Choosing a sponsor can be a daunting task, especially while immersed in a recovery program, but it doesn’t have to be. There are simple qualities and characteristics to look for in an individual while considering who may further empower you on your road to recovery.
Building a Trusting Relationship
The relationship between a sponsor and their sponsee is one of encouragement, trust, and friendship. By establishing a bond with someone who shares similar experiences, we are able to trust more easily and therefore cultivate the positive motivation needed to continue to move in the right direction. Research in one study depicts the benefits of building trusting relationships while moving through substance abuse or addiction therapy through a qualitative approach.
Each sponsor brings a unique toolbox of their personal life experiences to the table. Sponsors need to be individuals who are stern enough to “tell it how it is,” but also compassionate enough to be understanding through more vulnerable times.
Choosing a sponsor is a very personal process, and it is important to consider how the individual’s personality traits, morals, and values align with yours. Take the time to get to know your options, consult with loved ones if it is appropriate, and make your thoughtful choice accordingly.
Other key qualities to look for when choosing a sponsor:
- Consider their experiences. They should have a solid knowledge of recovery and at least a year in a program themselves. This person should also have a good understanding of living day-to-day in a sober lifestyle structure, a general positive attitude toward life, and a sense of empathy in their words and actions. Surrounding ourselves with positive people can make all the difference in our ability to process and react to everything in life.
- Open-mindedness is key. Choosing a sponsor who can speak from experience is great, but having a good listener can be even more valuable. Ideally, a sponsor will not pass judgement but will instead validate feelings, especially as you work through tough or vulnerable situations. Feeling comfortable talking about sensitive situations and experiences with your sponsor can help you learn to trust yourself and eventually help you support others who face difficult times.
- Choose someone who is not afraid to set boundaries. This can play a key role in the sponsor and sponsee relationship in that it helps to mutually define the roles, and to not set expectations too high. Sponsors are not therapists but are there for support. There should be an open line of communication at the beginning of the relationship to reduce the chances of any uncomfortable situations from occurring. Both the sponsor and sponsee should be fully aware of each other’s boundaries and respect each other accordingly.
- Consider the number of sponsees they may already have. Although you may hear someone speak eloquently about their recovery and the support they may offer, the bottom line is that if they already have a handful of sponsees they won’t have the time or commitment you are looking for. Keep your feelers out there for the right fit, as it may be much more rewarding in the end. Also, a potential sponsor who exhibits a structured and organized approach to life is more likely to be able to provide the support and commitment you need than someone who has a more haphazard lifestyle.
Gender may make a difference. Recovery is a vulnerable process. We are wired to shy away from sharing too much, especially with someone new. Most of us have a natural tendency to open up to same-gendered individuals more easily than those of another gender. Also, having a mentor of the same gender may provide a more relatable role-model as you transition into a sober lifestyle outside of your program.
There should be a clear understanding that the relationship must be mutual on all levels, and if it’s not a good fit, changes may need to be made. Although the relationship may be working for a time, if it begins to be unproductive, you may want to respectfully switch sponsors; this is common, and most sponsors are aware of this fluidity. The line of communication between sponsor and sponsee should always be clear and honest.
Just as the sponsor plays a key role for those in recovery, the sponsee is equally responsible for committing to the relationship. Responsibility and devotion to the recovery process is key.
Here are a few ways to be fully present for your sponsor during your program:
- Show dedication to the recovery process through your attitude and engagement
- Complete all assigned tasks thoughtfully and thoroughly
- Commit to attending to regular meetings and support groups
Sponsors can provide a helpful level of support as you transition to a sober lifestyle outside of the recovery center, but they are not a permanent solution. You must make a whole-hearted effort toward building a wider recovery support system, including trusted family and friends and possibly a professional therapist.
Above all else, choosing a sponsor should be a positive and empowering process that will allow you to continue on their transformative road toward sobriety. There are many options for continuing care during recovery, but nothing beats having a strong and committed mentor on your team during this vulnerable journey.
We Are Here To Help
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to us at Great Oaks Recovery Center. We’re here to help you and your loved ones.