. Prevent a relapse
5. Gratitude to our Fellowship
Being a 12 Step sponsor is one of the greatest adventures and gifts that 12 Step anonymous Fellowships offer their members. This role is available only to those who have suffered addiction and are in recovery. Experience has shown that an addict in recovery is better prepared than anyone – professional or otherwise – to help another addict seeking recovery from their addiction. We sponsors have suffered the same disease and have found the solution through the 12 Steps. Our past suffering and our experiences of recovery have put us in the unique position of being able to show the still-suffering addict that a new way of life is possible. We may be the only people offering what is frequently the last chance of recovery, sanity – or maybe life itself — to another suffering addict. At the same time, being a 12 step sponsor is a key part of our own recovery. Experience has shown that when we help another we are also helping ourselves maintain and grow in our recovery. In short, sponsorship is a mutual relationship that is valuable crucial for both parties. We need each other’s support if we want to overcome a disease that is bigger and more powerful than any one of us alone.
Many of us may feel hesitant or fear becoming a 12 step sponsor. We may think we are not “qualified”, have not “recovered” enough or that the situation or circumstances of the person asking for our support is so radically different from ours that we would be unable to relate to them. As for being qualified, we need to remind ourselves that sponsorship required no qualification. So long as we have experienced the solution, so long as our working knowledge of the Steps can help another, then we have something of immense value to offer. We will never be fully “recovered” from our disease of addiction. What we have is a set of tools in the form of the 12 Steps that we apply to the best of our ability on a daily basis to our lives in order to stay in recovery from a chronic condition. None of us can work a perfect program and we need not wait to complete the 12 Steps before sharing our experiences of them to another. As for relating to someone in the program, we need to remember that as sponsors the only thing we have to have in common with our sponsee is our disease of addiction; their social standing or status is irrelevant when it comes to working this program. The truth is in our Fellowships there are no rules on how or when to sponsor another. Also keep in mind that we work our Steps more effectively when we help another through them. Above all we have to have faith, we have to believe that there is a reason someone has asked us to help them. Someone asking us to sponsor them is a sign that we must have a quality of recovery that someone else wants. More importantly, though, by overcoming our fears and saying yes to that person, not only are we ensuring ourselves against a possible relapse but also contributing to the maintenance and growth of our own recovery.
Below are some examples of how sponsoring others can help your own recovery and growth:
1- Improve knowledge of the Steps
As 12 Step sponsors we are offering hope to suffering addicts and helping them realize that a life beyond addiction is not only possible but is far better that they could ever imagine. We are saying, in effect: “look at me, I was where you are and now that I am working this program, I have a life filled with freedom and serenity.” But we can pass this message to another only when we have experienced the miracles that have come true for us as a result of working the Steps. We cannot give away what we don’t have. When guiding another through the Steps, we are reminded of the value of this program and feel motivated to dig deeper and work on our Steps more enthusiastically.
In addition when sponsoring someone, we hear from that person how they are putting the Steps in practice. This is an opportunity for us to look at how we are working our own program. Almost invariably, our sponsees are going to say things about the Steps that never occurred to us. They are going to share experiences that shed new light on the program. We can benefit from their lessons and experiences and so work our own program even more effectively.
2- Grow in recovery
When we guide another through the 12 Steps we are enhancing our own knowledge and practice of the program. Working the 12 Steps is not something that is completed and then left alone. The program is a set of tools that we need to apply to our daily lives on a daily basis in order to maintain and grow in our recovery. When guiding another through the Steps, we wind up working them again are and ourselves reminded of their purpose and effectiveness. Many of us sponsors find we appreciate the real goals of the Steps only after we take another through them. Teaching a sponsee about the Steps encourages us to study them with a new perspective and work them at a deeper level. Finally there is nothing more effective for the maintenance of our recovery than guiding another through the Steps. Keeping our knowledge of the program to ourselves risks stagnation but through sponsorship, we reinvigorate our program.
There are times we may sponsor people very different from us, people from different backgrounds and cultures, people with a different religion or different political views. But in the Fellowship, we learn to put aside our own prejudices or biases. We learn to get along with others despite differences. We learn how to listen without judgment, accept without conditions, and love without expectations. In many ways, sponsoring others teaches us how to become whole people who can have healthy relationships with others. This is one relationship that can help us grow in our usefulness as members of our community.
3- Gain life perspective
When working with others, we will be reminded of where we used to be, the major problems we used to have, the challenges we faced in the early days and the suffering our disease made us endure. This experience helps us as sponsors to gain a new perspective on our lives in recovery. We will appreciate what we have been able to achieve and feel grateful for the progress we have made in view of where we used to be. Small problems we are worrying about, our complaints and dissatisfactions – all these fall in balance when we hear our sponsee share about the wreckage of their lives. Not that our issues today are not important or that we should dismiss or deny them. But we can’t help but be relieved that no matter how serious our problems, our lives today are manageable in a way they never were when we were active.
4- Prevent a relapse
Experience of the early members showed that to safeguard their recovery and prevent a relapse, they needed to carry the message of recovery to other suffering addicts. A.A.’s co-founder Bill W. realized he could stay away from a drink only by sharing his story and struggles with another suffering alcoholic, and by offering him the solution to his problem. This simple idea led to others doing the same, ultimately developing into what we know now as 12 Step Fellowships. The purpose of all 12 Step Fellowships is based on the therapeutic value of one addict helping another.
Whenever we are sponsoring another, we are ensuring ourselves against a relapse. When we suggest to another what they can do to achieve recovery, equally we are reminded of what we need to do to maintain our recovery, which in turn helps us against a relapse.
At the same time, there is incredible therapeutic value to two people sharing their experience, strength and hope with each other. A bond is created that strengthens each individual’s resolve to not fall victim to their disease and motivates them to pursue recovery.
Part of the work of a 12 Step sponsor is sharing with our sponsee our shortcomings, our insecurities, our struggles, and our fears. Such honesty and openness helps build trust with our sponsee but it also keeps us grounded in the reality of our chronic condition and prevents us from becoming complacent about it. When we share that we too are works in progress, we ward off grandiosity and that we too are merely addicts in recovery who need to work our program on a daily basis.
For more information on how to prevent a relapse, please refer to Relapse Prevention Tools.
5- Gratitude to our Fellowship
Gratitude is one of the surest means of maintaining our recovery. It is near impossible for us to relapse if we are feeling grateful towards a program that has helped us overcome our addiction and had offered us a new and better way to live. Sponsoring others is one the best ways we can express this gratitude.
When we assume the responsibility to help another towards recovery, in a way we are carrying the torch for what our Fellowship stands for – a solution for the disease of addiction and the hope that recovery is possible. We are paying a debt towards those who helped us when we felt hopeless. This in turn helps us value more what we have been able to achieve by the grace of the program — and makes us more determined to keep it. When we carry the message to another we are helping our Fellowship grow. This altruistic service is part of the process that helps us grow in our recovery by making us become whole and useful people again.