It’s tough enough to sign yourself into a substance abuse rehab center. What’s even more difficult is the recognition that you need the help of a sponsor. The person who has continued to make key administrative or family decisions, even during multiple addiction crises, finds the idea uncomfortable and even repugnant. Addiction recovery will not succeed until you accept the need for a sponsor, and optimally it should be someone who is actively involved with a 12-step recovery group.
If you go into substance abuse treatment with the idea that you’ll stop using and detox and then just go back to your everyday life a happier and healthier person, you still have a lot to learn. It’s important to learn about the reasons why you used your substance of choice in the first place, and you have to understand the triggers that will send you back to that substance. A sponsor is someone who has been through that process; he will understand the doubts and emotions that you experience.
Qualities of a Sponsor
Time in Recovery. Nobody achieves recovery overnight. The sponsor you choose must be someone with at least two years of sobriety under his or her belt. This person should be actively working his recovery.
Role Model. You want to find a person with the similar socioeconomic and cultural values as you. If your sponsor doesn’t talk and behave in ways that you admire, then you won’t respect him as a sponsor.
Gender. Men need male sponsors, and women need female sponsors. No sexism here, but that’s just how it is.
Trustworthy. As you begin to consider possibilities, you’ve got to ask yourself if you trust this person. Will he keep your secrets confidential?
Reliability. Don’t choose someone who lives far away or who travels all the time. You need someone who is there to help you when you need it.
Honesty. Your sponsor should be a person who will tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear.
Developing 12-Step Contacts
Finding a sponsor is a little like hiring a personal assistant, but also different. When you review the qualities listed above, you recognize the criteria that will help you weed out some people as unlikely sponsor candidates. However, you’ve got to put some work into the search for a sponsor.
Begin by attending a variety of 12-step meetings. Your substance abuse treatment counselor will have lists of meetings that are geographically close to you. If you travel a lot in your work, the counselor can provide you with contacts in the places where you’ll be visiting. As you become more comfortable with the act of entering a meeting and greeting everyone, you’ll get to know which meetings fit your lifestyle and beliefs, and you’ll meet people who share some commonalities with you.
Don’t forget that you can’t be hesitant to pick up the phone and call group members when you need them. If you feel that you are facing a crisis—an urge to use is a crisis—pick up the list of names you’ve accumulated and just phone someone. Everybody that you’ve met has been in your position already, and none of them will mind if you phone them repeatedly.
Partnering With Your Sponsor
You can find a temporary sponsor simply by announcing to the group that you need one. You can also identify more than one sponsor to help you get through tough times. Your sponsor can help you deal with triggers, discuss the 12 steps, and will know what to do if the worst happens and you relapse. A sponsor will never make harsh judgments about you, and you will never be alone. Working on addiction recovery is difficult, but it’s a lot easier when you have the right sponsor.