Alcohol and Drug informational resource


How to find a sponsee

I can go to skid row that I already know, and like Bob and Bill there is always the hospital. Now I hear tell they come under their own steam, washed but not clean, and desperate for simple instruction. Next time this golden opportunity walks through the doors I will elbow and shove and help them finding an AA sponsor and their seat so that I can continue to grow and make my own recovery complete.

I have raised my hand in many a meeting, but did not get to speak very often. I put my name on newcomer packets and have even approached the newcomer and have given them my phone number.

The opinions vary as to the timing and amount of preparedness; necessary, if you do not speak in a meeting, how would the newcomer know that you have something he wants? Like the pinball wizard, by sense of smell? Some say a newcomer should go to several meetings until they can connect with someone they can relate too and has something they want.   (At the time I had no idea what I wanted)

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”     Kenji Miyazawa

“I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.” Charlie Brown

In my experience, this is a waste of a valuable resource Pain, while in search of the unicorn of sponsors. It’s a romantic notion –like unto a one and only soul mate  as we are so unique that there is only one person that can make us complete, sounds a little like dating.  We do not take credit for them staying sober and we do not take blame if they get drunk. Remember, we stay sober, I get drunk.

I was at the Lakeside Texas, AA/Al-Anon Conference.  The Al-Anon speaker said she had the same problem: she wanted to sponsor. Lo, she needed to sponsor for her own growth and assurance of continued sobriety. What she did was she went up to the newcomer and told them that she was their alcoholics anonymous sponsor; they know nothing, only that they are in pain and this might be the way things are done. A very radical approach, frowned upon by many. As Bill W said,”Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail”. P.89 You really learn the steps, when you teach the steps. What she did was she went up to the newcomer and told them, Hi my name is Jane, and I am your sponsor; welcome!

I asked my sponsor a fellow of 34 yrs how to get a sponsee? He suggested that when the newcomer gets their beginners chip, approach them give them your number and also get their phone number and follow up the next day. In my experience most potential sponsors give the newcomer there phone number with the expectation that the newcomer needs to want it, at least enough to make the phone call , and by reaching  out confirms their  willingness to go to any length and demonstrates   humility  from hitting bottom, such connections are made  and  should not be discounted.

When we make a good start the finish line appears

My experience is a newcomer should not leave his first meeting with out a temporary sponsor. Some groups post a list of available temporary sponsors; all sponsorship is temporary and it is either for the day or for a lifetime or anywhere in between.

There are no rules about when you can sponsor somebody, and there would be exceptions if there were rules. Nevertheless, some general guidelines that are probably good for both you and your prospective sponsee are listed below. Not every program member will agree with them.

1)      You have a sponsor yourself

2)      You have worked at least the first five Steps (Until we had talked with complete candor of our conflicts, and had listened to someone else do the same thing, we still didn’t belong. Step Five was the answer it was the beginning of true kinship between God and man (we will be amazed before we are less than halfway through; Step Five is less than halfway)

3)      You have read your fellowships basic text (s)

4)      You Attend meetings regularly

5)      You are working the Steps

6)      You have had  a spiritual experience or your  in the process of a spiritual awakening

I approach the newcomer, the chronic relapse, the high-bottom intellectual and even the mentally challenged, as even they can get well if they have the capacity to be honest.

Enough is a little less than too much when you start digging out of a hole

I have a sponsee prospect, what do I do now?

I ask them, have you had enough? That’s a yes or no answer. Are you willing to go to any length to stay sober?, again yes or no. with both answers in the affirmative  I then tell them You can get well from this disease of mind body and spirit (hope) but there are certain things you have to do. (When looking for a sponsee I carry with me Clancy’s seven questions as I have come to the agreement the luck was no more than when preparation meets opportunity.) I then say the first thing I need you to do is to answer these seven questions and I need them back tomorrow  I then give them my  phone numbers and tell the prospect I expect your call.

Clancy’s seven questions.

1. In looking back over your life what memories are still painful, guilty, dirty?

2. In what ways do you consider yourself an inadequate person?

3. Who do you resent and why? Be specific.

4. What do you conceive to be your defects of character as you see them today?

5. What is the nature of the ongoing problems you have with people close to you  in human relations  what seems to always happen when you have these things that blow up?

6. In what way do you believe that (A.A.) can help you with any of these problems?
(Or any other 12 step fellowships)

7. In what way do you believe that (A.A.) can begin to change things?
(Or any other 12 step fellowships)

When I get these back the next day, the prospect is into action with simple direction and is serious about his alcohol addiction recovery. His pain is his best friend, he just doesn’t know it. I have a sponsee tell me that he had a paradigm shift (a change of heart and a change of mind) from working these questions; he had been chronic relapse since 1994.

I shot an arrow into the air; it’s been shot back, with intentions made clear

I have received Clancy’s seven questions back, now what I do?

I ask the sponsee if they know how not to drink? I suggest that when the cravings come to get down on their knees and ask God to remove the craving, if they do not believe in God I suggest they address the prayer “to whom it may concern” it worked for me and if it doesn’t work for them we will gladly refund their misery.

I explain to the sponsee that our goal is to complete the Twelve Steps in 30 to 45 days; all reading and written assignments will be time sensitive. I explain   that they no longer have alcohol to lean back on, and the 12 Steps of A.A. are a bulwark against the emotional roller coaster that will be coming to the surface with a vengeance.

