How do I find a good sponsor?
(Note this is only my personal opinion, not the official opinion of any 12 step program).
First identify what you’re looking for in a sponsor. Here are some things to consider?
Gender. It’s often suggested to find a sponsor of the opposite sex. I agree and will go one step further. I suggest you find a sponsor that there is no possibility you could be sexually attracted to them. For example, if sexually you like men, choose a woman. If you’re bi-sexual, choose someone that is definitely not your type. This will avoid any possibility of either party using sexual attraction as a diversion in the sponsor-sponsee relationship. Those in recovery often have an great ability to manipulate in relationships. Taking the sexual attraction possibility out of the equation makes it more likely that the focus will stay on recovery.
Time. How much time will you need and how much does this person have available. Do you want to work the steps and go over them in detail. Do you want to talk to them every day, or spend time with them each day? Do you need someone that will always answer the phone or are call-backs when they are available ok. Often times I find that the expectations of sponsees are not in line with what the sponsor is able to offer. It’s best to be clear about these capabilities at the start of the relationship.
Experience. There’s a difference between what someone new in the program needs, and the needs of someone who has worked the steps and been in recovery for a period of time. In the first case, a newcomer needs a sponsor to walk them through the steps. This should be someone who has worked the steps successfully in their own life, and has a firm understanding of the program. It’s also advisable that this person be grounded in going to meetings regularly as to encourage the newcomer to do so as well. An old-timer who has several years in the program may be looking for a sponsor to give them something quite different. They may have a foundation of the steps but be looking for a sponsor that can help them with emotional sobriety, or find a way to work the program into their lives on a regular basis. It’s suggested that these individuals search for a person to sponsor them that really uses the program tools in their daily lives. You can find them by listening closely to their shares – usually they will share difficulties followed by the tools they used in the program and the positive outcome that followed. This type of share is representative of someone in the solution who has learned to apply the program to their day-to-day experiences in order to be more at peace in their lives.
Self-sponsorship. This is not recommended, and I can say that from experience. There’s an old phrase in program called the ISM. It could stand for what’s left inside of us after the alcohol is gone. It can also stand for “I Sponsor Myself”. Either way, it’s not what I want. After going years without a sponsor, and having had one for most of my sobriety, I can tell you that, at least for me, life is 1,000 times easier and better with a sponsor. After having left my prior sponsor due to some behavior that wasn’t sitting well with me, one of my Sponsees, Ty, said to me at Starbucks in West LA
“So James, did you find a sponsor yet?”
I answered “No, not yet.”
He said, “Anyone you like that you’re thinking of asking?”
I said, “As a matter of fact, yes there is. A guy named Dan in Maui.”
Ty said, “That’s great. Why don’t you ask him to be your sponsor”.
I said, “Ok, I will.”
Ty said “Great”. Then he handed my my iPhone that was on the table.
I said, “What?”
He said, “Well go ahead, call and ask him.”
That made me feel really uncomfortable. You see, I had been rejected before asking others to sponsor me. I have fear of rejection. I really didn’t want to call. But what could I do? My sponsee was asking me to get a sponsor. So, I had no choice. I dialed up Dan, silently hoping and praying he wouldn’t answer. Here’s what happened.
“Hello this is Dan”.
“Uh, hi Dan. I’m not sure if you remember me, but I’m James. I see you at the Paki Maui.”
“Of course I know you. How are you James.”
“Oh I’m great. Hey the reason I’m calling is that I’m looking for a sponsor. I know you probably sponsor a lot…”
“I’d be honored to sponsor you James.”
“It would be a priviledge to sponsor you.”
“Oh great. Thanks Dan. Cool. Well then, let’s get together when I get back on island.”
“Sounds great James. Talk to you soon.”
And that’s how I got my current sponsor whom I love dearly. Thank you Ty!
Finding the Right Sponsor. Based on what I said above about self-sponsorship, in the event you are having trouble finding the right sponsor, I would suggest asking the best choice of what’s available to at least be a temporary sponsor, and begin calling them consistently. Not having anyone to run things by before we think, act or speak is not the best choice for me. However, I suggest that if you’re not totally happy with your current or temporary sponsor, begin looking for another one. If you can’t find one at your regular meetings, you may need to venture out and start attending meetings that you don’t regularly attend, with the specific goal to find a sponsor.
A great book on sponsorship (both for those looking for a sponsor and sponsoring others) is called the Twelve Step Sponsorship: How it works. It’s available at Amazon.