For 20 years, I battled with a cycle of depression that went from manageable low…
Am I Ready to Become a Sponsor?
The essence of the 12 steps is the 12th step: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Yes, we get sober because it’s better for us, but the real purpose of recovery is to go beyond ourselves and to carry the message of AA to those who still suffer. And for many of us, our primary way of carrying out 12-step work will be through sponsorship of other alcoholics.
But for the one who has less experience in the 12-step rooms, it can be hard to know if it’s the right time to take on this responsibility. Many of us want to sponsor, or we think we should, but we’re not sure if we’re really ready. How do we know?
Your Sponsor Is Encouraging It
One of the best ways to know if you’re ready to sponsor is to listen to your own sponsor. If he or she has been mentioning that it’s time for you to start working with others, it’s time. When we work with sponsors, we are surrendering to the fact that others can often see our blind spots better than we can. Your sponsor knows you and knows your recovery. Be open to their input on this issue.
You’re Working Through the Steps
We often feel we don’t have enough experience to help someone else. We doubt our recovery is strong enough. But if you’ve been sober even a day and you’re committing to the 12 steps, you’ve got more experience than the person walking through the door. It’s not always necessary to have worked through all 12 steps. If you’re progressing on your recovery journey and diligently working the steps, you may be ready to start sharing your experience, and the hope of sobriety, with another.
Your Fellowship Says You’re Ready
Many groups have guidelines for sponsorship, so these must be observed. One group, for example, requires consistent sobriety for 90 days and a rigorous working of the first three steps. Upon completion of these milestones, group members are expected to begin sponsoring newcomers. And not sponsoring is not an option! Check with your fellowship to see what guidelines may have been established around sponsorship.
Newcomers Need You
Do you remember the arms that welcomed you into your first 12-step meeting? The veterans who were willing to help you begin to get your life on track? If you’ve been around the rooms for a few months, it is time for you to bring that same spirit to the newcomers coming through the door. If we don’t sponsor, addicts may not get well. Thus it is our duty, as soon as we are able, to begin to be of service. Someone’s life may depend upon it.
“A.A. is more than a set of principles; it is a society of alcoholics in action. We must carry this message, else we ourselves can wither and those who haven’t been given the truth may die” (As Bill Sees It, 13).
You Want to Give Back
As we tally up sober day after sober day, we can’t help but feel overcome by gratitude. We’re sober, our lives are improving and we have a host of friends and fellows to keep us on the right path. Naturally, this motivates us to want to give back by paying it forward.
But the incredible thing is that as we pay it forward, we are receiving a significant return:
“No satisfaction has been deeper and no joy greater than a Twelfth Step job well done. To watch the eyes of men and women open with wonder as they move from darkness into light, to see their lives quickly fill with new purpose and meaning, and above all to watch them awaken to the presence of a loving God in their lives—these are the substance of what we receive as we carry A.A.’s message” (Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve and Twelve, 110).
It’s a Matter of Sobriety
In the end, we carry this message to others and perform acts of service, or we perish. Selfishness cannot sustain sobriety, thus we do this as much for ourselves as for the desperate drunks coming through the door. Many of us had reservations; we didn’t feel qualified to lead another person, we weren’t sure we’d have the time or we didn’t want the responsibility. But in the quest to stay sober and continue recovering, these excuses are irrelevant. Remember, we don’t do this alone—we have the entire fellowship supporting us in service and ready to offer wisdom and guidance.
If it’s time to take on this new role, don’t delay. Make yourself available to the person who needs you.
“The wonderful energy the Twelfth Step releases, by which it carries our message to the next suffering alcoholic and finally translates the Twelve Steps into action upon all our affairs, is the payoff, the magnificent reality of A.A.” (Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve and Twelve, 109).