The rule of thumb in a recovery program is to give back what was so freely given to you. Being of service is a crucial part of staying sober. Instead of thinking about yourself all the time like you did when you were active in your addiction, you can be proactive and start thinking about what you can do for others in your recovery. One of the ways in which you can be helpful to those in your 12-Step program is to become someone’s sponsor. You may not think you are ready for the task because of all the responsibility and time that you think it will take up, but the truth is if someone wants you to walk them through the 12-Steps, you should be willing.
Take time to sit down with them and see if there is a spiritual connection between the two of you. Find out what they are looking for in their recovery program and see if that is in line with what you do with your sponsor. You should never want their sobriety more than they want it and that will become prevalent by talking with them about sponsorship. More importantly, pondering the qualifications of what a sponsor should have, might be the very thing you need to put your hand out to someone else in need.
Do I have to have gone through the steps first?
You already completing your 12 Steps is a good idea. Even if you haven’t finished your steps all the way, being ahead of them is the best bet. You cannot share your step work with someone when you have not been through the step before yourself. Ideally working your steps in totality would be the best case scenario, but you would not want to turn someone away simply because you think you are not ready. How would you have felt if your sponsor had said “no” to you?
The key is to stay ahead of them in your steps and then use their progress for motivation to keep moving forward with your own step work.
Do I have to have more sobriety time than them?
The answer to this question is not necessarily. If someone has more time than you and then asks you to be their sponsor, you should take it as a compliment. Someone who has more time than you is probably looking for quality, not quantity. When you were looking for a sponsor, you looked for someone who had what you wanted to achieve in your own sobriety. Take some time to discuss whether you are truly ready to sponsor with your sponsor to get some perspective, especially if you are a newcomer.
Do I have the right qualifications to be a sponsor?
On page 18 in the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous, you can find the qualifications of a sponsor and how you should respond when working with someone who wants to stay sober.
“That the man who is making the approach has had the same difficulty, that he obviously knows what he is talking about, that his whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real answer, that he has no attitude of Holier Than Thou, nothing whatever except the sincere desire to be helpful; that there are no fees to pay, no axes to grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured – these are the conditions we have found most effective.”
A sponsor should not in the business to make decisions for someone else’s life. The point of sponsorship is to guide someone away from alcohol and drugs and direct them to the solution found in the 12-Steps. Let’s say that you think that your sponsee should move out of where they live, think they should take a particular job, or need to break up with their current partner and they listened to you. What if that decision proved to be completely wrong and you were the one who insisted that they should take your direction? Now you have the responsibility of making that decision for them rather than letting them either make the right decision for themselves to boost their sober confidence or codependently not letting them make their own mistakes and learn the true lesson.
Progress rather than perfection
Putting days together sober is not an easy thing to achieve, so any day that they gain another 24 hours is a win. Both of you will make mistakes in sobriety that continue to build the foundation of your recovery when your sobriety stays intact. Celebrating the one day at a time success is critical to edifying one another with recovery unity.
Attraction rather than promotion
You will never make someone stay sober because they have to want it for themselves. They must work their own program separate from yours and be willing to take the direction that was passed onto you. Spending any time trying to beat them into a state of reasonableness when they are not ready means that you are taking time away from being of service to someone else.
All you have to do is stick to the 12 Steps and you will have all that you need to be a sponsor. Take direction from your sponsor on how to sponsor, and more importantly, take direction from your Higher Power who will lead the way for you.
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