How To Be An AA Sponsor the Ultimate Guide

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) affects almost fifteen million people over age twelve in the United States. Unfortunately, less than eight percent of those affected receive treatment. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has a long history of helping those who are addicted to alcohol recover and live happy and productive lives. An important part of their treatment program is AA Sponsorship, this is our guide on how to be an AA sponsor.

Those who successfully recovered and found sobriety can now help you or a loved one do the same at the Sanctuary Foundation in the Charleston, SC, area. Contact us for more information about receiving support and regaining self-confidence in our sober living homes.

What Is AA Sponsorship?

You can trace the beginning of AA sponsorship to its founder’s strong urge to drink after only a few months of sobriety. Bill Wilson knew he needed to talk to another alcoholic about his struggle. He found Dr. Bob Smith and Alcoholics Anonymous was born. AA, however, does not use sponsorship in the same way as other organizations. 

Sponsorship in the AA is not having another member vouch for you. In AA, sponsorship is an unwritten and informal responsibility between two alcoholics trying to help each other maintain a sober life. It typically involves a newcomer finding an AA member with whom they are comfortable. Still, it also allows long-time AA members who went it alone on their journey to partner with someone else in AA.

How Does a Newcomer Benefit by Sponsorship?

Most alcoholics are nervous and have many questions when first joining AA. Talking to someone who can provide answers to your questions and who understands your doubts, fears, and struggles can make the difference between giving up and continuing your sober journey. Also, as a newcomer, sponsorship can help you meet other alcoholics in various group settings.

Is Sponsorship The Same as Twelfth Steps Calls?

The first Twelfth Step Call occurred when Mr. Wilson called Dr. Smith to find out how he had successfully recovered from alcoholism. This call remains an integral part of recovery today. It is simply one alcoholic answering questions and helping a newcomer begin their recovery process. While the Twelfth Step Call may begin a sponsorship relationship, it isn’t necessarily true in all cases. Sponsorship is a continuing supportive relationship that develops when the prospect admits they have a problem and decides they are willing to be helped toward a life of sobriety.

What To Look For In An AA Sponsor

Here are some guidelines to help you choose a sponsor who can help you through the AA program:

  • Choose someone who has been sober for a while. A common recommendation is at least one year since their last drink.
  • Choose someone of the same gender. AA does not forbid choosing the opposite sex, but recommends against it. There are two reasons for this. First, most people find it more natural to communicate with an AA member of the same sex. Second, it minimizes the risk of romantic entanglement with the AA community.
  • Choose a sponsor whose sober life you want to emulate. Ask if they have a sponsor. Observe if they seem happy, content, and actively living out the 12 steps.
  • Choose someone who doesn’t sponsor too many others. While this person might be a popular sponsor, they may have limited time to spend with you.
  • Be open to someone different than yourself. You might feel more comfortable with a sponsor with a similar background. However, many AA members have experienced many benefits with a sponsor completely different from themselves.

What Does A Great AA Sponsor Do?

As an AA sponsor, you won’t be asked to diagnose someone’s alcohol addiction or prescribe their treatment. Instead, you come alongside another alcoholic and share your personal experiences with alcohol and sobriety. The basic requirements for an effective sponsor include having gone through AA’s recovery program and desiring to share this journey with others. A great AA sponsor has many roles and responsibilities, including:

  • Helping the newcomer get sober and remain sober.
  • Demonstrating by example what AA has meant in their life.
  • Introducing the newcomer to other AA members.
  • Encouraging the newcomer to attend AA meetings and learn others’ views on sobriety.
  • Emphasizing the importance of AA’s Twelve Steps.
  • Helping the newcomer keep an open mind about AA and determine whether they are an alcoholic.
  • Giving the newcomer a better understanding of AA and answering their questions.
  • Providing support, encouragement, motivation, empathy, and understanding when needed.
  • Empowering the newcomer by using their own experiences and knowledge.
  • Making sure they have time in their schedule available to the newcomer.
  • Acknowledging when they don’t know the answer or how to help the newcomer with a problem. Familiarity with available resources that they can direct the newcomer to is a valuable asset for a sponsor.

Does An AA Sponsor Work With The Family?

An effective sponsor recognizes the importance of family involvement in successful recovery. A sponsor can offer help in many ways to the family, such as:

  • Explaining the AA program.
  • Encouraging family participation in the recovery process.
  • Inviting family members to attend open AA meetings.
  • Monitoring the family’s expectations to ensure they don’t expect too much too soon.
  • Helping rebuild broken relationships.

What Qualities Should A Sponsor Have?

A newcomer should not look for perfection in a sponsor. However, looking for these qualities can help ensure choosing the right sponsor for you. Look for someone who is:

  • Patient
  • Tolerant
  • Honest
  • Positive 
  • Happy
  • A good listener
  • Available
  • Attentive
  • Trustworthy
  • Compassionate

Am I Ready To Be a Sponsor?

Before you consider becoming a sponsor, make sure you have been in Alcoholics Anonymous long enough to understand the program and its 12 Steps. Many people considering the sponsor role have found it helpful to get their sponsor’s input in this decision. Although the length of one’s sobriety isn’t the only factor, it is significant in determining one’s readiness and success as a sponsor.

Sanctuary Recovery Foundation

At The Sanctuary Foundation, you will find others who understand the journey to recovery. Learn from their experiences in our safe, sober living environment in the Charleston, SC, area. Contact us today to learn how to get started.