What is a sponsor? Do I need to get one? How do I pick one? Should they pick me? These are all questions people new to the program of AA ask. A sponsor is simply a member of the fellowship, who has more sober time than you, ideally has completed all twelve steps or at least completed the fifth step, who will help guide you through the twelve steps.
In this post we’ll guide you through some of the do’s and don’ts of getting and working with a sponsor by answering some of the most common questions we have heard about sponsorship.
How do I find a sponsor?
It’s actually a lot easier that you think. There are plenty of people in AA who are eager to help sponsor others as it helps them with their own program. Some people may offer to sponsor you “temporarily” without your having to ask. This can be a good thing. And it certainly takes a lot of the pressure out of having to ask someone. However, you can also end up with someone who is not a good fit. We recommend the best way to select someone who might be a potential sponsor is to listen to people share and see who you really identify with. Also, we often use the phrase that “we want what that person has.” That means if they seem to be living a sober life that you would like to create for yourself then maybe they’re a good fit. So ask that person for their number. Ask them out to coffee. If your meeting asks people to raise their hands who are willing to sponsor, do they raise their hand? If so, well then you know they’re available. If not, they still might be if you talk to them.
There’s someone who is really popular and has a lot of sponsees. Does that mean I should try to get them for my sponsor too?
If someone has a lot of spouses and is pretty popular in the program, that obviously means that a number of people want what they have. However, that also means that they’ll have a number of people making demands on their time. And they might not have enough time for you. It might feel cool to think that you have the sponsor that everyone looks to for answers. However, you might also do just as well with someone less “popular” who has more time available for you and most likely has just as solid experience, strength, and hope to share.
Do I really have to call my sponsor every day?
A lot of folks that sponsor newcomers will ask that person to call them every day early on to check in. Sometimes they won’t even answer the phone or call back. This can lead to frustration on the part of the newcomer who feels that they are just exerting power over them. Our recommendation, just call. It helps keep you accountable and it’s not a forever thing.
Sometimes I have an an emergency and my sponsor is not available? Aren’t they supposed to help me?
Sponsors are regular people too with regular lives, jobs, and outside obligations. Your sponsor might not always be available to speak with you and help you work through a problem. That’s why it’s important to have other numbers of people in your phone who you can turn to for guidance outside of your sponsor.
Does my sponsor have to be someone of the same sex?
So, the whole thing with being sponsored by someone of the same sex (assuming that you are heterosexual) is that the opportunity or possibility for romantic intrigue does not enter into the relationship. If you’re new it’s best to stick with someone of the same sex (if you’re straight) or opposite sex (if you’re gay).
My sponsor doesn’t return my phone calls and never seems available when I want to do step work.
As mentioned in an earlier question, sponsors are regular people with outside commitments. That being said, if you’re sponsor is truly not available and you feel like you are not getting the support that you need, have a discussion with them. They made a commitment to sponsor you and that entails some level of availability and support. Ask them if they are up for the task and if not it might be time to look to someone else.
My sponsor is really bossy and it seems like they’re trying to control my life.
This one’s a fine line. If you’re new you probably need somebody giving you some direction. However, if your sponsor is giving you advice beyond things related to your sobriety in a way that feels uncomfortable you might want to bounce it off someone. It wouldn’t be the first sponsor relationship to get a little codependent and it’s best to address that situation early.
Remember no sponsor is permanent. People come into our lives for a reason. Some people stick with the same sponsor for years. And some mix it up. Whatever you do, be honest. If it’s not working, have a straightforward conversation. If you’re going to switch sponsors, let your current sponsor know before they hear from someone else you're working with someone new. And remember we’re all just people trying to get sober. Your sponsor is not your higher power.