“Those I sponsor have helped me feel loved and needed. It’s been a privilege and a joy to give back a small part of the immense treasure I have received…” – Hope for Today
I couldn’t have said it better. Sponsorship has been one of the most intimate and greatest joys in my life. And the immense treasures the program gave me only got bigger once I was prepared, and began, to sponsor others.
So what exactly is a sponsor and how do we become ready to be one? Opinions would differ widely if you asked this to a room of people in the program. But I’ll answer what being a sponsor means to me.
It means I will always be there for my sponsees whenever they reach out to me. That I will help them navigate life’s ups and downs with grace, showing them how to apply the principles of the program in all areas of their life. That I will allow them to freely express their feelings and thoughts to me, while consistently guiding them towards 12 step solutions. And that I will be patient, tolerant, understanding, kind, loving and respectful. But most of all, loving.
That being said, there are things I won’t do as a sponsor. I won’t support my sponsees financially, and any money I do give them will be deemed charity, not to be paid back, but rather to be paid forward. It also means I won’t enter into business or romantic relationships with them, which is why I won’t sponsor anyone who could become sexually attracted to me. Sponsorship creates intimacy, and I those things could impact my ability to be an effective sponsor.
Finally, I have healthy boundaries. If sponsees are disrespectful, overly demanding or consistently unwilling to take my suggestions and get into solution, I’ll let them know I’m not able to be of service and suggest they find another sponsor to work with. The program tells me to help others who are willing to help themselves.
Another thing about the way I sponsor others is that I’m not the kind of sponsor that demands that my sponsees call me regularly (this might be selfish of me, since I have 35 sponsees and think I’d go crazy if all of them called me every day). But if I haven’t heard from them in awhile, I’ll call them. If after two calls and no response, I’ll call once more and say “I’ve left you two messages. I love you but won’t call or bother you again unless I hear back from you. I hope you’re alright.”
And what do I believe I need to be doing in order to sponsor others? Regularly read and study 12 step and recovery oriented literature, journal, work the steps, pray, meditate, make and share gratitude lists, attend, and be of service at, meetings, sponsor others, and be consistent in those efforts. I don’t do any of those things perfectly, but I do them to the best of my ability.
And finally, I aspire to be a great man, and I only sponsor those that want the same. Working with others helps me in that effort, enriching my life, beyond my wildest dreams. By sharing recovery with others, and trying to be the best sponsor I can be… ILML!
How do you find a balance, what is the right number of sponsee? Is it too much control to only receive sponsee calls, do i take my importance as a drug? I need to recieve calls from my fellows and make them, i am not an advice machine, i can only share my ESH.
Aloha Michelle. I’ll try to answer the best I can.
Regarding sponsees, it’s a personal thing, how many to have. I no longer raise my hands at meetings asking for who is able to sponsor others, as I have 35 sponsees. That said, many rarely call me and I’m only actively taking a couple through the steps. All of them have long term sobriety, and I still end up saying yes to some who seek me out. I travel frequently and use the 12 Step Sponsorship book as a guide to talk about expectations prior to working with anyone new. Some people have more time than others and are able to work with more people. These days I take on sponsees in both programs that want to learn how to love life in recovery. I teach practical recovery from the perspective of driving for emotional sobriety, AlAnon style for both those in AA and AlAnon.
Regarding control and calling I have reciprocal relationships in recovery. This means I reach out to them and they reach out to me. It’s usually individually measured. For som it’s daily, others weekly, others less frequent. There’s no rhyme or reason, it’s individualized whereby it’s comfortable for both of us.
Is the importance of being a sponsor a drug? It can be. There’s no doubt that it feels good to be of service as a sponsor. It feels good to be respected, valued and appreciated. Having 36 years of sobriety feels good. I’d like to think it doesn’t make me think I’m better than others, but rather as a comparison to who I was and how I behaved before, I’m proud of this “me” and hope to continue evolving. Does it strike my ego? Probably. But I stay very aware of it. In my relationships with sponsees I play the role of mentor to those that wish to learn, rather than like a boss who is control of an employee. That wouldn’t work for me.
I try to stay out of expectations that others in recovery will call me. That could cause me resentments and make their calls way to important to my recovery. Instead I reach out and develop intimate relationships with those who reciprocate. The healthier I am, the more I find that others want to share my life with me. So I work Hard to stay healthy emotionally. As you said, I can only share my ESH, so I strive to work the program in all my affairs and make helping others the driving purpose of my life. Giving feels great, but I need to make sure I’m giving to me too. And making time to practice the daily deal is the best way I can give back to me.
Hope that helps and thank you so much for being part of my recovery! ILML!