Recovery programs offer different features to meet the needs of different individuals. However, a common theme across the board is someone with time in recovery being available as a resource to those beginning their recovery journey. This may be represented in unique ways, including mentors, sponsors, volunteers, support persons, facilitators, friends, or partners.
These titles represent a different role this person may provide for the person new to recovery. It is important to know what one is looking for, or what one feels may work best for them, when looking for someone to fill a role for them.
Often it is said, “We do not recover alone, but together.” Having someone to reach out to at any time is crucial for those in early recovery. Considered a lifeline, sponsorship is key in relapse prevention. Sponsorship helps individuals know they are not alone. Instead, they have the support of someone who has walked their journey successfully. This can be significant for someone who is questioning their place in recovery.
Differences Between Sponsors and Mentors
Though the terms sponsor and mentor are often seen interchangeably when referring to recovery, they are two different roles that offer their own benefits to the person in recovery.
In recovery, a sponsor is someone who guides a new person in recovery. They walk an individual through the Twelve Steps and they are a sounding board for the new person. Rarely do they offer advice besides suggestions such as prayer, reading, or reflection.
On the other hand, a mentor does not assist in 12-Step work but will be a support person to bounce ideas off of. Maybe they will have coffee and conversation and might sometimes offer advice on situations the new person is going through.
Programs that Utilize Sponsors or Mentors
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) describes in their literature that sponsorship is “An alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through AA” By the sponsor sharing their experience, strength and hope with another and helping another, they too are strengthening their sobriety.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) shares many of the same concepts about sponsorship as AA and describes a sponsor as someone who may be considered a friend. However, most importantly, a sponsor is someone who the newcomer feels comfortable enough to share things they would maybe not feel comfortable sharing in a meeting.
SMART Recovery utilizes volunteers, including mentors and facilitators, as support personnel in their programs and meetings. The facilitators lead the in-person as well as online meetings. An experienced facilitator could then become a mentor to oversee a new facilitator and support them in holding meetings.
A Sponsor’s Impact on Long-Term Sobriety
Sponsors are described in NA in a way that shows their importance to the newcomer and the member sponsoring. “Sponsorship works for the same reason that NA works—because recovering members share common bonds of addiction and recovery and, in many cases, can empathize with each other.”
Being able to confide in someone and receive feedback and suggestions for reflection leads to an investment in self that is new to the member. This also results in a deep connection between the sponsor and sponsee, leading to accountability and dedication to each other in their sobriety.
This supports long-term sobriety in that they are not alone. They are not dependent upon each other but have now invested in the other’s sobriety and appreciate the connection, which becomes exceptionally valued.
How Destiny Recovery Center Assists in Obtaining a Sponsor
During treatment, Destiny Recovery Center (DRC) supports clients by offering opportunities to attend meetings locally. Clients may choose to try a SMART recovery meeting, an AA meeting, or an NA meeting. There are also other meetings offered to support those in recovery at local churches or non-profit organizations.
Being able to experience the various meetings, clients are able to determine which setting feels most comfortable for them and which one they feel they may most benefit from. Staff is also available to discuss clients’ feelings and help support them in making their decision.
When aftercare conversations begin, DRC will then assist clients with what to look for when they are ready to choose a sponsor. They will offer questions that should be asked and characteristics of a sponsor that would be the best match for them as an individual. Some clients respond better to more structured aftercare and might need a sponsor who is more rigid and factual. Other clients might be more responsive to someone who is more relaxed and compassionate. DRC staff will support their clients in making this decision.
When it comes time to decide on a sponsor, a mentor, or someone to be sober support, keep in mind that as time passes, people and circumstances also change. What may have worked for someone initially may not always work. That is okay. Sponsors and mentors can change for either the person receiving or giving the support.
Just remember to be honest with the situation and the individual you are working with to ensure that both involved are on the same page. The bottom line is in recovery, one must secure a sponsor, a mentor, or a friend to ensure accountability and prevent possible relapse.
Whether your recovery program uses a sponsor or a mentor, being able to walk the journey of recovery with someone who has experience is invaluable. Being able to reach out to the same person whenever you are feeling anxious, have questions, need someone to listen, or would like to bounce ideas off of someone, having that same person to connect with will support the trust required in early recovery. Destiny Recovery Center will support you in understanding the difference between sponsors and mentors, allow you to try out the programs and meetings that utilize each, and teach you how to appropriately secure a sponsor or mentor. Call us today at (909) 413-4304.