Sponsorship is one of the foundations of our Twelve Step program. It is how many of us “work the Steps.” In order to carry the message, we must give back what has been given to us and often members of Twelve Step fellowships choose to sponsor. We also can support sponsorship in our local or regional groups by facilitating opportunities to learn about sponsorship, increasing the willingness and capacity to sponsor.
When meeting members are working the CoDA Twelve Step program, ideally, with a sponsor, meetings tend to be healthier. Healthy meetings, run by the principles of our program, are the foundation for which we attract the newcomer and encourage their return. We need the foundation of healthy meetings and sponsorship in order for outreach to be effective. If a newcomer enters CoDA and finds no one willing to sponsor, it can be disheartening.
So many CoDA members are hesitant to sponsor, yet this is an important component of our program and our healing. Each CoDA member has experience, strength and hope to share. Yet many feel they are not “ready” to sponsor. In the Resources for Sponsors section, there are ideas and support materials to assist in sponsoring, especially for those who are hesitant to try.
In this section, we provide information to assist with understanding what sponsorship is, and isn’t, in order to encourage service in this area.
What is sponsorship?
Sponsors are people within the CoDA program who help guide us through the Twelve Step recovery process. These CoDA members are recovering codependents whose personal recovery is a priority. They continue to learn how to live happy and fulfilling lives and are willing to share their experience, strength and hope with us. They have usually been in recovery longer than we have. They’re often who we call for help when we are confused or overwhelmed.
Sponsors are able to remain objective and detached from feeling responsible for our happiness and recovery. They also refrain from behaving in abusive, critical, or controlling ways that can result in fixing, rescuing, acting as a therapist, sexual manipulation or personal gain. Sponsors are role models for recovery, sources of loving support, and respectful of anonymity and individual pace of recovery.
More information about sponsors can be found in available CoDA literature (see Resources below).
Some suggested characteristics of Sponsors:
- Have a sponsor themselves
- Actively work on the steps, ideally having worked through all Twelve Steps
- Have some years (1 or more) in CoDA
- Place recovery first
- Exhibit a recovery program we want for ourselves
- Are people with whom we identify
- Are the same gender as we are, or, if we are not heterosexual, are not sexually attractive to us
- Share their own thoughts and feelings with us
- Respect our right to confidentiality
- Listen with compassion and understanding without rescuing or giving advice
- Help us identify codependent behaviour in a supportive, non-shaming manner
- Accept that we might be working more than one program
- Respect and accept our pace
- Provide loving support for us and encourage us to reach out to others
- Communicate clearly and directly
- Ask us questions for clarity, not to control, judge, or manipulate us
- Use the sponsorship relationship to grow spiritually, mentally, and emotionally
- Know how to play
- Have a Higher Power in their recovery
- Have a recovery program that we admire
How do I get a Sponsor?
The place to begin the search for a sponsor is often in your home group or local meetings. Some meetings offer a list of CoDA members willing to be sponsors (but many members who are eager and qualified to be sponsors are not on the list). Over a period of time we listen to these people when they share, perhaps spending some time with them after the meetings. It may take time to get to know someone well enough to consider them for a sponsor. It is important to remember that no sponsor is “perfect”, as our program teaches us that all people are “perfectly imperfect” human beings.
We may find ourselves in a group in which there are no members willing or able to sponsor. In this case, we can travel to another CoDA group in the area or perhaps a regional CoDA event. Other options are to attend a phone or online meeting and try to find someone there with whom you identify.
Co-Sponsorship (adapted from “Sponsorship, What’s In It For Me?” booklet)
Co-sponsorship occurs when two CoDA members sponsor each other. Co-sponsors meet or call regularly to share what they are learning about the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. They share experience, strength, and hope equally, growing in their own way and at their own pace.
As in all sponsor relationships, the recovery goal in CoDA co-sponsorship is to have a mutually beneficial relationship. Working the steps, changing our behaviour, and growing spiritually frees us from advising, controlling, and rescuing.
Co-sponsors may choose to have another CoDA member guide them, especially through difficult situations or when they get stuck. Sometimes co-sponsorship is a good model for sponsorship when utilized in conjunction with a Step Study Group.
Step Study Groups (adapted from “Meeting Handbook – FSM Part 2”)
Step Study groups are groups of codependents working through the Twelve Steps (and often the Twelve Traditions) in a structured format, usually outside of a regular meeting. Step study groups often have the same objectives as co-sponsors, but with more people, and members often make contact outside the group. Please see the Step Study Group section for information and details on starting a step study group. It is recommended that members do have sponsors outside of the step study group, but the group work often inspires the desire to “go to any lengths” to find a sponsor.
Temporary Sponsor (adapted from “Sponsorship, What’s In It For Me?” booklet)
One way to become comfortable with a sponsor is to investigate temporary sponsorship. Often the time period for such an arrangement is left open-ended. We might want to commit to being a sponsor for a couple of months and then re-evaluate the relationship.