As soon as we enter the Fellowship of NA, we hear this word Sponsor being bandied around in meetings. So, what is a Sponsor?
The official NA literature describes a Sponsor as the following
an NA sponsor is a member of Narcotics Anonymous, living our program of recovery, who is willing to build a special, supportive, one-on-one relationship with us.
So where do we start?
How do we find a sponsor?
What makes a good sponsor?
These are all questions we ask ourselves when first starting out to find that connection with another recovering addict in the Fellowship.
My Quest for a Sponsor
My own personal sponsor journey has been a rocky one, but it’s been worth every effort I’ve put into it. I started looking for a sponsor after about a month or two after joining NA, and the very idea of approaching another female -to whom I was expected to divulge very personal experiences to- terrified me to the core!
I repeatedly and beseechingly asked fellow members all the questions I could think of to try and find a loophole that would allow me to ask a member of the opposite sex. Because I couldn’t see myself in any universe getting that close to another female, let alone appearing vulnerable in front of them (women can smell that, you know) when asking! (But more on my insight on that in another post one day)
In the beginning, all my choices for sponsors didn’t work out. I approached woman after woman and was turned away for various reasons. All legit, mind you! Most of them already had their preferred number of sponsees and weren’t taking any more on.
I eventually found a woman who agreed, and from the start was a force to be reckoned with, which was quite a lot to deal with personally in my early days of recovery. While she said yes, it was clear to me after our first meeting that we weren’t going to work out. She was hard, a little cocksure, and tried to push the “do what I say” a little too much for my liking. She was also young, around 16 years my junior, so we didn’t connect on a life level, if you know what I mean?
Where I had questions on recovery, she would essentially brush me aside saying I was trying to overthink recovery. I get it, it is a risk to some, but what I was searching for was a deeper understanding of recovery. In hindsight, they were just questions she herself didn’t have the answers to and that’s ok. What was not ok was how she reacted to those questions, but it’s all in the past and I’ve come out learning something.
My next sponsor I met at a meeting, and she had been invited to share as the main Speaker for that meeting on that night. Her story was similar to mine in terms of her childhood and drug using, her demeanor was much like my own, and I felt that if we were to partner up, then I could see myself getting along with her in conversation. And best of all, she spoke that deep recovery I had been searching for! After the meeting, I lost the nerve to ask her, but at the last minute as she breezed past me on her way to her car, I called out after her and asked. She said yes, and explained she ran a tight program, and I needed to be serious about my recovery. I told her I was and we exchanged numbers. I met with her on many occasions, and worked through Step One and Two with her. Unfortunately we couldn’t meet as regularly as we’d hoped, as she lived around 20-30min drive from me and our schedules didn’t seem to sync up in the end. According to my Higher Power, we parted ways at the right time, because it was shortly after that I met my current sponsor – another match made in Heaven.
So, do not be discouraged!! The partnership, when you find the right Sponsor, is so worth the effort you put in to making that connection. And putting yourself out there, and experiencing being vulnerable will help you feel humble, which in turn will do wonders for your recovery in ways you’re yet to even realise!
What Makes a Good Sponsor?
I found the best list of qualities over on this site, but I’ll list some of them here with my interpretation as well.
Has What You Want
The easiest suggestion to finding a sponsor is to find someone with who’s story you connect. Take the time in your first few meetings just to listen to what the other, more experienced members have to say. When you find someone who’s story is like your own, or see values in that you wish to have in yourself, then they have what you want and it’s a good idea to ask them.
Lives the Solution (not the problem):
There are members who are living the program in all their affairs, and those who aren’t. Learning to distinguish between them early on will be to your benefit. Connect with those who talk about their time in recovery as it affects their daily life, and avoid those who enjoy reminiscing about their active addiction days.
Has a Sponsor
Choose a sponsor who has worked the steps with their own sponsor. Without guidance, we all have the ability to fall back into complacent thinking, so a sponsor who is no longer deeply connected to the program and Fellowship will be of a detriment to your own recovery.
Emphasizes Step Work and the Traditions:
I have been to too many meetings where longer standing members have brushed off the stepwork we’re asked to do, but the stepwork and traditions are the foundation of our recovery and should not be dismissed. Find a sponsor who is knowledgeable on the Steps, Principles, and Traditions of NA.
A common misconception here is that sponsors should chase the sponsee on their recovery. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You have to be active in chasing your own recovery, so you have to be the one to reach out to meet. That being said, your chosen sponsor should avail themselves on a regular basis for meetings, and especially so in times of crises where you are wanting to use.
There are a few I’ve left out and the original does cover more than my interpretation, so please do check out the original article here.