If you’ve found yourself maintaining sobriety through attending 12-step meetings, it’s likely that in addition to reading the Big Book and daily affirmations, someone has suggested getting a sponsor. This can be a scary, intimidating task sometimes, but with some guidance, you should be able to find someone who can act as a voice of reason but also say what needs to be said when it comes to your sobriety and recovery.

Article at a Glance:

  • A sponsor is someone who has made progress in a recovery program and can be a mentor to help someone else stop drinking.
  • Consider how long a potential sponsor has been sober and their life as a sober person.
  • The gender of a sponsor and how many other sponsees someone has are also factors.
  • Approaching someone to ask him/her to be a sponsor can be intimidating.
  • Sponsorship is an important part of the 12-step recovery program.

What is a sponsor?

AA.org defines a sponsor as “An alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through AA.”

In other words, a sponsor is someone who has been in the program long enough to build up some time in sobriety and can aid in helping someone stop drinking. They serve as a mentor of sorts, someone to whom people new to the program can ask questions or ask for advice. They also act as a person who leads newly sober meeting attendees through the 12 steps.

What should be considered when choosing a sponsor?

Take into account the amount of time a potential sponsor been sober.

A general rule of thumb is that someone who volunteers to sponsor others should have at least one year of sobriety. This is suggested because it proves the potential sponsor is working a program that helps maintain sobriety, and will, therefore, be able to pass on that type of program to a sponsee. A newly sober person should not sponsor another newly sober person because both are fresh into the world of sobriety. Someone who has been sober a substantial amount of time has more insight into what sobriety is really like after the initial months.

Consider the sex of your sponsor.

It is often suggested that women should sponsor women and men should sponsor men. For many, it is more natural and comfortable to speak to someone of the same sex when it comes to the sensitive and sometimes private information exchanging in a sponsor and sponsee relationship. Same-sex sponsorship also limits the likelihood of romantic entanglement, which can be distracting from sobriety and recovery. According to The Alcoholism Guide, “You can choose your own AA sponsor if they agree to sponsor you, but AA prefers them to be of the same sex, believing that mixed sex sponsor pairs cause unwanted complications…It is not forbidden to have a sponsor of the opposite sex, but it is not advised.”

Examine a potential sponsor’s sobriety.

Do they have a sponsor themselves? Do they work the 12 steps? Do they seem happy and content with sobriety and outside life? If the answers to these questions are yes, your potential sponsor is likely the right person for the role because a good sponsor should practice what he/she preaches.

Consider how many other sponsees he/she has.

While it’s a good sign if a potential sponsor has other sponsees, consider how many they have. If it’s more than two or three, it’s possible it would be a better option to find another potential sponsor who has fewer sponsees and can devote more time to each.

Find someone who has what you want.

If you attend AA meetings often, you’ve likely heard this advice. If someone seems content with their sobriety and happy in other areas of life like work, school, and relationships, they’re probably working a strong program and would mentor you in doing the same.

Make sure your potential sponsor actually wants to be a sponsor.

Just because someone is sober and has been in the program for some time does not automatically mean they are willing to be a sponsor. Some are not comfortable with this idea yet, regardless of how long they’ve been sober. Typically, in 12-step meetings, there will be a point when potential sponsors raise their hands. Take note of this so as not to approach someone who is not comfortable being a sponsor.

Consider how you will approach your potential sponsor.

Often, this is done after a meeting by simply asking, “Would you be my sponsor?” However, though the best approach, that can be scary for some people. If the thought of approaching someone in person frightens you, utilize the phone list from the meeting and text or call a potential sponsor instead. If they’re willing to be a sponsor, most of the time their answer will be yes.

For many, sponsorship is a vital part of 12-step recovery. By following the above guidelines, you may be more likely to find success with a long-term sponsor.

a woman in a black top smiling at the camera.
By – Beth Leipholtz
Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. She enjoys writing about her recovery and the realities of getting sober young on her blog, Life To Be Continued, and as a contributing author for The Recovery Village. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for updates. Read more
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