In most organizations and social groups, a sponsor is someone who initially introduces you into the group and who vouches for you good character etc.
This is not the case in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
An AA sponsor is a person who has been abstinent for a long period and who is prepared to support a newly abstinent member. The sponsorship idea is an integral part of the Alcoholics Anonymous set up, and part of its social support network.
It is all about social responsibilities, living up to them and doing one’s duty to help each other.
The Unwritten Rules on Sponsorship
You can choose your own AA sponsor if they agree to sponsor you, but AA prefers them to be of the same sex, believing that mixed sex sponsor pairs cause unwanted complications (the idea that a man and woman cannot have a platonic relationship being part of this no doubt).
It is not forbidden to have a sponsor of the opposite sex, but it is not advised.
You have to choose your AA sponsor wisely though as they become a very influential figure in your life, and a crutch in time of your greatest need. Sponsors are at liberty to tell you that they cannot help if they have urgent business elsewhere.
However, they have a moral duty to put you in contact with another reliable person if you are facing a crisis and a possible alcoholism relapse and they cannot support you at that time.
For more on the Alcoholics Anonymous program of alcohol recovery, read The AA Way
An AA Sponsor is not a Doormat
A person has the right to decline a sponsorship and this would be wise if the sponsor thinks that you would not be compatible.
However often people who are complete opposites to you make the best sponsors as they have a different outlook and can share their insights with you in order for you to see things from a different perspective.
It makes sense for many reasons though to choose an AA sponsor with the same socio-economic background and educational level as you.
It is hard enough being an alcoholic who struggles to get through another day without a drink; you don’t want a sponsor who might ‘drive you to drink’ because you do not see eye to eye on some important issues.
Sponsorship is Not a Two-Way Street
A sponsor has to be your best buddy who will be there for you when the going gets tough. If the sponsor is having a bad time he/she should not unburden themselves onto you however, but should seek out their own personal sponsor, and this should be something that you accept.
Sponsorship is a one-way street.
Your sponsor will help you and not wish you to help him/her as then you may not wish to be sponsored by them any more if you see their weakness.
You need an AA sponsor to be a tower of strength so should not think that they will unburden themselves to you as you can freely do with them. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.
In fact, AA is about faith and common sense, which is why, perhaps, that it has been able to provide support for so many alcoholics and their families around the world.
How to Ask an AA Member to Sponsor you
My advice to you is to attend a number of meetings and just watch the members sharing. Focus on those who seem to be living good lives and are content in themselves. If they have what you want, chances are that they will make a good sponsor.
There is no mad rush to find a sponsor, obviously if you keep putting it off that is not good. However, do be sure of the person that you choose, ultimately they are going to help you stay sober so choosing well is important.
If after a bit of time you feel that you made the wrong choice then by all means find someone else. It's your life and it's your sobriety. Don't compromise it because you don't want to hurt the feelings of your sponsor.
It can seem like the hardest thing in the world to ask an AA member to take you on as a sponsor.
'What if they say no?' is a common barrier to asking somebody. So what if they say no, it's no reflection on you. There could be a thousand reasons as to why they refuse. Don't mull over it look for somebody else.
And remember always go for someone whose recovery inspires you.
If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:
Deborah Morrow, M.S. Addiction Psychology, is the director of treatment programs for The Alcoholism Guide website. In her practice Deborah provides on-line coaching and support for those dependent on alcohol or who require other services such as relapse prevention or court mandated services. (Read More)