History of Sponsorship
When AA started gaining steam, and people coming to meetings, there was a need for people to get through the steps. In the beginning, the numbers of people at meetings were small. Growing from six steps to twelve, members of the original groups were available to help each other through the recovery process. With the publication of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the spread of meetings around the world, there became a need for helping others. “Beginner’s Meetings” were held over a course of 5 weeks to take people through the twelve steps efficiently and expediently. A sponsor was a randomly selected individual who helped a newcomer through the steps. The term “card carrying member of AA” came from these meetings. After completing the steps a newcomer was given a card and earned access to the general meetings.
Today, sponsorship looks differently. The primary purpose of any alcoholic completing the twelve steps is to help another. Though The Big Book does not specifically outline sponsorship, it does act as a manual toward the spiritual experience which is the twelve steps. Sponsors and their ‘sponsees’ take on more of a long term mentorship relationship than they did years ago. Working the steps multiple times and acting as a support system to one another, sponsors create long lineages of sober people.
What to Look for in a Sponsor
Choosing a sponsor should include a few basic requirements. First, they will need to have completed the twelve steps, at least once. Listening to them share in meetings inspires you. One line of The Big Book reads, “if you want what we have, then you are willing to take certain steps”. If you want want someone else ‘has’, you might be interested in finding out how they worked the steps and developed the manner of living they have today. Second, a sponsor should ideally have more sober time than you. Preferably, a sponsor should have multiple years of sobriety. Lastly, choose a sponsor that you feel you can trust. Taking the steps requires “rigorous honesty” and deep truths. You’re placing your spiritual journey in their hands.
What Not to Look for in a Sponsor
Avoid choosing a sponsor that reminds you of someone you would drink or use with. If someone seems like a good friend, they may not be the best choice for an adviser. You and your sponsor will always be equal, but they should be someone you look up to.