Step Twelve, like the other steps that begin with a one, can be practiced from the moment you walk into a meeting. You’ve only been sober for two days and don’t think you have anything to offer? Well there might be a guy who’s only been sober for one day and he can relate more to you than to the guy with ten years. As a newcomer you can even help those with more time than you by some of your observations and dedication to working a program and changing your life. Plus, by receiving help from those with more time, you are helping them work their program and in an interesting twist working the twelfth step in your own way. All of this is to say that any time we are engaging with another alcoholic to talk about the program of recovery we are working the Twelfth step.
After you have worked all twelve steps formally you will most likely be ready to sponsor others. Sponsorship is both a gift and a big responsibility. Here are some tips that we have found useful to ensure healthy and successful sponsorship relationships.
Always act in your sponsees best interest. It can be easy to let the power of sponsorship go to one’s head. We are dealing with people who are in need of tremendous help. They have in many cases hit a rock bottom and are looking for anything to bring them out of it. That being said, the responsibility that a sponsor has to act in good faith for these people’s well being should not be taken lightly. Your job as a sponsor is to take your sponsee through the twelve steps. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Remember that you are not that person’s higher power. While it might feel like it at times, your sponsee only has one higher power and it is not you. It is not uncommon for sponsors and sponsees to get involved in a sort of codependent relationship where it seems like all decisions need to be run by a sponsor. Should I wear black socks or blue socks today? Better call my sponsor. Can’t decide between the caesar or the garden salad? Better call my sponsor. This is not healthy for anyone involved. In early sobriety any decision may seem bewildering and it is fine to run any and all things past a sponsor. However, at some point we need to start making our own decisions and realize when the sponsor relationship has become more of a crutch than a support system. If you are a sponsor and you find that your sponsees are calling you too often to get your input on seemingly trivial matters, encourage them to start making their own decisions and building the confidence to believe in them.
Do focus on the Steps and the Big Book. Sponsees will come to you with a lot of problems. Our job as sponsors is to keep our sponsees focused on the solution to the alcoholism problem outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Steel yourself. They will attempt at every turn to derail you from taking them through the Big Book. It is very easy to allow a one hour session with sponsee to turn into a gripe session if you don’t take the reins. So set the expectation early on about how the sessions will go. If they start to veer, bring them back to the task at hand. And if they refuse to stay focused on the program of recovery you may need to encourage them to work with someone else.
Sponsorship, when approached with the right attitude, can be a rewarding experience and a great practice in humility. At the same time we are deriving a tremendous benefit from helping another person while keeping our own egos in check knowing that it is really our higher power doing the work. If you have the opportunity to sponsor someone in the program we commend you and encourage you to take it seriously.