When someone suffers from addiction, that addiction doesn’t just disappear after they go through treatment. Addiction is a chronic disease, for which the treatment is continual care and engagement in sobriety. One of the ways a person can successfully maintain their recovery is through finding a sponsor after treatment. Although sponsors are most commonly found as part of the 12 Step program, others may choose to use a sponsor from outside of that group.
What Is a Sponsor?
A sponsor acts as a mentor to a person who is usually at the beginning of their recovery journey. The sponsor is usually someone who has struggled with drug or alcohol addiction in the past and has remained sober for some time.
Sponsors can serve many roles in the recovery process. Some of these roles include:1
- Maintaining contact with a person regarding their sobriety
- Establishing a relationship with the person based on their shared addiction experiences
- Providing guidance and support when a person faces challenges to their sobriety
- Helping a person engage in a group recovery environment, if the person chooses to participate in one
Sponsors can be different things to different people, but in general they should act as a positive role model and source of encouragement to a person in recovery.
Where Does a Person Find a Sponsor After Treatment?
Often, a person finds a sponsor after treatment through participation in a recovery support group.2 This can include 12-step programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. In these programs, those in recovery will meet others who have been sober for some time. They are fulfilled and committed to their sobriety, and they can offer advice and guidance to those who are navigating a sober lifestyle for the first time.
While there are no definitive guidelines on who can be a sponsor, Alcoholics Anonymous recommends a sponsor be at least one year out from their last drink and/or drug use, and usually most have been sober for 10 years or more.
Tips for Choosing a Sponsor After Treatment
The connection between the sponsor and the sponsee enhances the recovery of both people. For a sponsor, it can re-affirm their commitment to sobriety and remind them of the reasons why they embraced recovery in the first place.
Talk to the person you’re considering as a sponsor about their philosophy on sobriety and ask if they have sponsored others before. Some recommendations for choosing a sponsor after treatment include:
Don’t rush into things. Attend several meetings or have multiple conversations with a person before asking them to be your sponsor. This can ensure the person is worthy of trust, able to communicate easily with you and compatible on a personal level.
Establish that they are firm in their sobriety. The sponsor you choose should have at least one year of recovery under their belt. They should be thriving in their sobriety and sobriety should be a positive focal point in their lives.
Determine what their communication style is. Some sponsors can be very firm—even harsh at times—and some people respond well to that. Others may need more support and encouragement from a sponsor. A person should think about what they are hoping to gain from the relationship as well as what they have to give.
While most sponsor agreements work out very well, it is important to know that you don’t have to stick with that one sponsor after treatment. Sometimes, a person may find they are not as compatible with their sponsor as they had hoped. In this instance, you can find a more compatible sponsor. Because the goal is to enhance each person’s sobriety, you should not hesitate to find the best match.