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The Importance of a Sponsor in Drug & Alcohol Addiction Recovery

When someone has completed treatment at a drug rehab center, they are often helped in recovery by a support network which includes a sponsor who they will have gotten to know well while in treatment. There are several reasons why a sponsor is beneficial for people in addiction recovery and the rewards are significant.

A Rewarding Relationship

While the term “sponsor is normally associated with the 12 Step programs of AA or NA, it can also be used for alternative and non-12 Step programs which provide dedicated aftercare. When people initially leave a drug rehab treatment center, they are often anxious to have access to a sponsor who fully empathizes with their issues and can help them to achieve and maintain sobriety. The responsibilities of a sponsor are considerable and so it’s important to know exactly what their role is in keeping recovering addicts healthy.

The primary purpose of a sponsor is to help another individual work through their issues outside of a supervised environment and in their daily lives and the relationship is considered to be one of the most rewarding developed during addiction recovery. In many ways, a sponsor is a mentor or an experienced guide for someone walking the path of recovery from addiction and often, it is a road they have traveled themselves.

The bond formed with a sponsor can be exceptionally close as often a recovering addict will feel they are the only person who truly understands what they are going through. They also feel able to communicate their thought processes without risking harsh judgment and this provides them with a vital link to support at a very deep level. Often, a recovering addict will find themselves being able to communicate with complete honesty to their sponsor, which has considerable therapeutic effects on their wellbeing.

What is the Role of a Sponsor?

Guidance, encouragement, and understanding are the qualities of a good sponsor and there are other vital functions they fulfill throughout recovery too, including:

  • A source of comprehensive information and education about aspects of recovery
  • Providing valuable insights on a life in recovery without alcohol or drugs
  • Giving motivation and encouragement to assist someone in their recovery journey
  • Someone who is always available to listen and provide support at any time
  • Someone who can hold someone accountable for their own sobriety with advice and suggestions
  • A living example that a life of sobriety is attainable
  • A trust-based relationship where others have lost confidence in an individual
  • A point of contact for when cravings and stressors become difficult or unmanageable

What a Sponsor Is Not

While it is true that a sponsor serves many vital purposes for a person in addiction recovery, it is easy to confuse them with something they are not. It is just as important to know what a sponsor cannot offer as it is to know where their value lies.

Here are some aspects a sponsor has no involvement in:

  • They are not therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists and generally have no medical training
  • They are not responsible for keeping someone in recovery and preventing relapses
  • A sponsor has no control over the life of a recovering addict and no influence over their choices
  • They should not be taken advantage of and disrespected

It is always a possibility that a recovering addict risks developing an unhealthy relationship with their sponsor but if this happens, another sponsor needs to be found immediately.

Sponsorship and Relapse Prevention

Although a sponsor has no responsibility for the actions of someone in recovery in terms of relapse, they can certainly be an invaluable resource in this regard. If someone feels at risk from cravings or trigger situations, a sponsor can be immediately on hand to counsel them through these difficult situations. Having someone to reach out to who will respond straight away is possibly the best form of relapse prevention. However, it is always important to remember that the onus of recovery is on the former addict and not the sponsor assigned to help them. An encouraging voice and uplifting support go a long way to helping someone maintain sobriety.

Drug rehab centers spend considerable time preparing patients for their lives beyond the treatment environment. This is because there is no magic cure for addiction due to its complexities and recovering is a long journey lasting years after a treatment program has finished. Having a sponsor close at hand through the recovery years is a massive support for recovering addicts and often develops into one of the most important relationships they have in sobriety.