A 12-step program term for a member who assists newcomers in their recovery. Primarily, a sponsor's main duty is to guide the newbie in working the twelve steps. He/she will usually be considered as a confidant in some personal matters as well.

A good sponsor should possess the following traits: This list is far from complete, but it's a decent base of what to look for. General guidelines for sponsorship are pretty flexible, but some common sense factors should be considered. To avoid certain complications it is generally recommended that women sponsor women, and men sponsor men. However, a lesbian newcomer is advised to seek a male sponsor. Likewise, a gay male newcomer would do well to seek out a female sponsor.

Sponsor availability may vary depending on factors such as an area's age and gender spread, or median recovery experience (either qualitative or quantitative).

A letter to my Al Anon sponsor:

I met you at my third Al-Anon meeting, and after my 5th meeting, four days later, I wrote in my journal that I wanted you to be my sponsor.

As I listened to you talk about the ups and downs of your life and your relationship with your spouse, your struggle to learn not to fight and not run everything (although you’re good at it, you said), I thought to myself, here is someone I can identify with and learn from. You described my feelings of frustration, and yet you were talking about them mainly in the past tense, having already resolved many of the struggles that are ahead of me. When you spoke, I heard in your voice, in your humor and insight, the experience, strength and hope I was looking for (even before I had learned to recognize that particular trinity of words as Al-Anon regulars.) Your posture was relaxed, at peace; you always seem very comfortable in your own skin. You had, as they say in the literature, what I wanted.

Having never had a sponsor before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Having not had a personal relationship with a Higher Power, I wasn’t sure what that would be like, either. The unconditional love you offered me—the way you listened, reflecting back a different perspective on my words, and offering your own thoughts as well as poems and readings and advice you had learned from others over the years—the way you smiled and nodded and gave me exuberant hugs, showed me what having a sponsor could mean, and helped me understand what my Higher Power could be like. When you talked about God is Love, I knew that was a power I could work toward turning my will and my life over to.

After a couple of months of going to meetings, of reading the literature and working on developing a concept of and relationship with a Higher Power, I told a friend of mine that in Al-Anon, I thought I had found my church. This seems to be the brand of spirituality that works for me. I know that Al-Anon has already helped me make changes in my life, offered me suggestions for the direction that I want to go. Your descriptions of your own life have helped me work out some of the specifics. I know I’ve got a long way to go, but I feel like I’ve taken some important first steps.

I like watching you settle in to meetings, winking and smiling at friends as you kick off your shoes, tucking your legs up under you or yawning and stretching like a contented cat. I like your voice, the humor and wisdom in your sharings. I love your hugs and pats of comfort and reassurance—the ones you give to me, and those given to whomever you are sitting next to, who looks or sounds like they need some love. I admire your energy, the way you pay attention and respond so completely to each one of the people who wait around after meetings to speak with you. You seem able to give so freely, and those exchanges seem energizing rather than taxing. Again, I want what you have.

Even when you are not in a meeting, I know that I will hear your words—wisdom that you had shared with others, who continue to pass it on. Thank you for everything. I am changing, my life is changing. You have been a big part of that—a mentor and a guide. Thank you.

Spon"sor (?), n. [L., from spondere, sponsum, to engage one's self. See Spose.]


One who binds himself to answer for another, and is responsible for his default; a surety.


One who at the baptism of an infant professes the Christian faith in its name, and guarantees its religious education; a godfather or godmother.


© Webster 1913.

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