It’s noble to want, in your own pursuit of, to turn back and offer your hand in support to others on the same path. Many people who have committed to a life free from illicit substances wish to spread that enlightening and powerful experience with others. Becoming a recovery sponsor is a great way to do that: it allows you to help spread encouragement and connect with others who have similar life experiences. That connection and support helps to ensure long-term success in recovery- but it also comes with a lot of responsibility.
Wanting to be a sponsor is admirable, but you have to be sure you are well-informed about what sponsorship entails. Here are 5 things you need to know before becoming a recovery sponsor!
#1: YOUR Recovery is Priority
You can’t benefit anyone in their recovery if you aren’t committed and stable in your own sober life. Even as a sponsor your own recovery journey must remain a priority. You must continue your own ongoing therapy and remain focused on your own goals. Don’t allow your intentions to help others negatively effect your own dedication to drug-free life.
#2: Establish Boundaries and Limits Early
Early recovery is a vulnerable time in anyone’s life. While you want to provide support and encouraging during those fragile moments, be careful: you don’t want to invite unhealthy and demanding relationships. When you agree to sponsor someone in recovery, it’s important that you make your boundaries clear from the beginning. This includes your limits regarding contact and personal involvement between you and your sponsee.
Kindness and helping with simple favors is fine, but it is important that you allow them the opportunity and space to be self-efficient and responsible. Avoid being responsible for bills including rent, utilities, or phone bills. Be cautious when lending money or providing assistance with transportation. If you feel like you are being taken advantage of, you likely are and you have to put an end to it. Don’t allow yourself to become an enabler in your mission to help.
#3: You Can’t Force Recovery on Anyone
Most likely, if someone is seeking a sponsor they have already rehab treatment and are in the aftercare phase. Your job as a recovery sponsor at this point is less about guidance and more about support. However, it’s also likely that you know others who are still in active addiction and you want to help them see the light and choose sobriety. As noble as this is, you also have to realize one can’t be forced into recovery- not truly. You can be encouraging and talk about the benefits, but attempting to coerce someone into treatment may cause them to dig their heels in and resist even further. Instead, make yourself an example and let them know you are there if ever they are ready to take that step.
#4: Know When to Seek Intervention
Beyond being a source of encouragement and support, your role as a recovery sponsor calls on you to be vigilant. Taking notice of potential signs of relapse and knowing when to intervene can help your sponsee from moving backwards.
Don’t misunderstand: it is not your responsibility to intervene personally. Seek professional help in intervening to protect yourself and your sponsee. Your personal safety and commitment to sobriety MUST remain priority!
#5: It’s Okay to Walk Away
Being a recovery sponsor is a kind and selfless ambition intended to help others better themselves through this journey. It’s not intended to be a self-sacrificing role. If, however, you find yourself in a position where it becomes too much, it’s okay to walk away. Give your sponsee the opportunity to find the support they need with someone else and know that walking away does not reflect some flaw or shortcoming in you. In fact, it shows that you are self-aware and conscious enough to know when something is not in your favor. Walking away now doesn’t mean you can’t pick up this role again one day.