Better Me

The Role of a Sponsor and Steps to Finding the Right One

Recovering from addiction is a journey filled with ups and downs, but it’s a journey worth taking. You may sometimes feel lost, overwhelmed and unsure where to turn. But you don’t have to go through this journey alone

Having the right mentor or sponsor by your side can make all the difference in your recovery journey. A recovery sponsor can help hold you accountable and guide you through the next steps of life. 

If you think you could benefit from a sponsor, read on to learn more about their role in recovery and tips for finding the right mentor for you.

Understanding the role of a recovery sponsor

Recovery and addiction sponsors were first introduced in 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but they’ve become a valuable resource in many recovery programs. They serve as a source of support and assistance, but are not meant to be your therapist or best friend.

“The sponsor is usually in a more advanced stage of recovery – at least one year – and provides spiritual and practical support to a less experienced member,” said Krista LaBruzzo, MD, an addiction medicine specialist with Banner Health. “Sponsors aren’t required to have formal training and usually are guided by experience and their own recovery.”

Speaking with someone who has gone through the same things as you can provide a surprising amount of encouragement, reassurance and accountability. They can attend meetings with you and lend a helping hand to guide you through the challenges and triumphs in your recovery.

In this way, a sponsor is different from formal counseling or group therapy, such as intensive outpatient programs, where a certified therapist guides a group or person to their goals. 

“Usually, these treatment programs have structure and a specific length of treatment, unlike 12-step groups that are peer-led and mostly open-ended, meaning there is no end date or end of treatment,” Dr. LaBruzzo said.

The importance of sponsorship

Like most newcomers to recovery, you are beginning an entirely new lifestyle. You may also be filled with confusion, fear, anxiety and a range of emotions. You aren’t required to have a sponsor, but they can greatly help you on your recovery journey. 

“Everyone’s recovery is very different,” Dr. LaBruzzo said. “For those who engage in this form of recovery, it can be very beneficial and a source of community and support.”

Sponsors can increase your chances of long-term recovery. Here’s why:

  • Accountability: When you’re in recovery, accountability is key. Your sponsor serves as a constant reminder of your commitment to recovery. They hold you accountable for your actions and gently steer you back on track if you stumble.
  • Support: Recovery is a learning process, and having someone who can advise you based on their own experience can be helpful. Your sponsor can share coping strategies, offer advice on handling difficult situations and be a listening ear.
  • Perspective: It can be easy to lose sight of your progress amid struggles. Your sponsor can give you a fresh perspective, helping you see how far you’ve come and encouraging you to keep moving forward.
  • Role modeling: Your sponsor serves as a living example of what is possible in recovery. They show you that it is possible to live a fulfilling life and inspire you to continue your journey, one day at a time.

Steps to finding the right mentor

While having a sponsor can be helpful, finding the right one may be challenging, especially if you are introverted or feel uncomfortable trusting someone you don’t know. 

Fortunately, several organizations like AA and NA can help make the process easier. Finding a good sponsor can take some time, but here are some things to think about while you explore your options:

  • Attend meetings: Go to as many recovery groups or meetings as possible to meet potential sponsors in person. “Listen to group members at meetings, ask questions and see if there is a connection,” Dr. LaBruzzo said.
  • Availability: “If you’re new to recovery and need more time from your sponsor, you may want to choose someone who has the availability,” Dr. LaBruzzo said. Try to find a sponsor who isn’t already sponsoring other people.
  • Comfort and trust: The foundation of a sponsor/sponsee relationship is comfort and trust. Look for someone you feel comfortable being honest with. It’s important to feel at ease talking about issues or concerns.
  • Trial and error: It’s OK if it doesn’t work out with your sponsor. Finding the right sponsor may involve some trial and error. Don’t force a sponsor/sponsee relationship. You can always find another sponsor. “You’re looking for a sponsor who will be heavily involved in your life for an extended period, so take your time choosing someone,” Dr. LaBruzzo said. “It’s OK to let someone know it’s not working out, and you may need to find a different sponsor.”
  • Give it time: Building a strong mentorship takes time and effort from both parties. Be patient and allow yourself and your sponsor to develop trust and understanding over time. 


When you are in recovery, it is common to feel alone. But you don’t have to take this journey by yourself. Finding a sponsor or mentor is a great way to enhance your recovery. They can provide guidance, support and accountability when you need it the most. 

Finding the right sponsor may take some time but trust the process and believe in yourself as you continue to recover. 

Everyone’s journey is different. If you need professional support in your recovery, connect with a Banner Health expert who can help.

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