You did it. You gave up drugs or alcohol and you are now sober. You have been through a treatment program, and perhaps have been in a sober living facility for a while, a controlled living situation designed to bridge the gap between formal treatment and living on your own. Now you are on your own.
Many treatment centers are based on the 12-Step philosophy. If the one you went through was, you probably began attending 12-Step meetings during treatment. Depending on where you went through treatment, you may be able to keep attending the same meeting, or you may need to find one closer to where you live.
If you need to find a new 12-Step meeting to attend, the standard recommendation is that you attend several until you find one that you really like. That meeting will serve as your “home” meeting, the one that you attend the most, and with regularity. Bear in mind that there are substance-specific meetings, like Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Crystal Meth Anonymous, to name a few. Also, in this time of COVID-19, many meetings are held virtually, so you can attend a meeting anywhere in the world.
After finding your home meeting, many people who have been in recovery for a while recommend that you find a sponsor. While you aren’t required to have a sponsor, most people in recovery find it helpful.
What Is a Sponsor’s Role?
A sponsor is someone who has been in a 12-Step program and who is stable in their recovery. Your sponsor is the person you will typically contact in between meetings if you have questions or concerns, although you can contact anyone you want. Your sponsor will work with you as you work the 12 Steps and will function as a guide to the 12-Step program overall. It’s helpful if your sponsor is aware of how AA functions beyond local meetings.
You will usually meet with your sponsor in between meetings to work on the steps and check in on how you are doing overall. A sponsor is good for your recovery by helping you in continuing to abstain from drugs and alcohol and to remain active in the recovery program. This has been shown to be the case by research done by an organization affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
Qualities You Should Look for in a Sponsor
Finding a sponsor is relatively easy. At some meetings, the leader will ask people who are willing to serve as sponsors to raise their hands. Also, as people share their experiences during meetings, listen to see if there is someone whose story resonates with you and for someone you feel comfortable with. You will probably talk to your sponsor a couple of times during a typical week, so you should find someone you feel comfortable with and someone you can see discussing your addiction and the ups and downs of recovery.
Your sponsor should be someone who has been sober for a year or longer, someone who has worked the steps at least once, and someone who has been through a whole year of events and happenings, like holidays, that can bring about urges and cravings. You may also want a sponsor whose addiction was to the same substance as yours–if your problem was with alcohol, you may want a sponsor whose issue was with alcohol. Also, you may want a same-sex sponsor. Although this is a recommendation, it’s not a rule–there are no rules to finding a sponsor. You may want to find a sponsor with who you share common interests, perhaps a love of running or classical guitar. Or you may want a sponsor who you wish to emulate in a way other than sobriety. For example, if one of your concerns is to get your professional life back on track, you may want to find a sponsor who is successful in their career.
Once you have identified a sponsor and they have accepted, it can be helpful to set up mutual expectations. This can prevent problems down the road. You and your sponsor will be spending time together outside of meetings as you work through the steps. Your sponsor will also be one of the first people you call if you are faced with a situation that could trigger you to want to drink or use again. Your sponsor should also have a clear sense of boundaries and understand and accept the limitations of the role; while your sponsor is an important person in your life, they aren’t your therapist or your medical doctor.
Benefits to the Sponsor
The sponsor benefits from the relationship just as much as the one being sponsored. For the sponsor, helping someone work the steps is a powerful refresher. Most people are flattered when they are asked to be a sponsor because it means the hard work that they have done in attaining and maintaining sobriety has paid off and now they are in a position to help someone else do the same. It’s a win-win situation.
Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol treatment facility located on New Jersey’s southern shore, is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. As such, we encourage clients to attend a 12-Step meeting after they leave formal treatment as part of their ongoing recovery. A big part of being a part of the 12-Step fellowship is either working with a sponsor or serving as a sponsor for someone new to recovery. At Enlightened Solutions, we focus on treating the whole person as a unique individual with individual needs, not just the addiction. We are licensed to treat the co-occurring disorders that often accompany addiction. As such, we offer a number of holistic treatment modalities including art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, family constellation therapy, and equine therapy. We also offer traditional psychotherapy to our clients. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, call us at (833) 801-5483.