The 5 Most Important Things to Look For in a Sponsor
It is said that there is nothing that will ensure immunity from addiction more than intensive work with another addict or alcoholic. The ability for an individual to identify with our struggles, and relate their experience and recovery to our obstacles gives power to the concept of sponsorship. It is important to remember the primary purpose of a sponsor in a 12 Step program when looking for a sponsor. It’s not always wise to be picky, but there are some ideal factors in my personal experience. This list could be summed up with #1, but I will expand on it to give some ideas on what you may want to keep in mind. No one is perfect, and we need take no inventory but our own, however this is one opinion on the 5 most important things to look for in a sponsor.
1. Knowledge of 12 Steps
First is the individual’s knowledge of the 12 Steps. Now there are several different opinions. Some believe you should only sponsor after completing 12 Steps, while others believe that your sponsor need only be 1 Step ahead of you. It is in my opinion important that a sponsor be at the very least aware of the 12 Steps and has a working knowledge of the steps. This is again my opinion, but clean time should not matter as long as a sponsor has completed 12 Steps.
The concept of “God as you understand God” is important to keep in the forefront of your mind for this one. Of course you’re not expected to have the same faith system or spiritual practices as your sponsor. There is no requirement that you pray as they pray. However it is important to notice the concept of spiritual principles in any potential sponsor. It is stressed how a complete psychic change or spiritual awakening is necessary to maintain sobriety. Make sure to find a sponsor who cares about their spiritual growth, and who has an appreciation for your right to grow in your own form of faith.
When trying to find a sponsor, look for someone who understands the value of being humble and grateful for their recovery. If someone is working a strong program, they will most likely remain willing to listen and take advice themselves. This shows that they are not under the impression they have a monopoly on sobriety, and will not put unwarranted expectations on you.
If you are planning on working the 12 Steps with someone and staying accountable to stay sober, you may want to be sure that sponsor is accountable themselves. Do they have a sponsor? Do they attend meetings? Do they stay in contact with their sponsor and/or with you? Again, it is not your job to keep them accountable per say, but if you are as desperate as I was to stay active in your recovery, you may want to be sure your sponsor is able to put in the time to help you do so.
5. Healthy Relationships
A sponsor is someone who you will be building a relationship with through the process of working 12 Steps and maintaining sobriety. Keep in mind that a sponsor is not meant to be your best friend, nor are they supposed to be your relationship counselor. They are there to assist you in the steps and building a spiritual life style. But they may have difficulty doing so if they are unable to respect the life styles, opinions, and boundaries of others who they have relationships with. It’s great to learn from someone with what is sometimes called ‘emotional sobriety’.
Essentially the only requirement for a sponsor to do what they are there to do is the willingness and experience (no matter how limited) to take you through 12 Steps. These are all other areas of the person you decide to work with that you may want to take note of and appreciate with an open mind. Again, it is not my intention to give you any criteria to use to evaluate or criticize anyone. These are the things that were most important to me when seeking a sponsor, and in my experience they are some of the most important characteristics of anyone I surround myself with as support in sobriety. Some of these may be more important to you than others, but what is truly most important is that you get a sponsor, you work 12 Steps, and you stay sober one day at a time.
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