Why You Should Work With a Sponsor in Recovery

Once a person has completed residential treatment, day treatment, or intensive outpatient treatment, recovery does not end. Addiction treatment is a valuable step in the recovery journey, but recovery is a life-long process that involves more than just getting off of a substance. Newly recovered individuals have access to support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Refuge Recovery, SMART Recovery, and the like. Many of these programs encourage participants to obtain a sponsor, mentor, or life coach.

AA and similar programs suggest that they work because they’re based on one alcoholic talking to and working with another alcoholic—their sponsor. A sponsor is a guide who can share their experiences, strength, and hope with the newly sober. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains the benefits of the sponsor-sponsee relationship. According to the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Highly competent psychiatrists who have dealt with us have found it sometimes impossible to persuade an alcoholic to discuss his situation without reserve. Strangely enough, wives, parents and intimate friends usually find us even more unapproachable than do the psychiatrist and the doctor.

But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached, little or nothing can be accomplished. 

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. After such an approach many take up their beds and walk again.

None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor do we think its effectiveness would be increased if we did. We feel that the elimination of our drinking is but a beginning. A much more important demonstration of our principles lies before us in our respective homes, occupations and affairs. All of us spend much of our spare time in the sort of effort which we are going to describe. A few are fortunate enough to be so situated that they can give nearly all their time to the work…

We shall bring to the task our combined experience and knowledge. This should suggest a useful program for anyone concerned with a drinking problem.”

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

In order to stay sober, helping other alcoholics who are suffering must become a priority. Therefore, many people that have been successful with their own recovery are more than willing to sponsor individuals working towards sobriety. One should not feel shy about approaching someone to sponsor them. If you feel hesitant asking someone to be your sponsor, remember that being a sponsor is as much, if not more, of a benefit to the sponsor as it is to the sponsee.

Choosing a Sponsor

When looking for qualities in a sponsor, it is suggested to find someone who has what you want. This refers to their zest for life and the ease at which they seem to handle life’s stressors. Most importantly, choose a sponsor who has their own sponsor. This means that the person has worked and continues to work all twelve steps.

Finding the right sponsor might take a few tries. Once you find one, they’ll offer a valuable sounding board for your recovery experiences.

About the Author

Lisa D’Agostino, MSW, CSW, 200 RYT is a clinical therapist at Wasatch Crest, where she facilitates individual and group therapy. Lisa holds a Master of Social Work degree from Fordham University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from the Catholic University of America.

Lisa has interned as a middle and high school drug and alcohol prevention and intervention counselor in Croton, NY. She has also worked as a clinical therapist at Family Services of Westchester in Yonkers, NY. Lisa has completed mediation training at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York City and Utah Dispute Resolution. She has also practiced pro-bono mediation for individuals in small claims court.

Lisa has been sober for over 27 years and draws on her long-term sobriety to guide individuals in early recovery. She enjoys helping clients gain insight and discover new perspectives on their lives.

In addition to a clinical therapist, Lisa is a yoga and ski instructor. In true Wasatch Crest spirit, Lisa loves outdoor adventure. She enjoys road and mountain biking, trail running, hiking, and camping. She’s also an alpine and cross-country skier. An avid runner, Lisa ran the New York City Marathon twice, once as an Achilles International guide for her brother who has MS. Her longest race was 50 kilometers in the Tillamook Forest outside of Portland, OR. Lisa grew up in Manhattan.

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