I go over the questions and the answers with the new sponsee face to face. That will give you insight to where they are at, and what would be the best approach to their needs. It gets the new sponsee into action; it also gives the sponsee a self-appraised landscape as to his dire circumstance. It gives a vision of a path and presents a guide through the maze of recovery; in other words, it gives them hope. It gets them used to what the steps are going to look like, and prepares them for the writing that will be necessary to complete the work in a thorough yet timely manner. Remember, the goal is to get them through in 30 to  45 days and this is a great kick start.

I ask my new sponsee if they have gotten a newcomers packet filled with sundry’s of recovery to which the same gender members have affixed their names and phone numbers. If your club does not do that, you can ask the meeting chair before the start of the meeting to send around a sheet in a meeting where the same gender affixes their names and phone numbers. Have your sponsee ask for it as they will need it, and it is an excellent future resource. I ask my sponsee to call a different person on the list every day (as they have already agreed to and have made themselves available to be called) for the next 30 days and ask them if they can recite the third step prayer to them. The prayer is found on page 63 of the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I always explain the why of it, in all I ask a sponsee to do:

1. It gets the sponsee used to picking up the 500 lb. telephone and asking for help.

2. It helps to connect the sponsee with the fellowship; they get to hear your name, you get to hear their names.

3. It gets them familiar with the third step prayer, which encapsulates the essence of A.A. and we will be accomplishing by working the Twelve Steps

4. And most importantly, I explain that the person they are calling might have been thinking about taking that first drink of alcohol and by calling, they will help them put that thought away as now they are into service work.

Intimacy is the ability to share one’s reality without fear of judgment or change.

Intimacy develops slowly, and commitment more gradually still.

I ask them to call me every day for the next 90 days. This builds an intimate relationship, Ninety and ninety; they are to attend   ninety recovery meetings in ninety days.

I explain to them the law of opposition that there is opposition in all things, for nothing grows without an opposing force. When you go to the gym and lift weights gravity is the opposition. It strengthens bones and builds muscle. A butterfly struggling to free itself from its cocoon, that struggle strengthens it wings that enables it to fly off majestically. When we begin the spiritual work of the Twelve Step process we are often opposed spiritually as we try to free ourselves from the cocoon of addiction.  A bottle of booze long since hid will seem to miraculously materialize. A drug long since forgotten will be found in an inside coat pocket. The opposite sex with your favorite addiction in tow will make themselves known. These things and more will occur when you’re the most susceptible, during periods of restlessness, irritability, and discontent, physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, when we are, hungry, angry, lonely and tired .And with that temptation a way to escape has been made. Get on your knees and ask God to remove the craving, call your sponsor and other program members for support, and get to a meeting, be forthright and let the folks know what you’re going through so we can circle up and keep you in our prayers and less I forget seek out someone you can help and be grateful for the ability to act and not be acted upon.

I explain it is suggested not to make any major changes IE. Buy a house sell a house, quit your job (if you have one) get married, get divorced etc and it is strongly suggested try to avoid any and all romantic entanglements.

The most important new thing you can do now is nothing, but do it with flair and enthusiasm

A sponsor is a teacher, a mentor, the older brother or sister you never had, a trusted friend and a confidant; and lest you forget, you’re their lifeline to a new and sober life.

I suggest that my sponsees go to 90 meetings in 90 days, and when they are in those meetings to take the cotton out of their ears and put it in their mouth. To suit up, show up and sit down. They can introduce themselves when called upon, and give their sobriety date, and if pressed, acknowledge that their sponsor suggested that they need to listen.

Some  program members would say that they have pain that they need to leave in the meetings and it is good for us to hear that pain to remind us what it was like we first came in, Not so; they can discuss that pain with their sponsor and any other individual in the fellowship. They can use that pain to work the steps in a thorough and timely manner. What happens too often is that they do get the pain out in the meetings, and they are not drinking. The newcomer gets a false sense of security called a pink cloud that envelops them. They begin to languish. They depend only on the meetings. The motivation to work the steps subsides they might be sober, but if they are not working the steps, they are not in recovery. How can you extend the hand of A.A. to those who still suffer? You can’t; you can’t give away something you don’t have.. They plan to work the steps when they get around to it. I am staying sober, isn’t that enough? “We think a man unthinking who says sobriety is enough” After working Step five you can now  share in the meetings because now you can speak to the solution and  you are now available to be a temporary sponsor ,the only criteria is that you have to stay one step ahead of your sponsee. After all you don’t learn the Steps until you teach the Steps. And finally supplies  as they will need , a  Big Book ,a Twelve and Twelve  a writing tablet ,and I suggest Twelve Step sponsorship ,how it works by Hamilton B ( it makes it easier on him ,and on me) it’s also the confidence  primer  for when they start to sponsor. They are to have these materials at every meeting.   We are now ready for Step One

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Mission Statement

Our mission is to inform, inspire, and empower alcoholics anonymous sponsorship locally and internationally to be their very best --- both personally and spiritually.

I would like to acknowledge Hamilton B and his tireless work in the recovery community and his work "Twelve Step Sponsorship How it works" a Hazelton publication and his permission to use what ever was needed to make possible my ongoing sponsorship workshop and Step study and this website.