Support groups are a very popular tool used by people in recovery. They are also highly recommended by chemical dependency professionals and other mental health counselors. The choice to take part in 12-step recovery groups is very individual and no two experiences are the same. Some examples of these support groups are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). You can go to the traditional meetings or find online NA or AA meetings.
If you want to have a useful experience you should have a good sponsor. A sponsor is someone who has some time clean and who can help you figure out how to stay clean, often by actively doing the 12 steps. The following characteristics are good to look for when you want to pick a good sponsor:
- integrity, caring, understanding, empathetic, open-minded, significant recovery time, honest, trustworthy
There are several questions that you can ask your potential sponsor to make sure that you pick a good one. Because the role of the sponsor is to serve as a container and a role model, it is important that you pick someone that you trust. Your sponsor is one of the people that you call when you have cravings and want to use. When you are looking for a sponsor you need to pay attention to the person’s recovery and listen to the words they say. You don’t want someone who just regurgitates what they hear or read. For example, if someone’s recovery story is usually “work the steps, go to meetings, get a sponsor, get involved in service” then listen for someone else who is deeper and more truthful.
It is important to interview a potential sponsor. There are questions that you can ask in order to pick a good sponsor. These include:
- What do you expect of a sponsee?
- How do you feel about medication?
- What’s your opinion on mental illness? (Optional according to situation, but can be telling. Mental illness, such as depression, often accompanies addiction.)
- What step are you on?
- How often do you go to meetings?
- Are you involved in service?
- Do you have a sponsor? Do you call your sponsor?
- What is your idea of recovery?
- What are your values?
Although there are undoubtedly more questions that you can ask someone to find a good sponsor, the above will get you into an intimate conversation about recovery. Just like any relationship, the sponsor-sponsee relationship will develop over time. When you pick a good sponsor you will have a richer recovery relationship and increase your chances at staying clean. It’s good to think about your sponsor as a recovery life coach. When you consider this person as your sponsor try to envision them giving very personal and critical advice. Ideally, a sponsor will lead a life of integrity that you can “follow” until you feel comfortable enough to someday sponsor people yourself.
Getting a sponsor as soon as possible is recommended. People are more fragile and need more support in the beginning of their recovery. Once you go to meetings start keeping an eye out for someone whose recovery you like and admire. Find a good sponsor and stick with recovery.