After leaving a treatment facility, early recovery can be a confusing and challenging time for many in recovery from addiction. They have to take the skills and healthy behavioral habits learned in treatment and practice them outside of a facility. In addition to maintaining these newly learned habits, they must also deal with the complications of managing stressors from work and personal relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.
Thankfully, there are many tools outside of the confines of treatment facilities to help individuals better cope with this transitionary period of early recovery. The recovery community is far-reaching, with local chapters of fellow addiction support groups meeting daily and weekly under the umbrella of organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), SMART Recovery, and Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS).
What Is a Sponsor?
For the uninitiated, a sponsor is a peer in recovery who steps up as a mentor for individuals in need of support. Newcomers to support groups are often encouraged to have a sponsor guide them through the process of group meetings, 12-steps, or other key elements of the program. Generally, this applies to those in the earliest stages of their recovery. Officially, sponsors are directly affiliated with AA’s recovery programs, but a sponsor could involve anyone who takes up the mantle of providing mentorship for a fellow peer. This can be particularly useful for individuals in early recovery.
Sponsors can be called upon in difficult times or offer a form of companionship in an otherwise isolating transitionary period. The most significant benefit for those in early recovery comes from seeking advice from an individual who has experience with an addictive disorder and actively working through their recovery. In the context of AA, sponsors generally will also help walk or guide recovery patients through working the 12-step program. Having a partner to assist and motivate patients through the 12-steps can be a great boon for the necessary ongoing treatment of recovery patients.
Benefits of Having a Sponsor in Your Corner
Whether peers choose to seek a sponsor is entirely up to them. There are a few outliers of extreme examples where some might not benefit from having a sponsor. However, these are generally isolated incidents, with most sponsors providing significant benefits to those in early recovery.
There are more drawbacks to not having a sponsor than there are from having one, and we would suggest that clients strongly consider choosing to have a sponsor once leaving rehab. Overall, those in early recovery will lack experience living a sober lifestyle which makes navigating early recovery alone difficult. Sponsors can have a lasting effect on their peers in maintaining their sobriety in the long term. Sponsors are by no means a replacement for therapists or all the amenities that a rehab facility previously provided them, but these individuals can provide a sense of camaraderie and be relied on in moments of crisis to listen and offer support.
Overall, choosing to have a sponsor is a critical tool in the recovery toolbox. There is no harm in trying out a relationship with a sponsor, only to decide later that the relationship is not working out. Aside from the immediate form of guidance that sponsors provide, another benefit of choosing a sponsor is that it serves the dual purpose of also helping to become more immersed in the local recovery community. Getting to know fellow peers through sponsorship can significantly increase a person’s involvement at a local chapter level, reducing the risk of isolation and depression that can occur in early recovery. Sponsorship can be a significant ice breaker for those in early recovery, helping to alleviate many social anxieties that will naturally be present in newfound sobriety.
How to Pick a Sponsor to Meet Your Recovery Needs
Those in early recovery should be choosy when it comes to sponsors as there is no rush to find one. They should also feel free to try out individual relationships and decline offers as there is no harm in deciding that sponsorship is not working. Everyone learns differently and will need different levels of support. This process can be similar to picking a therapist. Not only do clients need someone with who they are comfortable opening up to about their addiction, but they also need to find a sponsor who can speak from a position of authority. They should only consider a sponsor who has gone through the 12-step program and has maintained sobriety for over two years.
Addiction recovery is a lifelong process that can often prove difficult, especially in the early stages of recovery. Thankfully, recovery communities have grown to the extent that most recovery patients can receive free access to group meetings in their local area. With the help of support groups and fellow peers offering sponsorship, those in recovery can receive the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and needs professional help, Choice House has a dual-diagnosis treatment program. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado, our treatment programs include a 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, and a sober living campus. Our facilities are located close to the bustling city of Louisville, which allows participants in either our outpatient program or living at the sober living campus to transition back to work and social lives under the guidance of Choice House staff. For more information regarding Choice House facilities and treatment services, please give us a call at (303) 578-4977.