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The Value of Good Sponsorship in Recovery

Addiction is a really complex disease, very much different from virtually every other disease that exists. It’s only relatively recently that we came to learn addiction was a disease rather than a moral affliction, but popular opinion is still that addicts are bad people. In fact, surveys show that opinion of addicts is lower than the opinion of individuals who are mentally ill. As such, there’s a major push to eliminate the stigma of addiction, which can only be done through education. The general populace must become aware of the underlying mechanisms of addiction and of the various components of recovery, including sponsorship in recovery.

Since addiction is such a complicated disease, the process of overcoming an addiction is, likewise, quite complicated. As well, every person who becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs develops his or her substance abuse problem through a unique set of circumstances and events. In other words, the journey from non-addict to addict is different for everyone; therefore, the journey of recovery differs for everyone, too.

Much like how attitudes toward addiction are outdated, beliefs about the recovery process tend to be outdated as well. Specifically, there’s a tendency for people to feel like twelve-step recovery — known to be a spiritually-oriented recovery fellowship — is ineffective, especially when compared to other options that are available. However, as you’re about to learn, there are components of the twelve-step method that are extremely useful to the addiction rehabilitation process overall. In particular, we’re talking about sponsorship in recovery.

What Exactly is Sponsorship?

If you’re at all familiar with twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, you’ve probably heard about sponsors and sponsorship. The simplest way to explain sponsorship would be to say that it’s a relationship between a person and his or her mentor. However, while there are many types of mentorship situations, a sponsorship is often associated with recovery specifically. In recovery, a person’s sponsor is someone who the individual in recovery can count on, mostly for ‘learning the ropes’, so to speak. But sponsors are also great for emotional and moral support. Oftentimes, people in recovery enter sponsorship relationships without even realizing it.

Sponsorship and the Twelve-Step Method

As stated above, sponsorship is a major tenet of the twelve-step recovery method, but it’s not quite as straightforward as it may seem. When a person begins a twelve-step program, there’s typically a period at the start where he or she must get acclimated to the program, learning the methods of the program and what’s expected of members who attend the sessions. One of the numerous things that is encouraged of new members is for them to find a sponsor, which is explained to be a major help to the twelve-step recovery process. Of course, sponsors aren’t assigned to newcomers to twelve-step programs; instead, it’s up to both the sponsor and sponsee to agree to the sponsorship relationship. When a person has chosen a sponsor, typically both parties will exchange their contact information so that they’re able to consistently communicate outside of the group’s meetings. At this point, they can make arrangements to meet so as to help the newcomer progress in recovery.

For many people, acquiring a sponsor is an asset to the recovery process. It’s also an extremely tedious part of the process because both parties must have a certain chemistry for the relationship to be mutually beneficial. For the newcomer in need of a sponsor, he or she should find someone who has demonstrated his or her ability to sustain his or her sobriety. As well, a sponsor should be someone who’s extremely knowledgeable of the Twelve Steps and the twelve-step method overall. In fact, it’s important for a sponsor to be knowledgeable about the entire twelve-step process because he or she essentially becomes the newcomer’s tutor, helping the individual to learn the Twelve Steps and utilize the twelve-step process in his or her journey toward long-lasting sobriety. It’ll actually be the sponsor-sponsee relationship that helps to precipitate the newcomer’s progress in his or her recovery.

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How Sponsorship in Recovery is Beneficial

As you can see, sponsorship is a central part of the twelve-step recovery method. Generally, every person who uses twelve-step programs to get sober will acquire a sponsor with whom he or she develops a close relationship over time. However, sponsorship can be extremely valuable even when a person is utilizing more clinical methods of recovery rather than the spiritually-oriented twelve-step method. As well, many of the same benefits afforded to twelve-step group members are applicable to those in addiction treatment programs.

For instance, there’s a psychological phenomenon that underlies sponsorship in addiction recovery called behavior modeling. As you might expect, modeling refers to when a person models his or her behavior after someone else. It’s a rather simple behavior, but the implications are huge when it comes to addiction recovery. More often than not, a person doesn’t realize that they’re merely mimicking the behaviors of someone else since they’re not consciously trying to replicate the other person’s behavior. In the case of addiction recovery, the situation is much more akin to an educational tutoring wherein both parties are aware that the sponsee is learning from the sponsor; however, over time, the tutelage of the sponsor results in the sponsee slowly adopting many of the behaviors that the sponsor had modeled, which is where the name of the behavior comes from.

Another major benefit to sponsorship in recovery is that it affords those who are new to recovery with a means of constant support and a way to help them learn how to be social without alcohol or drugs. Between these two benefits, the support is arguably the most important. As mentioned earlier, addicts are widely demonized, so having someone on whom to rely for emotional and moral support is momentously helpful in the recovery process. A sponsor also serves as a sort of ‘window’ into this new world of sober socialization, and this is an extremely beneficial function of the sponsor-sponsee relationship.

Call Ohio Addiction Recovery Centers for a Free Consultation Today

If you or someone you love would benefit from learning more about the recovery options that are available, call Ohio Addiction Recovery Centers toll-free at 800-481-8457. Our team of recovery coordinators are available anytime, so whether it’s day or night, call us now so you or your loved one can begin the healing journey.

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