Sponsorship guide

Last Updated on 5 January 2024

Finding a Sponsor

Starting out in recovery for many of us was overwhelming.
It is a huge gift to find a sponsor to be honest with on our journey.

To start working the Twelve Steps we needed to find a sponsor who had already finished at least Step Three. We found the best way to do this was to attend at least six meetings, but ideally as many meetings as possible. We found many meetings online if we were not able to attend face-to-face meetings. We kept asking until we found a suitable sponsor. We wanted a sponsor who had worked through the Steps themselves, understood it and who could share their experience, strength, and hope.

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share their experience, strength, and hope…

Within the HOW approach, we found that different sponsors worked the program in different ways. We talked about what their expectations were before starting the work together to see if they were a good fit. We discussed basic matters such as time availability, or any other issues that might come up. After we had done the first seven questions, we set our Bottom Lines, usually with the help of our sponsor. For many of us this was the first time in our lives anyone had actually helped us set normal, healthy boundaries for ourselves. It was of great relief to have this kind of help. We found that, ultimately, our sponsor was there to listen, guide, encourage and share their experience, strength and hope with us. Sometimes they needed to challenge us. Some of us found it better in the early stages to find a good-enough sponsor rather than wait for the perfect sponsor.

The HOW approach required that a sponsor could only sponsor up to the level they had completed in their own program and have at least 30 days of back-to-back sobriety.

man in blue crew neck shirt beside man in blue crew neck shirt
Photo by NONRESIDENT on Unsplash

What is a Sponsor?

We defined a sponsor as someone who provided support and guidance in working through the Twelve Step program with another member of the Fellowship. We defined a SLAA HOW sponsor as someone who had worked or was working the SLAA HOW approach and who could guide fellow sex and love addicts through that program.

If we felt ready to do so, the SLAA HOW approach gave us the opportunity to start sponsoring other fellow members once we had completed Step Three and up to Step Three. If we had completed Step Five, then we could sponsor up to Step Five. And if we had completed any Step between Steps Six to Twelve, we could sponsor up until the last Step we had completed.

How do I find a sponsor?

Members often indicate that they are looking for a sponsor during a meeting. This is not a great strategy for finding the right sponsor for you.

The best suggestion is to connect with people whose shares seem to connect with us and our story. Talk to members after meetings, get phone numbers, and start to make outreach calls. If you recognise Experience, Strength, and Hope in another member, affirm them in this. And then ask if they are available for sponsorship. A good sponsor may not say yes straight away, but will try to get to know you better, to make sure that you are a good fit, and that your schedules align. Ask your higher power for guidance to direct you to the right person for you. And keep on trying. Sometimes it may take a few weeks of diligent searching. But this is your recovery, and it is worth a whole lot of effort!

Sponsorship, a Return from Isolation

Before deciding whether we were ready for sponsorship, some of us read the pamphlet entitled, “Sponsorship, a Return from Isolation”. This was primarily a guide for those seeking sponsors, but it helped the prospective sponsors among us too. We also consulted our own sponsor and sought guidance from our Higher Power. As a sponsor, we had to remember that:

  • We were not a parent, a therapist, an instructor, or a confessor.
  • We were an advisor who made recommendations.
  • We shared our experience, strength, and hope. 
  • We shared what had worked for us. 
  • We didn’t try to rescue our sponsee or solve their problems.
  • We shared our program. As much as possible, we made outreach calls focused around the program, our experience of the program and program literature.
  • We shared our struggle, avoiding traps of ego, dependence and/or reliance. We and our sponsee knew that we were only an instrument of our Higher Power.
  • We shared our compassion without judgment or criticism.
  • We shared our attitude. We conveyed the importance of service and giving to others.
  • We shared the concept of, “Just for Today” as a means of survival.

We did not say things like, “What we do in SLAA is…” or, “What you should do…”, and instead used phrases like, “What I did was… and this worked for me.” 

We found it was best to avoid trying to convince the sponsee of anything. Whether they knew it yet or not, they had their Higher Power guiding them. The program and their Higher Power would take care of them in their own timescale. We needn’t worry about them, merely keep them and their struggles in mind. It is their recovery – not ours.

When the sponsee said they were struggling, feeling the pain of withdrawal, or saying that he or she had slipped – we expressed our compassion. We tried to say things like, “That sounds painful…” or, “I remember how it felt when I was in withdrawal…” We tried not to judge what the sponsee said or did by commenting, “That’s good” or, “That’s bad.” Rather, we acknowledged what they had shared with us. We let them know we had heard them.

We avoided being drawn into philosophical arguments, discussion, or gossip. If we felt we were going beyond our remit as a SLAA sponsor, we tried to stop ourselves. We used gentle phrases such as, “I don’t know about that…” or, “If it were me, I would consult my Higher Power”.

We shared our honesty. If we slipped or acted out, we told our sponsee; they had a right to know. We didn’t shame or isolate ourselves from our sponsee. We picked ourselves up and carried on. We showed them how it was done and that we were not “super-human”.

We shared our discipline. Our discipline was, after all, all the newcomer may have experienced as discipline. Our discipline in the SLAA HOW approach was not, however, about being harsh or lacking compassion.

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