In the not-so-distant past, addiction was widely believed to be a moral affliction rather than a disease.
Today, we have the benefit of years of research, which have afforded a much better, more enlightened understanding of addiction. We’ve realized that addiction is actually a chronic, progressive brain disease for which there’s no cure.
The disease, which starts in the brain, causes altered brain structure and functioning that compels people to seek harmful chemicals and behaviors, even when it means severe consequences or harm to themselves or others.
To combat this incurable disease, various treatment methods and techniques have been implemented into addiction recovery, which is offered in the form of addiction treatment programs at alcohol and drug rehab centers nationwide.
However, while addiction treatment tends to be the most effective recovery tool for getting sober, other tools are used for staying sober, one of which is a sponsor.
Most commonly associated with 12-step support programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, a sponsor is someone who serves somewhat like a tour guide through the various steps of recovery.
In a 12-step program, a sponsor is someone who has demonstrated mastery of the 12 Steps through long-term sobriety. The person also can be counted on as a resource for learning and working the 12 steps or even during times of stress and temptation.
However, in addition to these, the following are five reasons why have a sponsor is an essential part of recovery.
A SPONSOR HELPS KEEP YOU GROUNDED IN REALITY
A common side effect of addiction is a tendency to be irrational and unrealistic. People who are struggling with addiction are always trying to convince themselves of something, whether it’s that they aren’t really addicted and don’t need treatment, aren’t responsible for their problems, and so on. And then as the person goes through recovery, there’s a tendency to expect all of his or her problems to go away immediately.
In many cases, being irrational can lead to really big mistakes. However, a sponsor can help to keep a person grounded as he or she continues and progresses in recovery. In effect, a sponsor can be a great resource for helping an addict to see the error of his or her ways before he or she makes a mistake that can’t be undone.
A SPONSOR WILL NEVER JUDGE YOU
Everyone is different, and everyone has different likes and experiences, as they come from diverse backgrounds. Each person has a history, and each has made mistakes. In many cases, a person could be judged for his or her past, especially by those who have little experience with something like an addiction.
Those who have not personally experienced addiction or haven’t known someone who became addicted is typically much more judgemental, much less likely to be an objective listener. Fortunately, this is not the case with a sponsor.
No matter how bad a person’s mistakes might have been or what type of person he or she used to be, a sponsor will never judge that individual, making him or her feel less like a person or less worthy of forgiveness because of any previous mistakes. In many cases, a sponsor might even have valuable advice based on prior experience, which is especially likely since sponsors are almost always recovered addicts themselves.
A SPONSOR HOLDS YOU ACCOUNTABLE
One of the hardest parts of getting and remaining sober is related to accountability. People in active addiction often blame others for their problems. If they relapse after becoming sober, they’ll often say it was the fault of someone or something else, suggesting they were pushed into a relapse so as not to have to admit to making the mistake.
This is another reason why a sponsor is an essential part of lasting recovery: Sponsors can help people be more accountable for their actions. In some cases, this might mean pointing out the inconsistencies in a person’s thought processes and behaviors, helping the individual see that most of his or her problems are of the individual’s own making.
A SPONSOR CAN HELP GROW YOUR SOBER NETWORK
Most people find their sponsors in a 12-step program, which is where a person will have the most luck finding people with years of experience with sobriety. A 12-step group is where people find a large portion of their sober network.
A sponsor can also introduce his or her sponsee to many more sober individuals than just those in the 12-step homegroup. This person can be a great source for those who are newly sober and trying to establish a social life that doesn’t consist of substance abusers. It’s often said that surrounding oneself with people who support sobriety is one of the most important components of lasting sobriety.
SPONSORS CAN SERVE AS FAMILY AWAY FROM FAMILY
It’s not uncommon for people who go to a rehab that’s far away from home to remain in the city where the rehab was located, either permanently or for an extended period beyond treatment. In this new place, an individual doesn’t have any of his or her family or close friends, making the people he or she meets in treatment and support groups some of the most important social contacts he or she gains as a newly sober individual.
When a person gets a sponsor, the close relationship between the sponsor and sponsee can mimic that of members of a family, which is a valuable feature for individuals who are in need of that close, familial connections.