After a month of being in the programme, people started telling me it was time to get a sponsor and start working the steps. I felt the pressure mounting and started to look at who I could turn to.
From what I’d heard in the rooms, it sounded like a big decision, and it’s true, the sponsor/sponsee relationship is an important one. The step work is hard, and you’ll have to be more open and honest with your sponsor than potentially any other relationship you’ve had. In my head, I was putting things off as I didn’t feel I knew anyone well enough at that point to go on this journey with.
Something also confused me at first, at the end of most meetings the host would ask for anyone in the room ‘willing to discuss sponsorship‘ to raise their hand. What did this mean? Were the people raising their hands free to be a sponsor right now? Or were they just willing to chat and give guidance around the whole process? The truth is (in my experience at least) that both are often true.
These people with their hands raised will have worked through the 12 steps, and will be more than willing to have a chat and give you some guidance, they may also be free to be free to sponsor as well. It’s also worth noting that even if it turns out they’re too busy (due to time commitments or already have one or more sponsee’s), they will be able to put you in touch with people who are free and actively looking for sponsees, so it’s always worth a chat.
Here’s some advice I found helpful when looking for a sponsor
Start looking reasonably quickly. Going to meetings regularly as a newcomer is great, but you’ll only begin true recovery once you start working the steps. So it is important to start looking as soon as you’re comfortable with meetings. It is an important relationship, but don’t use this as an excuse to find ‘the perfect sponsor’, doing this just gives you an excuse to keep putting things off and can hurt your recovery.
Speak to a sponsorship rep. Most rooms have a sponsorship rep who introduce themselves towards the end of a meeting. These people can give you support, guidance and answer any questions you might have about the whole process. They will also know regular members of local meetings who might be free, so will quickly be able to put you in touch with potential sponsors.
Look out for people you relate to. I found my sponsor by attending a regular meeting for a few weeks. I listened to what people had to say and found someone who was regularly sharing things which I could relate to. We were a similar age, had similar drinking histories and worked in the same industry. I was also attracted to the way he spoke and shared, it sounded like he had good recovery and a good experience with the programme.
Go for a coffee. If you’ve found someone you think could be a potential sponsor, ask to go for a coffee. Most fellows will be more than happy to do this, even if they’re busy. It’s service, and the chat will help them as much as it helps you. We in recovery only stay sober by actively giving away what we have freely been given by the programme, so don’t be shy to ask.
When my sponsor and I first went for a coffee, he told me his story, what life was like, his experience with the programme and what his life was now. I shared my story so far and we left it there for the moment. I really related to what he had to say and thought we got on well, so I asked him to sponsor me not too long afterwards.
Ask how they work they steps. Ask any potential sponsor how they work the steps with their sponsees, everyone has a slightly different way of doing things. Some will use the Big Book alone, while others will use a variety of literature. Ask about how often they meet sponsees, where they do this and how much time you’ll spend together. It’s also worth asking what their experience has been like previously sponsoring others.
Don’t be put off by someone who’s never sponsored before, they have experience working the programme and if anything, it means as their first sponsee, they will have more time to help you work through the steps. Just ask about how they envision it all working and ask about the experience they had with their own sponsor. Most people take sponsees through the steps the same way their own sponsor did with them.
Don’t be worried about reaching out. Most people in the programme are more than happy to help newcomers in their recovery journey. Whether it’s a general chat about life in the programme, their guidance on sponsorship, or helping you get in touch with other fellows or potential sponsors. One of the greatest things about AA is just how helpful fellows are, so if you’re worried about people perhaps being too busy to help you, cast those thoughts aside and start reaching out. You’ll be glad you did.
I’ve had an incredible experience with my sponsor, he’s given me so much time and knowledge on my journey, I’ll always be grateful to him. It’s a two way process, you’ll have to put in the time and work, but it’s worth it. Building trust over time with your sponsor is an incredibly rewarding process and having someone who’s always there for you on your recovery journey is truly a gift.