By Alanna Hilbink
We’ve all probably heard someone being called a “sponsor” when it comes to addiction recovery, but what exactly is a sponsor in recovery, and how can he or she help? By taking a closer look, we can learn just how important, if not essential, a sponsor can be in you or your loved one’s journey to wellness (and they aren’t just for those in recovery from drugs or alcohol!).
What Is a Sponsor?
A sponsor in recovery is someone who has been where you are. While no two addiction stories are the same, this person has struggled with drugs, alcohol, food, or sex and looked deep within to acknowledge their substance use problem. A sponsor has also made the big decision to get help and get better, just like you. However, unlike you or your loved one, a sponsor has journeyed well beyond this crucial first step and has now been in recovery for a considerable amount of time. He or she has built a healthy and stable drug-free life, and is ready to give back and help others.
In our Recovery Replay podcast episode “Kasey Beavers: Finding Strength in Recovery (Part 2),” we hear more about the role of a sponsor from Hillary Bennett, Beavers’ sponsor. “My job as a sponsor or support person is to just walk alongside somebody,” says Bennett, “just stay with them, and encourage them to seek outside help, outside counseling. Take them through the 12 Steps, encourage them to repair the relationships with their family members, encourage them to forgive themselves, and forgive others. Basically, shed the things that caused us to drink in the first place.”
A sponsor is a guide and mentor. While there is no replacement for trained mental and medical health professionals, a sponsor in recovery is a great added, if not essential, resource. He or she knows your experience in a way that people outside of the recovery community do not. There is a level of understanding and empathy that a sponsor brings to the table. They can provide not just a listening ear, they can also help you spot warning signs that you may be in danger of sliding back into disordered eating. A sponsor is an immediate and understanding source of support, information, and encouragement.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Sponsor in Recovery?
You may be wondering, How important is a sponsor in recovery? The answer is, Very. There are so many benefits of having a sponsor in recovery, both short-term and long-term. Early Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) studies published by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) indicated that having a sponsor predicted increased abstinence from alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. Those results can also translate to eating disorders. A sponsor can help to give you the push you need to begin your recovery and help you find keep going when it gets hard.
A sponsor not only makes it more likely that you will start your recovery, but that you will stay committed to it.
A sponsor can also help provide accountability and keep you on track as your recovery continues. Another NLM study revealed that relapse was significantly more likely when a member didn’t maintain consistent contact with their sponsor or did not have one at all. Other research published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment also found that participants who acquired a sponsor during treatment were significantly less likely to drop out of their recovery programs by the one-year mark. So, a sponsor not only makes it more likely that you will start your recovery, but that you will stay committed to it.
How Long Does Sponsorship Last?
Long after you have established a healthy and rewarding ED-free life, you can continue to experience the benefits of having a sponsor in recovery. Bennett shares that although she has sponsored many women, she still has a sponsor of her own. So, a sponsor will be with you for the long haul, for any time you are struggling or just need to be able to call someone and talk.
You can also benefit from the sponsor system if you choose to later become one yourself. Bennett says that for her, sponsorship helps to keep her connected and practicing her recovery: “I’m the one [who] gets helped seeing the light in another woman’s eyes come back, seeing hope restored, seeing careers restored, families restored, seeing children get their mommies back,” says Bennett. “It’s what gets me out of bed every single day.” Sponsoring gives your life in sobriety another layer of richness, purpose, and motivation to stay drug- or alcohol-free.
Finding a Sponsor in Recovery
When you choose The Meadows Ranch for you or your loved one’s recovery, we understand the importance of sponsorship. In addition to the peer support you’ll find in our program, we can also connect you to resources to provide support as you return home.
Bennett describes the many valuable approaches that come with recovery nowadays: medication, spiritual programs, academic programs, etc. “There’s all kinds of ways to help someone find their path to recovery, whatever that looks like,” she says, “but I rarely see anyone do it alone. And there always has to be a team of people or a support person to come alongside someone and really walk with them.”
Here at The Meadows Ranch, you will find that team, that support, and those proven approaches to treatment. And not just one, but many caring staff members are ready and eager to help you in your recovery journey. We will work with you to create a path to recovery that is best for you, providing you with professional, social, and long-term resources for a lifetime of recovery. Reach out today to learn more.