When you’re going through a 12-step program, especially if you’re attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), you’ll likely hear the word “sponsor” a lot.
While having a sponsor is indeed an optional part of the process, it’s a vital component of rehabilitation for countless people, and is highly encouraged in 12-step programs.
Sponsors are known to make recovering from addiction less challenging, and studies have shown that those who go through an addiction recovery plan with a sponsor are less likely to relapse and have a greater chance of maintaining long-term sobriety.
A good sponsor can make all the difference in achieving a sustainable recovery.
What is a sponsor?
A sponsor is someone who has successfully gone through recovery and now, as a senior member of AA or NA, has assumed the role of mentor to other people who are currently going through addiction recovery.
A sponsor acts as many things for the individual they’re sponsoring, including being someone who actually understands where you’re coming from and what you’re going through.
In addition, if something was brought up in a meeting that you either weren’t comfortable discussing in the group or within the limited time frame of a group or individual therapy session, your sponsor is the person you can be vulnerable and further unpack topics with.
(A quick disclaimer though, your sponsor is not your therapist; it might seem easy to confuse the two, but it’s important to recognize the difference of nature in relationships.)
A sponsor is more than just a guide who’s there to walk you through the 12-step program, a sponsor is also an accountability partner, a confidant, a non-judgmental listener, a role model and for some people, they develop a close relationship with their sponsor.
Reasons to have a sponsor in recovery
There are many reasons why having a sponsor is an important aspect of recovery, so we’re going to share with you the top five reasons why.
1. They’ve been through this before
When you’re recovering from an addiction, it can be difficult to find people — even your closest friends and family — who know how to talk to or act around you simply because they don’t understand your situation. A sponsor is someone who genuinely does, and that level of empathy and support cannot be fabricated.
2. They provide moral support
Attending AA or NA meetings can be highly uncomfortable or stressful for some people, and this is where a sponsor comes in. Maybe you don’t like the idea of being vulnerable in a group of strangers; maybe you never wanted to go to the meeting at all. Your sponsor is there to make the process as smooth and comfortable as possible.
3. They can help you avoid (or support you through) relapse
Sponsors can help you avoid relapse by helping you implement strategies and knowledge you’re given in the meetings, as well as help you recognize if you start neglecting your efforts (whether due to overconfidence, exhaustion or low self-esteem). In addition, should you relapse, your sponsor is going to be there to help you get back on your feet. Remember, they’ve gone through all of this before — they’re not here to judge, they’re here to support.
4. They’re a concrete example of a successful recovery
Recovering from an addiction is rough, and sometimes, it can be difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how hard you’re working or how much you’ve accomplished. On the days you find yourself angry or upset and wondering if you’ll ever achieve sobriety, you can turn to your sponsor. They have achieved sobriety, and have built a successful life post-addiction — and they’re there to remind you that you can (and will) do it too.
5. You can eventually pay this forward
One of the greatest gifts of having a sponsor is you can get a glimpse of how you can potentially “pay it forward” one day. After you’ve completed your rehabilitation programs and achieved sobriety, you’re going to be a beacon of hope to countless people — and you have the option to use your inspiring position to become a sponsor to others.
Contact us for additional support
If you or someone you love needs help overcoming an addiction, the best next step you can take is to seek professional help.
Here at Real Recovery, we specialize in providing evidence-based treatment plans that help you achieve the long-term recovery from addiction that you deserve. We’ve established a team of experienced, compassionate professionals who are dedicated to giving you the highest level of care in your rehabilitation.
We know how challenging — and lonely — the road to recovery can be, which is why we’ve made it our mission to support you through every phase of your recovery and beyond.