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Now that you’ve moved past the fear of treatment and are crafting a new life in recovery, you’ve learned there are many tools you can use to prevent relapse. Most likely, you’re part of a peer support group such as one of the 12-step programs—Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous, and others—and have the help of a sponsor. How can you make this sponsorship really work for you? We have some suggestions. How a 12-Step Sponsor Helps You To have someone in your life with an inherent understanding of what you’re going through was the initial intent of Bill W. and Dr. Bob when they established AA, the foundation of many 12-Step programs. AA’s archives note that when Bill W. was in the first few months of sobriety, he “was stricken with a powerful urge to drink, and this thought came to him: ‘You need another alcoholic to talk to…you need another alcoholic as much as he needs you!'” When he found Dr. Bob, the two realized that “through sharing, their own sober lives could be enriched beyond measure.” This is one of the primary reasons why many people believe following a 12-Step philosophy is successful for achieving sobriety: you’re never alone in the process. The larger community provides valuable connections, but having someone to not only rely on but also hold you accountable for your choices is what prompts effective, long-lasting change. While some individuals might have a therapist, spiritual advisor, or another influential person in their lives who will listen and provide comfort, that person might not comprehend or relate to the unique challenges of alcohol or drug addiction. So a 12-Step sponsorship is important, and forging a relationship based trust, respect, and communication is beneficial to your long-term recovery goals. Research also suggests that individuals who act as sponsors benefit in numerous ways as well. For example, results from a 2021 study indicate that “over the longer term, sponsorship becomes a meaningful and purposeful activity as it allows those providing it to be productive, make meaning and maintain a non-addicted identity. Additionally, sponsorship is a process which is beneficial for those who have little access to wider social networks.” 12 Tips to Make Your 12-Step Sponsorship Great You and your sponsor both have particular responsibilities in the relationship. Sometimes, two personalities don’t seem like a good fit at first, and that’s fine. In a 12-Step sponsorship, you’re looking for someone who can relate to your challenges but provide the additional support you need to overcome them. If you don’t seem to have a lot in common but the sponsor has traveled a similar path, that connection might be more important than liking the same college football team or types of music. Your sponsor might not come across as a friend, necessarily, but the two of you should be able to form an alliance to work toward good health and progressive recovery. Here are some points to consider. Set clear expectations. Clarify your goals for the sponsorship relationship. Discuss what you hope to achieve and how your sponsor can support you. Communicate openly. Foster open and honest communication with your sponsor. Share your thoughts, feelings, and struggles without fear of judgment. Be transparent, even when it's difficult, and share successes and setbacks without minimizing or exaggerating them. Respect boundaries. You both have a right to outline your limitations and boundaries. Also keep in mind that your sponsor has responsibilities and commitments outside of sponsorship. Practice active listening. This method requires paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication. If you’re not familiar with how this works, here are some ideas. Use your active listening during interactions with your sponsor. Listen to their guidance, suggestions, and feedback with an open mind. Be open to feedback. This is often challenging, but use the insights, feedback, and constructive criticism from your sponsor to learn and grow in your recovery journey. Be reliable. Honor your commitments and show up for meetings, check-ins, and other agreed-upon interactions. Take initiative. You’re responsible for making proactive steps in your recovery, such as attending meetings, working the Steps, and seeking additional support when needed. However, if you need more direction in these areas, your sponsor should be able to help. Ask for help. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help or guidance when you need it. But remember, your sponsor is available to support you through challenges and difficult times. Express gratitude. Show appreciation for your sponsor's time, support, and the role they play in your recovery. Respect confidentiality. You have every right to expect that what you and your sponsor talk about is kept in the strictest confidence. Be sure to clarify how this works between you. Stay committed. Without a doubt, there are overwhelming moments in recovery, but be patient. Keep in touch with your sponsor about other ways to stay the course. Reflect and evaluate. Take time to review your progress and measure the effectiveness of your sponsorship relationship. Make adjustments as needed to ensure it continues to support your recovery goals. You might also discover that a certain sponsor isn’t the right fit after all, and it may be time for a change. That’s okay—trust the process and ask another person to step into the role. How Willingway Sets You Up for Recovery Success At our Georgia and Florida addiction rehabilitation locations, our board-certified professionals respect the 12-Step process, and it’s one of many recovery tools we offer our clients. We also provide the CaredFor app and valuable connection and inspiration through our continuing care community groups, available all over the Southeast, so you can join other people on a recovery journey filled with hope and purpose. Call us today to learn more.
Now that you’ve moved past the fear of treatment and are crafting a new life in recovery, you’ve learned there are many tools you can use to prevent relapse. Most likely, you’re part of a peer support group such as one of the 12-step programs—Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous, and others—and have the help of...
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