12-Step programs have long been known for their success in providing people with a supportive environment and the structure they need to regain strength in sobriety. The reality is that amidst the throes of addiction, we simply can’t do it alone – we need the help of a Higher Power to guide us and help us feel safe while navigating the ups and downs of being human. If you’ve recently begun treatment for addiction, or perhaps you’re considering it, also consider participating in a 12-Step program – and while you’re at it, reap the benefits of maintaining contact with a 12-Step sponsor, too.
What is a 12-Step Sponsor?
A.A. (also known as Alcoholics Anonymous) explains that 12-Step sponsors are meant to provide additional support for those who are on the road to recovery; many people in addiction recovery feel alone and question their capabilities to push forward, but 12-Step sponsors do their best to be sympathetic and understanding for whatever life’s challenges may bring. In fact, a 2015 study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism gathered the experiences of 302 young adults who reported having a 12-Step sponsor at the time of the study. They were assessed at the beginning of the study, and at 3, 6 and 12 months later as well.
Researchers from the study found that the therapeutic alliance between the 12-Step sponsor and individual did have a positive effect on treatment engagement and overall recovery outcomes. This truly supports what other areas of research have shown us thus far – which is that social support does truly impact an individual’s view of themselves, others and their recovery as a whole.
A few years ago, one individual shared their personal experience of having an A.A. sponsor via Pacific Standard, an online publication that posts stories related to news, economics, education, environment, social justice and more. They stated:
“…I believe that these programs can be a wonderful resource for those who find them amenable…Because they’re free, available 24/7 and provide support for abstinence that is otherwise unavailable, they may play a role in some people’s recovery that is not easily filled by anything else.”
What’s important to note is that with 12-Step sponsors, there are many things they are not: such as the fact that they’re not therapists, they’re not social workers and they’re not getting paid for any of the work they complete. These roles are on a volunteer basis, and with that comes a real human being who has gone through similar (or different) experiences than another person’s.
The Benefits of 12-Step Sponsorship
If a relationship is formed and two people work together to create a seamless system, 12-Step sponsorship can be incredibly beneficial. For example, a study published in the journal “Psychology of Addictive Behavior” explored this very topic – and found that having an A.A. sponsor predicted increased alcohol abstinence and abstinence from marijuana and cocaine; the study also found that 12-Step sponsorship aided in greater participation in treatment and motivation for recovery. Why is this? Perhaps it’s the fact that a 12-Step sponsor provides individuals with someone who can believe in them – as well as someone who can hold them accountable.
Several years ago, an individual named Victor shared his story of addiction recovery via the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. He stated that after being court-ordered to attend A.A. meetings, he’s become more intertwined with the 12-Step program and has thus found many benefits of 12-Step sponsorship:
“It keeps me accountable and plugged in. It gives me a sense of purpose.”
For those who may be apprehensive to have a 12-Step sponsor, remember a few things:
- Each sponsor relationship is going to be different, because each person is different
- The relationship developed between sponsor and sponsee all depends on how the pair choose to engage in the sponsorship
- Expectations need to be laid out ahead of time, so that neither person is disappointed
- The spirit of 12-Step sponsorship is to have an additional person for support
It was once stated that,
“Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you.”
The idea is to remember that your 12-Step sponsor is meant to help guide you in the best way that they can – and it’s ultimately up to you to push forward and remain diligent in recovery.
Seek Help Today
12-Step programs can be a wonderful addition to formalized treatment because they only serve to reinforce sobriety – and they can also help people develop a stronger connection to a Higher Power through a structured program based on spirituality. If you’re ready to take better control over your life, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.