If you are beginning treatment, working with a mentor who can help you find the path forward can significantly benefit your recovery. A mentor serves as a role model of hope. Although family and friends can help support your recovery, they may not have the same experience of battling addiction. Sponsors in 12-Step programs can be great mentors to walk alongside you in this journey.
Primary Roles of a 12-Step Group Sponsor
Most 12-Step programs offer opportunities for people in long-term recovery to serve as sponsors to newly recovering individuals. Usually, a sponsor is someone of the same gender who has maintained sobriety for at least a year and has actively participated in the 12-Step community.
A sponsor’s first job is to be a good listener. Whenever you feel frustrated or emotionally down, you can reach out to your sponsor and talk about it. They can help you express negative emotions to keep emotional relapse at bay.
Your sponsor is a role model who shows you that there is hope for living a sober life after putting in the work. They may be a direct source of information as you work through the 12-Step program. If you are unclear about some concepts, you can reach out to this person. Your sponsor also has the responsibility to motivate you to attend regular meetings.
The Importance of an Accountability Partner in a 12-Step Program
A good sponsor keeps you on track. They will notice if you have started slacking off. Because addiction recovery should not be a journey embarked on alone, make use of more than one accountability partner. Apart from family and friends, a sponsor is an excellent choice of accountability partner, given their shared experiences and commitment to life in recovery.
Accountability partners should be people who motivate you and cheer you on. Sponsors can do that without judging your experiences because they have been there before. Even in recovery, you need to make many decisions, such as whether or not to begin a dating relationship or how to improve your finances. Your sponsor will provide guidance based on experience.
Peer Learning in a 12-Step Program as Relapse Prevention
A primary directive of the 12-Step program is to harness the power of peer-to-peer learning for maintaining sobriety. This mode of experiential learning has multiple benefits, including access to resources, sharing relapse prevention tips, being in a nonjudgmental community, and personalized long-term guidance from a sponsor.
Substance addiction isolates people, and recovery requires socialization. In the 12-Step program, recovering individuals have the space to explore new friendships. They can even develop lifelong relationships. In many cases, the relationship between a sponsor and a sponsee deepens into lasting connections.
What to Expect When Working With a 12-Step Sponsor
12-Step program sponsorship can look very different depending on the relationship between you and your sponsor. When you work with a sponsor, begin with realistic expectations. For example, do not expect your sponsor relationship to be the same as someone else’s. Because each person is different, your relationship with a sponsor may play out uniquely.
To help you prepare for this new relationship, lay out some expectations ahead of time. The more you communicate what kinds of help you need, the better your sponsor can help you. They may also share successful experiences in sponsoring others to help you understand what works for them and if they’re a good fit.
Because the spirit of having a sponsor is to gain one member in a more extensive support system, you should not expect your sponsorship to be the majority of your recovery support. You should still attend regular meetings, put in the work, and connect with other loved ones. Even though your sponsor may make themselves available, avoid dependency on this relationship.
What Not to Expect From a 12-Step Sponsorship
First of all, your sponsor is not your therapist. Don’t rely on them to solve your mental and emotional health struggles. Their advice is based on limited personal experiences, not professional suggestions. They also should not impose their personal views on you.
Secondly, although a sponsor is an accountability partner and may know intimate details about your life and recovery process, they should not become romantically involved with you. For the sponsor relationship to work out, the two of you need boundaries and a strictly defined professional relationship.
Last but not least, if you find that sponsorship is not working out, you have the power to end this relationship. Common scenarios that may make you reconsider your sponsor relationship include the following:
- Your sponsor is hardly available
- They appear to be having problems with their sobriety
- Some kind of sexual attraction begins to develop on one or both sides
- This sponsorship becomes a source of frustration instead of support
- You feel unable to build trust in the sponsor
If the time comes to an end for this sponsorship, do it with respect. Show appreciation for their time and efforts. Most sponsors understand when their sponsee wants to try someone else. However, do not give up on sponsorship just because the first one did not work out as you expected. With time and patience, you will benefit from a good sponsorship.
Regarding addiction, sponsors in 12-Step programs can provide emotional support, mentorship, and accountability. The 12-Step groups at Laguna Shores Recovery have helped people heal from isolation during recovery. If you or a loved one is looking for a good addiction treatment center, consider one with a quality 12-Step community and excellent sponsors. Laguna Shores’ experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know the value of peer support while receiving customized treatment. We will walk alongside you or your loved one to offer support and guidance. Call us today to discover how you can be part of our community, as peer support is key. For more information, call 866-934-5276.