Taking on the responsibility as a guiding force in someone’s life is not to be taking lightly. As a sponsor you act as a bridge that will help connect newcomers to a beautiful new way of life. When done well, you will leave an indelible mark on that individual’s life, so much so that they will be indefinitely appreciative.
Depending on your proclivities and belief systems you may use one or several of the following methods as your mentorship tool:
Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous (with on-hand dictionary)
Narcotics Anonymous Step Guide
The New Testament
Psychiatry – Medication
The Cold Turkey Method (good luck with that one)
Or the use of my personal favourite – kidnap the individual and chain them up in your basement. Then repeatedly beat them until they have admitted defeat and agree to never drink or drug again.
I’m 100% kidding. Please Do Not Use That Method Ever!
I was told by old-timers that they stop using this method just prior to me entering the rooms of recovery. I guess it wasn’t exactly following ‘protocol’ and ‘traditions’, they claimed. Which was great news for me because I’m a rather delicate flower, and wouldn’t want any bumps and bruises messing with my complexion. They also even had a hunch that it might be against the law in some states, this of course has yet to be verified though.
My point is that none of these approaches holds the monopoly on sobriety, and there is a plethora of options. I was always reminded that “you can’t transmit something you don’t have”, so generally people stick to their guns and pass on the knowledge and wisdom that they put into practice. This is always a great reminder for me because generally people can see through the bullshit and feel the inauthenticity when mentors are telling people to do things they didn’t put into action themselves.
Having personally worked with people across Canada, the United States, and in Colombia, I now have a fairly good grasp on what works and what doesn’t. Regardless of timezone, cultural upbringing, ethnicity, vocational training, religious beliefs, IQ, physical attributes, sexual orientation, or net worth – I approach the person the same way.
1 – Show Them Love – They are completely worthy and capable of living a life free from addiction.
2 – They have no fucking clue how sick they really are!
3 – They probably won’t initially trust your wisdom and guidance, so it’s important to always reference your message to literature. A great tool I use is the Big Book Search Tool.
With consideration for time, I will walk you through the approach I take when asked to be a sponsor from someone in Alcoholics Anonymous. This is assuming the individual has been checked over by a medical professional and they agree that no further medical treatment is needed to stabilize the person.
- Get them to call you every single day for 30 days, even if it is just to say hi and bye. If they can’t commit to doing this, good luck on them following through with the vital work ahead.
- By the end of the first week it’s time for action. Get them to read a chapter of the big book every day until the first 164 pages are completed. When they finish a chapter, they need to call you that day. Ask them what stood out for them in the particular chapter. You can then get them to underline anything you see as important, in addition to what they already underlined beforehand.
- As soon as the first 164 pages are done, get right into the steps. Do not linger in the steps: set a specific start and end date according to how you see fit. From my experience, two weeks is the most you should allow per step. There is no such thing as a perfect set of steps, and you aren’t doing them any service letting them contemplate for long periods of time. We all know someone who took 6 months to do their step 4 and know how that turned out for them. This is a program of action, not of contemplation.
- Once their steps are completed, emphasize the important of seeking God very regularly, and of being of service to others (not just alcoholics).
Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us. – Big Book p.77
- A regular encouraging word is a must for the low spots that are sure to come for your new recruit. Always telling them to trust in the process no matter what.
If my Sponsee doesn’t follow through with our previously agreed upon terms of engagement I give them one or two passes and if they continue in the same pattern, I then let them go. There are no short-cuts in this program and learning how to set and uphold boundaries is extremely important as a Sponsor.
We alcoholics are undisciplined. So we let God discipline us in the simple way we have just outlined. But this is not all. There is action and more action. – Big Book p.88
Being as addiction centers in the mind and not in the body, we waste no time creating habits that allow for that internal cleansing to take place. Don’t take my word for it though. Abandoning yourself to God does take some regular accountability on our part. Head over to Romans 12 in the New Testament where Paul tells us to “not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”, and that is one of the biggest rewards someone can expect from completing a thorough and honest 12 steps – a renewal of the mind.