To receive the 12th step and sponsor a newcomer is arguably the most crucial and most gratifying component of long-term sobriety. I recently gave step 12 to my first sponsee, and I so look forward to watching him take another man through the steps.
What makes a good sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous? Being new to the role myself, I’m hesitant to offer too many of my own conclusions, but I will pass along advice that I’ve received from more wisened members of our community.
Tip #1: “A sponsor’s job is to take his sponsee through the steps; that is all. It is not the job of a sponsor to offer life advice.”
Sponsorship is a sacred duty, too important to compromise under the swaying influence of one’s own opinions. The steps have been tested for nearly ninety years, and our trust in them is the implicit agreement which binds our community; it is from that trust alone that a sponsor derives his authority.
You may find, in the course of your duties, that your sponsee has asked you for life advice. Respond with the utmost discretion; personal judgements, no matter how insightful or practiced, are sometimes wrong.
Tip #2: “You can’t “make” them willing. The book says honesty, open mindedness and willingness are essential to one’s ability to stay sober. Those things can’t be forced on anyone… What you can do as sponsor is point out the willingness that your sponsee had in the beginning, if they start to balk in the later portion of the steps.”
Do not be disheartened by the apathy or relapse of your sponsee. The ultimate purpose of your work is not to keep your sponsee sober; it is to keep yourself sober. There is always another man who needs and wants your help.
Tip #3: “Ego has no place in sponsorship… The actual sponsor is the book; and God.” Keep ever present in your mind the foremost aim of the 12 steps: to foster a relationship between the alcoholic and a higher power of his own understanding.
You are there to make an introduction to someone you have never met, and never will meet; to a friend your sponsee likely never knew he always had. Be reverent of the time and space he needs to cultivate that connection. If your sponsee fails to develop a bond with his higher power during your sponsorship, take heart; you have planted a seed. He will always remember the respect that you showed to this undiscovered part of himself.
I hope these tips will be helpful to you as you embark on your journey of sponsorship. Remember: though you may now be a sponsor, you are still yourself a sponsee, and we are all of us pedestrians forever on “the road to happy destiny.”