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Walking Through

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One of the better moves I made in early recovery was finding a sponsor. I was fortunate. After much trepidation, I found a sponsor who lived and practiced the Steps and made that the focus of our relationship. At that time, the program had food sponsors, Step sponsors, and spiritual sponsors, and over the years, I got help from people in all these areas.

Now, after twenty-five years of being a sponsor myself, I approach sponsoring as “walking someone through the Steps,” which addresses all three aspects of recovery: physical, emotional, and spiritual. My approach has developed to be flexible but focused. When I’m first asked to sponsor, I tell the person I only have two requirements: that they work harder on their Steps than I do and they carry the message forward by sponsoring others in the Steps when they finish. To me, the latter is an important part of their own Twelfth Step and supports the continuation of our program. I remind them that I am not their therapist, banker, cab service, mother, boss, crying towel, or guru; I’m just another person in recovery.

For a lot of us, fear of the unknown is a hindrance to recovery, but this is something a sponsor can help overcome. Having walked the road of recovery myself, I can be a guide who knows some of the common pitfalls. I try to act as a cheerleader to encourage those who are just learning. Occasionally, I will inject some drill sergeant overtones if progress bogs down. (If I have to do this with a sponsee too often, I remind them of their commitment to work harder than I do, and if that fails, I suggest they get another sponsor.) I try to use empathy, patience, tolerance, and love as my guides, but I also maintain my boundaries and manage my time.

I don’t think there is just one way to work the Steps, as long as it is done to the best of a person’s ability. Their work doesn’t have to be perfect; they will have chances to improve its depth with future Step work. My favorite guidance format is to read The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition together, followed by weekly writing assignments and conversations at our weekly meetings. I also use the Step Four guidelines as set out in Chapter 5 of the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., pp. 64–71) because it is a handy, time-tested outline. By adding a few other writing topics and discussions of issues that arise, we seem to cover things well.

As a sponsor, I have been able to help others and pass on what was freely given to me. With each new sponsee, I get to walk through the Steps again myself, and that has proved to be the key to a happy, spiritual, and satisfying way of life.

— Anonymous, California USA

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