What to Look for in a Sponsor


Transitioning from inpatient to outpatient rehab can feel like a big step forward, especially if you spent extended time in a treatment facility. The ability to return to real life, like work and school, can feel immensely liberating as you re-assimilate to the world as a sober individual. However, staying sober isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Without constant vigilance, a consistent dedication to sobriety, and the proper support, sliding back into old habits can happen quickly. For most recovering addicts, the success of post-detox life falls to a key person in the process: your sponsor.

A sponsor is a big part of overcoming addiction throughout the Twelve Step process, and the right choice can make all the difference. A great sponsor isn’t necessarily a friend or someone you find attractive; it’s someone who can stay dedicated to your overall well-being. Finding your ideal sponsor may not be intuitive, but a good fit can make or break your progress. Here are eight points to look for when choosing the right sponsor.

A Serious Attitude

Even if you’re a lighthearted person, a serious sponsor is always a good thing. This doesn’t necessarily mean your sponsor has to be stiff or rigid with no sense of humor, but it does mean someone who takes sobriety and recovery seriously. Your sponsor shouldn’t be struggling himself; he should be a rock for you while you proceed through the Twelve Steps, holding you accountable while showing you the bright side of life after addiction.

The Same Gender

This may sound a little strange – after all, both genders can provide a great support system – but the point of your sponsor isn’t to help you find a love interest. Instead, it’s a way to help you stay true to the recovery process. No matter your sexual orientation, your sponsor should be someone you can relate to closely without any threat of romantic feelings. For most people, this means someone of the same gender who has been down a similar path and is prepared to help you navigate the pitfalls in recovery.

The Right Experience

Not everyone succeeding at sobriety is ready to guide someone else down the path to abstinence. Even if you met someone you really mesh well with, he may not be in a position to sponsor you. Before making a choice, you need to be sure the person you choose has experience leading others. An ideal sponsor has experienced each and every one of the Steps and has found success in the process, guaranteeing a perspective that can help you succeed, too.

A Personality Fit

A serious commitment to the Steps is a must-have, but this has no bearing on overall personality. Some sponsors are straight-faced and studious while others are fun and fresh. In order to increase your offs, try to find someone who fits with your personality to best relate to the journey ahead. If you’re always laughing and your sponsor is stalwart and serious, you may not be able to get on the same page when it comes to treatment. Instead, find a sponsor you can really talk to about both life in general as well as recovery.

A Sponsor with a Sponsor

As with many things in life, great sponsors learn by doing, and that means significant experience with sponsorship. A good sponsor isn’t born. Instead, they are made by the sponsors who came before them. In order to maximize the chance of a positive experience, the sponsor you choose should have learned from years of interaction with other sponsors, both good and bad. You need a sponsor who knows how to ride alone, not someone who still depends on training wheels to move forward.

Similar Spiritual Views

No matter your beliefs, religion plays a role in many Twelve Step programs. The Steps themselves have Christian undertones, and most meetings start or end with the Serenity Prayer. Nevertheless, these programs are open to those from all faiths, and whether you’re deeply religious or a lifelong atheist, your sponsor should be able to help you use your beliefs to craft a path that’s right for you. From praying with you to discussing a secular interpretation of the Steps, a sponsor who sees your point of view can be a big part of choosing an effective way forward.

A Willingness to Listen

As a newcomer to the Twelve Step process, you will undoubtedly have a lot to say to your sponsor. Some of your conversations may revolve around your questions and concerns, but sometimes, you’ll just need someone to talk to about your life, your relationships, and your struggles with staying sober. Your sponsor should be your number one resource here, providing a sounding board and solid advice when you need it most. A good sponsor won’t dominate conversations with his own experiences; instead, he’ll listen to everything you have to say without judgment or bias.

Plenty of Time

Whether you know it now or not, your sponsor will become an indispensable part of your recovery, through good times and bad. There may be weeks where you don’t talk much, but there will also be weeks when you’re on the phone at all hours of the night, working through your cravings and struggles. If your sponsor doesn’t have the time to commit to your recovery, no matter the reason, you may be better off searching for someone who can make plenty of time to talk with you, no matter when the urge to use may arise.

Continuing on the road to recovery is never easy, but the right sponsor can truly drive the course of your progress. The choice may not be easy or fast, but taking time to make the best decision possible is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself as you begin your quest for a happy, healthy, and sober lifestyle.

If you are seeking the right resource for outpatient care, we are here to help. Contact The Outpatient Center today at (844)211-7944 to get the kind, caring assistance you need. All consultations are strictly confidential.