Many people feel that recovery is a solo journey. The hard work can only be done by you, the pain of withdrawal can’t be shared and the new life you build to support your sobriety will be your responsibility. While these are all tasks that require individual ownership, recovery is anything but a process that happens alone.

In your recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, you’ll need support and aid from others in order to find success. You’ll need the medical and mental health support of trained professionals in the treatment and the assistance of friends and family to keep you accountable and provide transportation, housing, financial assistance and so forth. You may also benefit from the help of a social worker, therapist, psychiatrist, nurse, neighbor or coworker in your recovery journey.

While the bulk of recovery falls on your back and the decision to avoid substance abuse can only be made by you, that doesn’t mean you have to walk the road alone. In the toughest moments you can rely on others, and having the support of someone who has been there before can make the difference between relapse and long-lasting freedom.

Finding a mentor

If you’re looking for a mentor in your healing journey, you’ve likely heard the term “sponsor.” A sponsor is a person who has formerly struggled with substance abuse and made significant progress toward recovery. A sponsor will offer encouragement, advice and relationship to another individual starting out in active recovery.

Generally, sponsors are associated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) although they are common in other peer support and treatment programs. Having the aid of someone who has been in your shoes has proved invaluable.

What to look for in a sponsor

When you’re figuring out how to find an AA sponsor, there are a few boxes you’ll want to check to ensure that you’re setting yourself up for success. It can be tempting to ask your best friend in a 12-step program to be your sponsor, but it’s important to utilize some objective measures so you don’t take the risk of jeopardizing your sobriety.

Here are a few tips when you’re looking for an AA or NA sponsor.

Look for someone who has completed a recovery program

If you’re early on in your recovery you know just how challenging it can be to resist the physical and mental urges to return to drugs or alcohol. When you’re fresh out of inpatient or outpatient treatment you’ll definitely want to find a sponsor who is ahead of you in the treatment timeline.

Find a mentor who has been sober a year or more

The first year is the most strenuous phase of the recovery process. The bulk of learning skills to avoid substance and manage triggers and apply them to your real life happens in this period and is honed later. When you’re on the search for a sponsor you’ll want to ensure you look for someone who has reached this benchmark of sobriety.

Work with someone you click with

It’s important to find someone who can inspire you through recovery. If meeting with someone feels intimidating, you feel judged by the individual or you’re reluctant to call them when triggers come up unexpectedly, it’s not a good match. When you can develop a relationship of trust and friendship you’ll be more likely to encounter success in the long run.

Find someone who has similar life experiences

There’s no one-size-fits-all AA sponsor guide, and that’s because not every individual will need the same things from a sponsor. When you’re looking for a mentor it’s helpful to find someone with similar viewpoints on life, past experiences and future goals. For example, you may find it’s more fruitful to have someone who had similar childhood experiences or struggles with relatable triggers.

Easy tips for finding a sponsor

It’s normal to have a hard time finding a sponsor. In the early days of recovery, it can be hard to focus, and irritability or other withdrawal symptoms can make you reluctant to socialize more than you need to. It’s easy to push finding a sponsor to the back burner, but with these tips to make the process easier, it’s worth prioritizing. Here’s how.

1. Attend meetings

The best place to find a sober AA or NA sponsor is a 12-step meeting. You’ll meet numerous people who have been sober for several years and are still committed to important maintenance work. You’ll be able to network before and after meetings and build a community of people from which it will be easy to choose a sponsor.

2. Speak up in meetings

Having a mentor in addiction recovery is a mutual relationship. Both you and your potential sponsor should be reasonably acquainted, which means you’ll need to share your goals and struggles, too. This shows that you’re serious about recovery and honest with yourself and others.

3. Work on communication

There’s no use having a sponsor as part of your recovery support if you never reach out. Regular meet-ups and communication build a bond of trust and reliability. The stability this provides in a time of crisis cannot be easily substituted. Make an effort to share openly and frequently.

4. Focus on the goal

Meaningful and lifelong friendships often bloom out of mentor/mentee relationships, and it’s an important thing to strive for. However, it’s not the goal of having a sponsor. The goal is always sobriety. The nature of sponsorship means that you’ll need to hear the hard truth, discuss different strategies to handle triggers and face the harsh reality of potential relapse.

Having a support person that calls you out when necessary can be hard and tempt you to break bonds. It’s a relationship unlike others you’ve experienced, but it’s critical to meeting your goal of sobriety.

Heal from addiction

Finding an AA or NA sponsor is only part of the journey, and should always be paired with professional substance use disorder treatment. At Real Recovery, you can get the care you need to make it to the next milestones of sobriety.

Call Real Recovery today to schedule an appointment and start taking steps toward a happier future.