Series Three: Blog Fifty-Seven
Sponsorship in the 12-step community involves a number of tasks. It is a privileged role that can inspire and disappoint. The one qualification that every sponsor brings to the table is that s/he is an addict who experiences the same challenges that a sponsee knows. The primary task is to help the sponsee successfully work through the 12 steps. In the process, a sponsor becomes a surrogate parent, coach and friend to the sponsee. Some sponsors insist on a boundary with their own recovery shares with the sponsee. The focus of the relationship is to help the sponsee with recovery challenge and not to identify their own recovery work. Every sponsor must make their own decision regarding self-disclosure about current challenges. In my opinion the best sponsor/sponsee relationship happens when both sponsor and sponsee are emotionally vulnerable to each other. It eliminates the “guru mentality” of sponsee to sponsor. Truth is that when a sponsee struggles with maintaining sobriety, they are more likely to be open to a sponsor who they know has experienced recovery failure. Sponsors do not rely upon sponsees for guidance. However, guiding and sharing with emotional openness, strength and hope in recovery is a sacred role. It fulfills the 12th step emphasis of carrying the message to others in a deep and meaningful way.
Addiction recovery is about growing up emotionally. The sponsorship role is critical to this journey. There are many parental tasks in raising children that parallel the sponsorship tasks in the emotional developmental needs of an addict.
Sponsoring addicts in recovery is very rewarding. I believe it is necessary in recovery. The role requires that each sponsor consciously practice the Twelve Steps. Sharing common brokenness is a vulnerable experience that enhances emotional maturity both for the sponsee and the sponsor.
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