Finding a Good Sponsor

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 same 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. If you’re homosexual, choose someone of the opposite sex. 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.

4 thoughts on “Finding a Good Sponsor

  1. Hi James,

    First I want to thank you for taking the time to share your experience, strength and hope with us…I was living in Maui last year and attended most of the Alano Club meetings and chaired the Joe and Charlie BB study on Saturday night. ( I have 9 plus years and my first sponsor drilled into me “service work will keep you sober” so always had a chair/secretary positioin.) Im grateful that I had the willingness to do this as it kept me sober. However, I wasn’t working a good program, was sponsoring myself most of the time. And as a result, I was restless, irritable and discontent; plus constantly living with the FRDSS…I quit my job there, packed up and headed for the Cayman Islands for work….unfortunately, nothing changed. I brought myself with me…..and now recently also lost my job.
    : (
    I am now moving back to Maui, as I have another job offer near Lahaina…same area that I lived in last year….I’ll be arriving the first week of March….in any case, I discovered your web-site recently and have read it from cover to cover… has helped me finally come to the conclusion that I need to consistently WORK a good program than just attend meetings regularly. Its amazing that I am still sober….however, I haven’t been happy, just dry and crazy as hell.

    Now I realize that you are in Lahaina….and I keep thinking that this is not “odd it has to be God”….Im making a committment to work my program, as you have suggested, as I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. There has to be a better way and I am grateful that you have taken the time to create this site. It resonates with me and I am hopeful once again.

    Looking foward to starting a fresh chapter in Maui and hopefully will get to meet you one day in the rooms.

    Thank you once again for being of service,



    • I resonate with everything you have said. At 20 years sober, my AlAnon wife said “have you considered working a program” during one of our famous arguments. After my response of “why don’t you?”, I recognized she was correct. These days working my program (aside from sponsorship, prayer, meditation and meetings) takes me hours every day. It’s amazing I have time for the rest of my life. But the payoff for insisting on starting my day with my golden hours of reading, texting, and journaling (plus making immediate amends if needed), has paid off huge dividends. The result is I’m not just sober – I love my life, and equally as important, I love me. Glad you’re coming back to West Maui – you’ll see me at the Club. I’m a regular on Monday nights at 6:30!


  2. Right On!!!! As they say in Maui. : )
    Thanks for your warm welcome back to the island. I look forward to this chapter of my life called “working a program” and reaping better results. I know its like going to the gym…we all want the bodies that come out of the gym but instead we take the easier softer way and don’t do the work. Thats got to be why they call it “working out” and “‘working the steps”….and yes I am a Blonde ; )
    Look forward to seeing you Monday night at 6:30 in March!


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