5 Tips for Choosing a Recovery Sponsor

Grandma's Tools

How do you pick a sponsor in the 12 Step programs? 

We’re not looking for a best friend here. I tried that. It’s why I recommend a better method. Here’s a simple 5 W’s approach to finding your guide.

Observe what people say as they share in the meetings but be wise — comparing it to what they say before or after the meeting when they’re ‘off stage’. Watch how they treat others. I wish I’d thought to contrast how my first sponsor treated her adult child with how she ‘postured’ at the table. Naturally, the daughter and I eventually both got the same dismissive and critical treatment.

Are the tools of the program evident? All of us come to the table carrying our toolbox. We can’t share what we haven’t got. Has she done the steps? I have a friend right now who picked a sponsor who never quite finished the steps and they’re both ‘stuck’ without all the tools. She’s now seeking someone else to lead her beyond this point. (By the way, some of the healthiest people I know people have more than one sponsor.)

Go where sponsors would be. Try new meetings, new places, new times. Even try outside your locale. I know people who drive an hour or more to go to a meeting that has saved their lives because they found the right sponsor at that table. Your sponsor doesn’t have to go to your favorite meeting. Even ask others where they found their sponsor.

What times of day/night are they available? How often can they meet or be on the phone? What about crisis management (ex: Will they take a call when you’re in crisis mode?) What type of ongoing commitment are they willing to make? These are good questions to ask before making your decision.

What  is their sponsoring style? There’s everything from the Big Book Nazi to the Trusted Friend approach. How do you sponsor? is a legitimate question before you make your choice

Follow your gut. If you think you could tell this person pretty much anything except that BIG thing, it’s probably a good match.  (I wasn’t intending to be 100% honest at this point in recovery, either …) Remember:

We’re not looking for a best friend, but a guide.  

My Grandma had tools for her trade. The picture above shows her mixing pan for bread. It had to hold 18 cups of flour. It was perfect for mixing up bread dough in huge batches, which would then be transferred to the bread pans and set into the warming oven above the wood stove.

Yup. I also remember dinosaurs, but even someone as old as myself still needs wise leadership, wisdom to help me find the way so I can go beyond where I am today. If I was going to choose the one ‘W’ which has helped me the most, it’s What tools does the person use?

PS: If  you don’t want what’s in their toolbox, you don’t want them as a sponsor.