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When Should I Become a Sponsor?

What Is a Sponsor? 

Traditionally identified with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), a sponsor is a mentor or a guide for someone struggling with sobriety. Oftentimes this is a one-on-one relationship. A sponsor is usually an alumnus of a rehab program themselves, who doesn’t need to use anymore. 

A sponsor’s job is to help sponsees navigate sobriety, their program, and to be a confidante for people who aren’t comfortable sharing in large groups. A sponsor sets up meetings, perhaps assigns reflective writings, creates a bond with their sponsee, and models both sobriety and accountability for a sponsee. Sponsors are meant to help newcomers understand that they are not alone and are meant to be supportive. As support can mean different things to different people, below you will find the boundaries and limitations of a sponsor. 

When to begin sponsorship can be tricky. You need to think about your own needs and your own sobriety first. The best way to do this is to think about airplanes. If in an air-emergency, the oxygen masks will fall down. You are instructed to first place an oxygen mask on yourself, then assist others. Think about sponsorship the same way. Make sure you have your oxygen mask on first, then you can attempt to help someone else. 

Once you have your oxygen mask on, please read on for more about what the expectations of a sponsor truly are according to the AA/NA guidelines

Basic Requirements to Become a Sponsor 

According to  Alcoholics Anonymous, sponsors can have a myriad of responsibilities. Here are some basic requirements and responsibilities of a sponsor. 

A sponsor must have fully completed their recovery program. They must be at least a year or more sober for that to happen. A sponsor should feel fully rooted and sound in their sobriety. 

A sponsor should know appropriate boundaries and be able to model boundaries for a sponsee. Most of these boundaries have to do with personal safety. A sponsor does not need to sacrifice life and limb for their sponsee. A sponsor should never feel that they are sacrificing their health, happiness, or sobriety for a sponsee. 

A sponsor should be responsible and able to set up meetings or activities with a sponsee. A sponsor should be able to hold appointments and model accountability for the sponsee. Accountable attendance and regular meetings can also help to establish trust with the sponsee. 

A sponsor must be open to their sponsee’s way of thinking and challenge them when it’s appropriate. Open-mindedness can also help establish trust and create an understanding between the sponsor/sponsee. 

A sponsor should be patient. Sponsors remember well what their life was like before their journey through recovery and can reflect with a sponsee whose challenges are similar.

Do’s and Don’ts of Sponsorship, According to AA/NA Guidelines:


  • Do lead by example. Model for your sponsee your sobriety and the steps you take to stay safe and healthy.
  • Do be impartial. Your confidentiality and willingness to listen will create trust with your sponsee.
  • Do verbalize clear boundaries. Let your sponsee know what your expectations are for their health and safety, as well as your own health and safety. 
  • Do be open to sharing your experiences with your recovery. It’s okay to bond with your sponsee over shared experiences. This will also help establish mutual trust and respect. 
  • Do be supportive and have confidence in your sponsee. Show you care and encourage your sponsee to share their successes with you. 


  • Don’t be a therapist. That is not the job of a sponsor, that is the job of a therapist.
  • Don’t impose your views on a sponsee. Again, that is not your job. 
  • Don’t blur personal boundaries. A sponsor is not a spouse, parent, or best friend. A sponsor is a sponsor. 
  • Don’t create a curtain of control. You’re not in charge of your sponsee and you need to keep that boundary. 

So, Should I Become a Sponsor? 

You may feel pride, dignified, and a heightened sense of accomplishment after completing a recovery program. As you’re clean and sober now, you may see the struggles of those who are going through what you’ve gone through more clearly, and you may feel compelled to help. You figure, “If someone hadn’t sponsored me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Maybe my expertise can help someone else.”  You may have even been complimented that you’d be a great sponsor someday. If you’re feeling confident in your sobriety and you know you’d be committed to helping, sponsorship may be right for you. 


At RECO Intensive, we know that support makes all the difference in your sobriety. Even if you feel ready to be a sponsor, sponsorship is a lot of work. At RECO Intensive, we understand your wanting to help others, as we all have needed help ourselves. Talk to other sponsors, as well as our esteemed alumni, and learn about our experiences through sponsorship. Sponsorship could prove to be a great fit, or it could be too stressful and threaten your recovery. If you feel you want to help but sponsorship is still too much for you, that’s nothing to feel guilty about. It means you’re setting safe boundaries for yourself and your sobriety. At RECO Intensive, we understand that instead of sponsoring, you can continue to learn and grow. Your health and sobriety are most important. Make sure you are taking care of yourself before you try to take care of a sponsee too. If you need help, contact RECO Intensive by calling (561) 464-6533 today.

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