When Should I Seek Sponsorship?
The decision to ask someone to be your sponsor is a personal one. There is no correct time table. All people in recovery are different, as are our stories, our relationships with our addict(s), and our day to day lives.
There are people who come into their first or second Nar-Anon meeting asking for a sponsor. Usually, these people are familiar with the basics of the Nar-Anon program through their own research or have personal knowledge of the experiences of others in Nar-Anon. Coming into a group actively seeking to change yourself and feeling emotionally and spiritually ready to learn a new way to live is admirable, but atypical. Being ready to commit to the personal reflection necessary to work the steps, and the restraint to not do things the same way you always have, is a tall order. Regardless, some are ready, willing and eager to begin.
For others, the desire for deeper personal growth arises long after the initial deluge of newcomer feelings — like anger, resentment, shame, sadness, loss, and powerlessness — passes. It may be quite some time before you are ready to fully surrender and begin to rebuild yourself with the help of your Higher Power and the loving support of your Nar-Anon Family Group.
Often you will find that the people in your group are somewhere in between. By attending meetings, they see the benefit of a changed attitude and new perspective. By listening to others SESH, (sharing our experience, strength and hope) different choices are considered. Thoughtful decisions build one atop another. Their shares reinforce the whole group’s recovery and encourages others. Step work and sponsorship slide smoothly into place alongside a growing recovery and people learning how to live and let live.
Having a sponsor does not replace the need for meetings or any other tools of the program. Think of having a Nar-Anon sponsor as having a one on one meeting at which you get to choose the meeting topic most of the time. Do you see how this can advance your learning, and therefore your recovery?
Does Everyone in Nar-Anon have a Sponsor?
No. Sponsors and Sponsees are often in the minority of most family groups. Why is that? One reason is likely to be because a person who could be a sponsor is stopped by fear that they will not “do it right.” There is no right way to sponsor. Like the rest of the program, take what you like and leave the rest. We are not expected to be perfect. We need only share our experience, strength and hope, while continually leading the sponsee back to the program through readings, meeting attendance, the steps, traditions and concepts.
Another reason potential sponsors may choose not to sponsor someone is fear that they may get “all tangled up” in another’s drama; feeling inadequate to be a support without giving advice or falling into old, controlling, excessively responsible reactions. In this situation it is best to concentrate on the feelings and the reactions involved and minimize the he said/she said conversations; keeping the focus on ourselves. The one exception is when a sponsee is in eminent physical danger. In this case it may be necessary to suggest a specific short term action plan that will provide safety for the sponsee and any dependents, just for today.
A person seeking sponsorship may stall for a significant period of time because of low self-worth. We want to believe we are self-sufficient, but cannot hide from the wall of insecurities we live with. For so long we have forgotten how to ask for what we need. We are out of practice needing anyone except ourselves.
Recovery in Nar-Anon takes time. If you are attending a newer meeting, those attending may be focused on their own personal recovery. Seeing how the program works for them as they each “work it” can take people in different directions and sometimes around in circles. Members continually evaluate how their life experiences and changes unfold. The confidence to sponsor comes as we desire to give back to the fellowship that which we have received.
Both the potential sponsor and sponsee may be affected by time constraints. The time requirement is possibly much less than people imagine it to be. As different issues are raised, the time involved will wax and wane. A pattern will emerge and a schedule will fall in place that can be managed without strain and to the benefit of both participants.
How do I Choose a Potential Sponsor? Where do I go?
Sponsorship is about finding someone who has a peace and a calm you would like to claim in your own life. It is about learning how that person found serenity through sharing of their experiences, strength and hope, and determining if the same can be available to you if you model their behaviors.
The best places to look for potential sponsors are where you can find others who are in active recovery and are committed to and continuing to work the program to further their recovery. These places may include
- Local Nar-Anon meetings
- Local Open NA meetings
- NA Conventions where Nar-anon is doing outreach
- Midwest Region Nar-Anon Meetings (such as the annual Assembly)
- Local Al-Anon meetings (particularly in cases where there are very limited numbers of other Nar-Anon Family Group meetings within a reasonable driving distance)
What are Some Other Sponsorship Options?
Recently there has been interest in finding other ways to provide sponsorship. This is especially true in those areas that are removed geographically from other groups, those groups who are so “young” as to not have many members with meaningful recovery time, as well as those groups who do not have enough potential sponsors to meet the needs of their members.
- Share Partners: This is an informal “peer partnership” where you share conversation and your story with another member in your group or a neighboring group. You relate to what they share. You admire how they work their program. You share similarities in your lives. The other person feels the same about you. You sponsor each other, with a solid commitment to the program.
- Step “Siblings”: In some areas Step Meetings are held independently of regular NFG meetings. These step meetings are often called “Step Class” because the NarAnon 36 book is used and homework is assigned as the class progresses through the questions and answers of “working the steps.” The people in your step class know intimate details of your life story. You have shared your ESH with each other as well as your fears, struggles and character defects. In this case, you can ask a number of people from your class to share their experience on any given topic when you are struggling.
- Long Distance Sponsors: Some areas of the country have developed long distance sponsor programs. It may seem quite strange to consider sponsoring someone you don’t know, but you will see how motivated they are when you start the process. To the sponsee reaching out to a stranger, you too will see before long whether this is a workable solution for you. Above all, remember to remain open and trust in guidance from your often soft-spoken Higher Power. As our program suggest, focus on principles above personalities. Being a short term long distance sponsor may be just the ticket to trying out sponsorship for a limited time period.
- Sponsors on the Forum: There are closed internet groups who hold on line Nar-Anon meetings. After you are an online member in a group for a period of time, you can ask for an online sponsor. This is similar to a long distance sponsor but with the advantage of more choice, as you will hear shares from multiple people and feel you “know” people even if you have not met in person. This may be a good solution for those who possess some computer skills and live in more geographically isolated areas. For more information, go to: Nar-Anon Family Groups Forum
- Service Sponsors: Service sponsors are there to mentor you toward and during service responsibilities. We are all volunteers in Nar-Anon. An important part of our program is giving back. We do this by helping the newcomer and we do this by giving service to our group, our region, and the world. You should never feel you are entering service work without support. We are all in this together. We take turns. We allow others to grow. We are joyous in each person’s successes and with the growth of our group and the fellowship as a whole.