If you’re moving into a 12-step program either in rehab or just out of it, getting your feet on the ground and eventually finding a sponsor are normally the first things you’re asked to do. For many of us, asking for a sponsor is a big step.
Getting clean or sober is something that we want to do ourselves, for ourselves, and in our own way. Having someone else “guiding” us is the last thing you’d’ want, right?
If you’re looking into getting a sponsor, taking the leap is a big one. This blog will help you review what a sponsor has to offer, so you can decide for yourself if you really need a sponsor in recovery.
Asking for and accepting a sponsorship in early recovery can be extremely difficult, mostly because it’s about fostering humility, asking someone for help, and recognizing that someone is further along the path you are on than you are. That can be difficult, especially from the mindset of addiction, where you have to carefully guard your ego to avoid being overwhelmed by feeling judged, ashamed of your own behavior, or like you’re failing yourself. In sobriety, you should be able to let go of those feelings and ask for help. In fact, if the only thing preventing you from asking for a sponsor is feelings of shame that you need help, that you used, and that you aren’t as good as the sponsor, you need them more than in any other circumstance.
Shame will get in your way, lead you to make decisions to hide your true self, and can be incredibly bad for your self-esteem and mental image. While there’s nothing wrong with some managed shame or guilt, they shouldn’t control you, and stepping outside of them to ask for help can help you to get to that state.
Ideally, a sponsor is someone who’s had a relatively similar experience to yourself. They might have had issues with a different drug or alcohol, but they have likely followed the same paths, made the same choices, and gotten to the same place. They won’t be better than you, but they will be further along that road than you are now – which means they can offer you their experience. That won’t necessarily mean you should do what they tell you to or that they will know better, it just means they can offer insight from a similar experience, giving you more information with which to make decisions. Eventually, that can make a lot difference in your path.
Plus, you’ll know unequivocally and without a doubt that you are not doing this alone. You’re walking beside someone who’s gotten a bit of a head start and now wants to make sure others get started as well. Having that presence can be powerful, reaffirming, and can remind you that you can get there too.
Having the social accountability of a 12-step group to go to, to share your ups and downs, your progress, and your failures is already powerfully motivating. People are significantly less likely to use or to go “just one won’t hurt” if they know they have to tell their peers that they’ve failed the next morning. Facing that social accountability can create a huge obstacle to relapse.
Having a sponsor, or a peer whom you develop a stronger relationship with, who you can talk to, who you can ask for help from when you experience those feelings, amplifies that significantly. In one study by the Recovery Research Institute, individuals with a sponsor were 33-50% less likely to be using one-month post quitting their sobriety group.
While any 12-step group, therapist, or rehabilitation facility will ask you to change and will inspire you to do so, you often get to know sponsors on a more personal level. Sponsors increase engagement with 12-step and other groups, get involved with your social life, and may even go to parties or events with you. Eventually, that means they’ll be able to offer insight into your behavior, social networks, and habits – giving you the opportunity to make changes for the better.
In one study, links were also made to the fact that sponsors introduce you to other sober people, increasing your circle of abstinent friends, giving you more room to stay clean and sober. Changing your social networks isn’t a guarantee, but it is very likely to happen, especially if you actually spend time with your sponsor.
Getting a sponsor in any group is not a guarantee. If you go into a 12-step group with a facilitator to help you find a sponsor, it is more likely. However, in many cases, you’ll have to actively get to know people, express interest in finding a sponsor, and involve yourself in group discussions. Often, your group will help you look by allowing you to introduce yourself, by stating you need a sponsor, and by asking people to step up. However, because sponsorship is also very often a very personal thing, you’ll have to get to know people first, show genuine interest in recovery, and you’ll want to make sure you get along with your prospective sponsor as well.
Eventually, asking someone for help, following their guidance, and practicing humility by admitting that you don’t know everything, you have much to learn, and you’d like to learn from people is difficult. It’s often radically different than addiction pushed us to be. But, that’s also a good thing and deliberately making those choices, deliberately practicing stepping outside of yourself, and reaching out to others is a valuable and important part of recovery. Often, addiction recovery is not so much learning to live without drugs but learning to live for life, and involving people, building relationships, and being part of a multi-dimensional community in which you can offer help and ask for help, look up to others and be looked up to, and grow at your own pace is a good step at the start of your journey.
Asana Recovery offers detox, residential, and outpatient addiction treatment services at our center located in Orange County, California. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.