A 12-step therapy programme is a set of guiding philosophies that outline a course of action for an individual’s recovery from an addiction or other behavioural compulsions. Often, within these types of programmes, the most successful participants are those who have chosen sponsors that provide the necessary guidance and support to prevent relapse.

The Role of a Sponsor 

A sponsor can be an invaluable asset in helping prevent relapses. They serve to provide support and guidance to their sponsee, and guide them through the 12-step therapy process and are always available to provide the words of encouragement a person on the verge of relapse needs. 

The sponsor fills many roles, including:

  • Being a subject matter expert. A good sponsor has already been through 12-step therapy and will be able to share their lessons learned.
  • 24-hour availability. A relapse can happen at any time of day or night. Having a reliable sponsor can be the single determining factor in preventing a relapse.
  • Judgement-free zone. Often sponsors and sponsees form close bonds, which stem from both parties acknowledging their vulnerabilities without fear of judgement.
  • Motivational supporter. Sponsors provide praise for achievements and ongoing encouragement.
  • Being brutally honest. A good sponsor is not afraid to tell their sponsee when they are making mistakes or lacking in judgement that could lead to relapse.

How to Choose Your Sponsor 

While there are no concrete rules on how to choose a sponsor, there are some guiding principles that serve as best practices:

  • Your sponsor should have been through the 12-step therapy programme themselves and ‘worked the steps’. This ensures they are qualified to provide you with the best guidance and information.
  • They must be secure in their own Someone who is on the verge of their own relapse is simply not qualified to provide the support you will require in your times need.
  • If possible, it is recommended that your sponsor not be of the gender you are romantically attracted to. Because sponsors and sponsees develop such close relationships and share their vulnerabilities, romantic attachment has a tendency to manifest. This can impede the progress of the sponsee in their recovery and has the potential to ruin an otherwise fruitful friendship.
  • Choose a sponsor that you can trust implicitly. Throughout your 12-step therapy programme and along your road to recovery you will share a lot of private and potentially embarrassing information with your sponsor. It is sad to say, but some unscrupulous individuals may try to use this information against you at some point for their own

The Difficulties of Sponsorship 

As beneficial as sponsors can be, like any other relationship they have the potential to sour. When that happens, the results can be detrimental for both parties. There are some warning signs, though, that can help prevent a sponsorship from taking a bad turn.

  • A sponsor that becomes too controlling or overbearing. If your sponsor tries to micromanage every aspect of your life, you must ask yourself if they are doing it out of their genuine desire to help, or are they on a power trip? Either way, it is their job to guide you, not control you. You should never feel bullied or intimidated by your sponsor.
  • A sponsor that is hypercritical. Following in the same vein as the last point, a sponsor that is constantly pointing out all that you are doing wrong, and never acknowledging your achievements is a critic, not a sponsor. Certainly, your sponsor should feel comfortable in providing constructive criticism, but they must also help you focus on the positive attributes of your recovery as well.
  • A sponsor that relapses. In keeping with the idea of choosing a sponsor secure in their sobriety, you can be severely affected yourself if the person you lean on the most for support has a relapse themselves.
  • A sponsor that takes advantage of your vulnerabilities and makes unwanted romantic advances. Yes, there will be a lot of private conversation between you and your sponsor, and in your times of need, they will be the one you call to talk you down. But your sponsor should never attempt to use their position to solicit romantic or sexual favours from you.

Knowing When to Find a New Sponsor

The relationship your forge with your sponsor during your 12-step therapy programme is one that you will hold dear for the rest of your recovery and your life. Choosing the right sponsor is essential to your success. If at any time, you begin to see the warning signs of your sponsorship starting to take a downturn and you no longer feel comfortable with them, it is okay to find a new sponsor. Taking charge of your sponsorship is a step in the right direction of taking charge of your life again, outside of addiction.

Contact us today if you would like more information on our 12-step therapy programme, or advice on choosing your sponsor.