What Is AA Sponsorship?
Completing a rehabilitation program is a major accomplishment; however, staying sober is a lifelong process. In order to maintain sobriety, many recovering alcoholics will turn to 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide fellowship of recovering alcoholics who share their experiences with each other in order to solve their common problems and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking and to help others achieve sobriety. One of the most important components of the AA program is sponsorship.
In AA, a newcomer will choose a same-gendered sponsor with whom he or she feels comfortable with and can talk freely to that will guide them through the 12 Steps and Traditions. The sponsor will then share his or her experiences on a continuous, individual basis with the newer member who is attempting to maintain sobriety through AA. The relationship between sponsor and sponsoree is invaluable to both parties and can be the reason that someone is able to resist temptation and stay sober.
Your Role and Responsibility as an AA Sponsor
A sponsor essentially functions as a mentor; as a recovering alcoholic yourself, you know exactly how hard the recovery process can be and are therefore able to provide a wise and sympathetic shoulder for a newcomer to lean on. When people first begin attending support group meetings, many feel confused, sick, and apprehensive as they start on the long journey of sobriety ahead of them. The majority of recovering individuals find that their loved ones simply can’t understand or relate to the daily struggles of trying to stay sober, and an AA sponsor fills that void by providing constant, close support as their newcomer learns how to “live soberly.” Sponsorship gives the newcomer an understanding, loyal friend when one is needed most.
Sponsorship responsibility is unwritten and informal, but it is a basic part of the AA approach to recovery from alcoholism through the Twelve Steps. A sponsor does everything possible, within the limits of personal experience and knowledge, to help the newcomer get and stay sober through the Alcoholics Anonymous program by:
- Inspiring sobriety and leading by present example
- Encouraging and helping the newcomer to attend and understand AA meetings
- Answering any questions that the newcomer may have regarding the Twelve Steps and long-term sobriety
- Introducing the newcomer to other members
- Being available when the newcomer has special problems and/or needs support
- Urging the newcomer to join and actively participate in group activities
The only real requirement to become a sponsor is a desire to help people and the will to dedicate your time to support those who need guidance along their sobriety journey. A strong commitment to leading a lifestyle free of alcohol is a must to set a great example for those that you’re sponsoring. Anyone who consistently participates in AA meetings and lives an alcohol-free life is already considered to be a sponsor for other members in many of the Fellowship’s eyes.
Giving Back to the Community and Yourself
Becoming an AA sponsor is one of the best ways to give back to the community that helped you during one of the hardest times of your life. Sponsors help fellow recovering alcoholics get the most out of the program, maintain sobriety, change negative attitudes, and learn how to enjoy a sober lifestyle. A good sponsor can be the difference for some between staying sober or falling back into their old destructive ways of alcohol abuse.
Another benefit of sponsorship is that it also strengthens the sponsor’s own sobriety. The act of sharing sobriety with another person and knowing that your actions are influencing another can help renew your dedication to an alcohol-free life. Studies have shown that being a sponsor benefits both the sponsor and the individual that you support by reducing rates of relapse for both parties. As stated in the Alcoholics Anonymous Sponsorship Guide, “By helping others, alcoholics can find that they help themselves.” Sponsorship offers the satisfaction that comes from assuming responsibility for someone other than yourself.
If you know someone that is struggling with excessive alcohol consumption, contact a dedicated treatment provider for rehab-related information and treatment options.
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