Some thoughts about Sponsors and Mentors:
(“Sponsors” is the name used by 12 Step groups, “Mentors” are the same thing only for other types of programs.)
The special place in “recovery” for the sponsor can not be emphasized enough. At the many 12 step support groups that I attend, I meet far too many addicts, trying to achieve recovery, who don’t have a sponsor.
1. Addiction is an insanity!
If we look at our behaviors (and thoughts) while actively in our addiction, we can clearly see that we were not “normal” (what normal person continues to do what we do – destroy ourselves, our lives and families?) Even when we know we are out of control and “our lives had become unmanageable” we continue our destructive behavior.
Isn’t this just insane? Do the insane in the asylum know they are insane? Most of the time not.
It is for this very reason that we cannot manage our lives or take good decisions. How then can we even hope to manage our own recovery?
2. A journey requires a guide
When one has to travel in unknown territory full of pitfalls and roadblocks, success can be guaranteed if one has an experiences and wise guide.
Recovery is a journey of discovery – a very difficult journey. Addiction, by its very nature will find many ways and excuses to make us fall. Ask any addict who has found sobriety and they will tell you their “war stories” as they battled through relapse after relapse.
However if we are lucky enough to find a sponsor who has traveled the road before us, he or she will ensure that we stick to the path. Our sponsor will recognize when we are “wobbling” and will help to steady our resolve.
3. Recovery is hard!
Every addict who has fought their way into the light will tell you that it was the hardest thing they ever did. The “beast” is always out there, waiting to tempt us back as we contend with both psychological and physical craving. Even after we have “detoxed” physically – the pull of the addiction is buried deep inside us and can appear at any time.
A Sponsor knows this from personal experience and has therefore acquired, on his or her journey, many “tricks and tips” or tools for coping. Many of these tools have been passed around the “rooms” (support group meetings) for years and are the cumulative knowledge of tens of thousands who have gone before. These become available to us when we place our recovery into the hands of a sponsor.
4. A program is a program
I think that this is a profound principle in recovery. Any program consists of definite stages or steps, each building on the lessons of the previous step. Just as a house has to be built in a certain order (who can put up a roof before the walls or the walls before the foundation?)so too must a program be followed in a certain order.
The sponsor will always ensure that the addict follows the steps in correct order and won’t allow the addict to go on to the next step unless he or she has understood and internalized each lesson.
The very nature of addiction is “instant gratification” – get to the end now. We lack the foresight and patience to learn each lesson in correct order.
The 12 steps in AA and other addiction support groups can take anything from 1 to 2 years to complete … (and then we start again … at a recent meeting I met a man with 23 years sobriety doing his first step again for the 12th time!)
My own program has 60 modules that have to done in a set sequence.
The Sponsor has many other responsibilities not mentioned here. For now I will just post below the …
Ten Commandments of the Sponsor
1. If you do not have a burning desire to quit – I can’t help you
2. I will not seek you out – you must seek me out
3. Until you find your Higher Power, I am it – this is not negotiable
4. Addiction is insanity – so all your opinions and ideas are insane.
5. You must surrender to my will because your self-will has run wild
6. Accept that you have a condition for which there is no known cure
7. You use because you are an addict. There is no other reason
8. You must seek serenity and avoid turbulence at all times
9. You must act and speak modestly at all times – for you represent me
10 You must love yourself – for you are perfect, in this time, in this place