letting go of caresAt my Home group meeting, we say “in this program, we encourage sponsorship.” What does that mean? What is a sponsor? Why would you want one? How can a sponsor help you? How do you get a sponsor? What is it like to be a sponsor? How does being a sponsor help your program? Spencer, Kelli and special guest Lynn discuss these questions and others.

What is a sponsor? Someone who can guide us through the steps. Someone who can call us on our craziness. Someone who knows our story, so we can call them with a question without having to explain the whole situation first. Someone who is “not me.”

How did we go about finding a sponsor? We might have heard the suggestion, “Look for someone who has what you want.” We listened in meetings for a person who spoke “to” us when they shared. We looked for someone in a similar relation to the alcoholic(s) in their life. If we are hesitant, we might start by just calling someone with a question or two. The most important thing seems to be to ask somebody, maybe as a temporary sponsor. We recognize that sponsorship is not permanent, and you can change your sponsor if it’s not working.

Why might you change sponsors? Maybe you have changed so that your needs are no longer being met by your current sponsor. Maybe you and your sponsor can’t make your schedules mesh. Maybe your sponsor has moved away. All of these have happened to at least one of us.

How do we act with our sponsors to work our program? In many ways: We call in a crisis. We meet regularly to work the steps. We call or meet when we need to double check our own ideas for sanity, and we trust that our sponsor will tell us when we’re off base. We are accountable to our sponsor for aspects of our program that we need some “help” to work consistently.

What is it like being a sponsor? We each have our own style of sponsorship. We all focus on the steps, because we believe that doing the work is how we make progress. Lynn says that in her experience the best way to learn something is to try to teach it. She sees her role as a sponsor as a guide through the steps and the literature and the program principles. She suggests that no matter how new you are in the program, you can provide support to someone newer than you, and in so doing you will strengthen your own program. And when the time comes that someone asks you to sponsor them, you will be ready.


Our topic for next week is Our First Meeting. We'd love to hear from you about your first meeting. What was your first meeting like for you? Did Al-Anon “click” right away, or did it take a while? When did you feel that you really belonged? Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email feedback@therecoveryshow.com and let us know. Or just leave a comment right here. If you do so before June 2, we can include your response in the next episode.

Music from the show

This Spotify playlist includes the songs we considered for this episode.

And here's one more that's not in Spotify. Ann Arbor musicians Misty Lyn and the Big Beautiful create haunting songs that are often a little dark. This one is on that side, if you take its lyrics literally. But to me, it also says that we can get through the hardest parts of our lives by sharing them with a friend. A sponsor can be that friend when you feel like you're drowning.

[bandcamp track=1255035269  bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]


5 comments on “Sponsorship – Episode 25

  1. alexis says:

    Hey guys!

    I’ve been wanting to write for a while now, and there was never a better moment then after listening to this week’s “Sponsorship” episode. I wanted to let you know that, for me, and for many others I imagine, you have been the hand of al anon, reaching out. I was in a bad place, and a friend had mentioned al anon, and sent me a link to the meetings list for our city. I knew I should go — I was desperate for help — but I was afraid, because I didn’t know what to expect. I held off, for weeks.

    Things were getting worse, and then I found your podcast. I downloaded a handful of past episodes, and the first I listened to was the “What is Al Anon” episode. Listening to you talk about what you were going through and what you were getting from the program was a beacon of light in the dark place I’d getten myself into. I felt like there was hope — you were laughing; I wanted to laugh. And I did. I finally got the courage to go to a meeting and I was terrified, but that quickly changed.

    I’ve been in the program 6 weeks now, and I’m thinking, “what about this sponsorship thing.” Again, I don’t know what to expect, how to go about it, what to say or do. The sponsorship episode cleared a lot of my uncertainties up, and I think I’m ready to take the leap! Thank you so much for your long distance, disembodied support! Whenever I’m in desperate need between meetings I switch on the podcast and you guys are there for me.

    I would like to make a show suggestion: can you do a show on Anonymity? It’s another thing I struggle with. How much about my life can I talk about in my share? Should I keep details like what I do for a living or where I go to school to myself? When I have heard the most profound thing at a meeting and want to share it, can I tell someone what I heard? I some times feel like al anon is shrouded in mystery, where are the boundaries of the secret?

    Thanks again!


  2. Spencer T says:

    You’re right, Alexis. Anonymity can be really tricky in this program. There are aspects of my personal journey that are very hard for me to share without “outing” the people in my life, and particularly to honor the 11th Tradition, which tells me to “… guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.”

    As for personal details, my understanding of the principle of anonymity is, very briefly, that I decide how much or how little to reveal about my life. When sharing in a meeting, I try to stick to talking about stuff that is relevant to the topic I’m sharing about.

    A third issue of anonymity, and one to which we try to be sensitive in our podcast, is to not set ourselves up as representatives of the program. This comes from Tradition 11 and also from Tradition 12 “… ever reminding us to place principles above personalities.”

    As I was writing these words, I became more and more convinced that anonymity would be a great topic, because I am positive that my co-hosts have different understandings and insights from mine. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. francine says:

    Hello Spencer. Just loved “binge listening” to your podcast when I discovered it.
    I just did an encore listening of episode 25 on sponsoring because of a situation that has arisen in my program. I have asked someone to be my sponsor and she told me ” I don’t give suggestions, I give directions , i give directions which i expect to be followed without question”.

    I researched online and found while I couldn’t find an official Al-Anon comment on sponsoring, I did find this on the AA website:

    Must the newcomer agree with
    Everything the sponsor says?

    No. If the sponsor’s ideas sound strange or
    unclear, the newcomer had better speak up and
    ask questions. Theirs is supposed to be an easy,
    open relationship, in
    which both parties talk freely
    and honestly with each other.
    The A.A. program is simple, but it didn’t seem
    that way to many of us at first. Often, we learned
    by asking questions, at closed meetings or — most
    especially — in conversations with our sponsors.

    I would love for a revisit on sponsoring. Does AA allow sponsees to ask questions but Alanon does not? thank you

    1. spencer says:

      Francine, Maria and I responded to your question in Episode 65 – Hope. As far as I know, there are no “rules” about how sponsorship works. Every sponsor sets their own boundaries and works with the people they sponsor in their own way. I know members who tell prospective sponsees “this is how I work. If you won’t follow my path, then I won’t be your sponsor.”

      Personally, I try to help my sponsee find their own answers to the questions they have, rather than give direction or even suggestions. I might suggest readings, or taking an inventory. I might talk about how I dealt with a similar situation. I expect my sponsees to work the steps, and I tell them that it is their responsibility to call me. As a sponsor, I see my job as one of guide and mentor, not as a leader or boss. If my sponsee does not ask questions, our meetings will be very quiet!

  4. Rae says:

    I just ran across this and was wondering since it’s been a minute would you be willing to do a refresher episode on sponsorship? Might be interesting to hear how your views on this topic has changed. Thanks!

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