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 find their seat so that I can continue to grow and make my own  recovery complete.

The concept of  “Attraction Not Promotion”  also lend itself to the misunderstanding that you are supposed to be attracted to your sponsor, but the Big Book gives clear cut direction at least four times

Find a prospect”, and start working on him: The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 89.

Do not be discouraged if your prospect does not respond at once. “Search out another” alcoholic and try again. You are sure to find someone desperate enough to accept with eagerness what you offer. The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, page 96.

Page 18  Big Book “That the man who is making the approach” has had the same difficulty, that he obviously knows what he is talking about, that his whole deportment shouts at the new prospect that he is a man with a real answer, (this is the man you are looking for, its the man making the approach)

Page 25 Big Book “When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet.

Prospect Something expected; a possibility. an expectation especially of success. A potential customer, client, or purchaser. A candidate deemed likely to succeed.
Our new-found behavior is an invitation to recruitment. But it is suggested we go out and get the new man and not wait for them to marinate through observation and contemplation. Our most potent tool of persuasion remains one drunk talking to another about what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.
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 to 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 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.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON SPONSORSHIP A.A. PAMPHLET P-15   page 7, paragraph 1 A. A. puts it this a way: An alcoholic who has made SOME progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through A.A. 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
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.
How soon after a person has come on the AA Program can they become a sponsor?
I’ve heard of persons being dry one day and going on a Twelfth Step call, with excellent and enduring results for both parties. AA Grapevine, May 1950, Vol. 6 No. 12
Furthermore, Bill W. worked his entire program with Ebby T. in less than 7 days and immediately started working with other alcoholics. Ebby T. was only 60 days sober when he carried the message to Bill W. and Dr. Bob was only 3 days sober when he and Bill W. carried the message to A.A. number 3, Bill D. Moreover, these men didn’t wait around waiting to be asked by someone to sponsor them. Bill and Lois abandoned their lives with enthusiasm at the idea of working with other alcoholics. Bill W. and Dr. Bob frantically went searching for other alcoholics to work with. It’s all in the Big Book. In fact, it mentions 124 times in the first 88 pages of the 3rd edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, to work with another alcoholic. The other argument is you must have worked all Twelve Steps.
The Twelfth Step states having Had a spiritual awakening as THE results of these Steps, it alludes to the fact that we have already have had a spiritual awakening, not that it suddenly appears by working the Twelfth Step.  This again there is no hard and fast rule, I suggest to my sponsees that they are ready to start sponsoring after Step Five and the only condition is that they have to stay one Step ahead of their sponsees, as you can’t give away what you don’t have The A.A. pioneers worked the Steps
right away and then passed it on right away; the question you need to ask yourself is “How long can you tread water Noah?
When you’re digging out of a ditch a little less than too much is more than enough.
digging out of hole
I have a sponsee prospect, what do I do now?
When looking for a sponsee I find that as soon as they have summoned the courage born out of desperation to get a desire or beginners chip and even better if he or she  was given the opportunity to give his or her name and affiliation IE My name is John or Jane “Alcoholic” they have just affirmed and in some cases reaffirmed the First Step in recovery.   There hot, ruff and  ready to be initially qualified. I attempt to get a hold of their hand when we circle up for the closing prayer. I  then ask them,” have you had enough”? That’s a yes or no answer. “Are you willing to go to any length to achieve sobriety”?, 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 that 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. ( the prospect has been initially qualified) if I get the call the prospect has taken simple instruction and has gone from prospect to sponsee, if not he is neither ready or not ready for me . Some may disagree but it has worked for me, and the majority of men I have worked with have attained and , maintained long term sobriety  and even in some instances it had drove them to a different sponsor once they considered the questions.
In general terms, sales professionals need to know a set of discrete data in order to determine whether or not the “prospect” will become qualified.  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 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 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.

When you have a new sponsee consider getting contact information full name address of residence current phone work, place and phone (if your lucky), and an emergency contact person, phone and address. Dr. Bob said that there was two ways you could break anonymity, one was in press radio and film and two if that you were so anonymous that the other drunks could not find you. (When common sense becomes uncommon sense)

I ask my new sponsee if they have gotten a newcomers packet filled with sundrys 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 explain to them the law of opposition  that states 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 if possible

The most important major 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 90 in 90  and then go to a minimum of three meetings a week, psyche and soma (mind and body). Three times a week at the gym for the body and three days a week for the sober mind. And when they are in those meetings to take the cotton out of their ears and put it in their mouth until they have worked Step Five.

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 and this also relieves their need to audition (thinking what to say next  in an intelligent way)


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,( if you need to be reminded you probably not through)  Not so; they can discuss that pain with their sponsor and any other individual (that will help keep them both sober) in the fellowship. They can use that pain as fuel to work the steps in a thorough and timely manner.

What happens too often is that they do get the pain out, when speaking to it in a group setting  the pain seems to dissipates like tears in the rain. That pain is fuel (pain is the touch stone of all spiritual growth,  while you can’t grow spiritually and be comfortable at the same time) and the motivation to help the get through the Steps in a timely manner. They are not drinking the newcomer gets a false sense of security called a pink cloud that envelops them. 

What happens all too often is that 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  now are available to be a temporary sponsor, the only criteria is that you have to stay one step ahead of your sponsee. 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 a true kinship between God and man.

This asks us not only to speak a Fifth Step but we are also asked to listen to a Fifth Step (who hears a Fifth Step? a sponsor) Until we have heard a Fifth Step we still didn’t belong, we continued to circle the field waiting to run out of spiritual gasoline and then its yet another crash and burn Vern.

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, for he is coming to work.   We are now ready for Step One [email protected]

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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.