There are many things a sponsor in recovery learns pretty quickly when helping another newcomer in the program to find their 12 Step footing. One such thing are all the indicators as to whether the newcomer actually wants to do the work or not to stay on the path of sobriety and recovery.
Having sponsored many individuals over the years, I’ve come to identify those indicators pretty quickly when a sponsee isn’t really interested in learning what I have to teach with the 12 Steps. The very first indicator is one my first sponsor in recovery taught me and it deals with making daily phone calls.
One of her requirements with all her sponsees was to call her every day to check-in. Those calls were simply to let her know whether we had any triggers that day, made any meetings, and needed any help. She used to tell us that if we couldn’t take 2 minutes out of our day to contact her, then we weren’t thinking about our sobriety and recovery at all on those days we forgot. I worked diligently to never forget that and probably missed only a few days over the year and a half I worked with her. That’s why I now use this sponsorship tool for each of my sponsees and have noticed that when one starts to miss multiple days here and there, it’s pretty much a guarantee that they aren’t going to continue the step work with me and often end up in a relapse not too long after that.
Another strong indicator I have is the meeting attendance factor. It’s very important for newcomers to attend more than just a meeting or two each week, as on some level, it becomes part of their recovery medicine. Being amongst fellow addicts who are trying to do the right thing by attending meetings really does help to stay sober, mostly because they aren’t attempting to go it alone, something that addicts always do when active in their disease. My personal rule of thumb for those I work with in recovery is to attend at least 3 or 4 meetings a week. When I start seeing sponsees drop their meetings down to only one or two with excuses as to why they can’t get to more, it too is pretty much a guarantee that they aren’t going to continue the step work with me and often end up in a relapse not too long after that.
A few other indicators I’ve come to learn along the way as to whether a sponsee wants a healthy sober and recovering life include whether they keep up with the homework assignments I give them and how thorough they are, whether they begin picking up or engaging more heavily in substitute addictions, whether they start placing a higher priority on relationship seeking or dating, and lastly, and maybe even most importantly of all, whether they are praying on a daily basis to connect with their Higher Power.
There are plenty of other indicators as to whether a sponsee wants a life of sobriety and recovery or not and most sponsors will come to know them the longer they work with individuals in the 12 Steps. While sponsorship can be very fulfilling and rewarding, it also can be quite disheartening, especially when those signs begin to surface in a sponsee that are strongly indicating they don’t want to do the work anymore.
Case in point, I recently began working with a new sponsee who was gung ho the first few weeks with me as their sponsor, doing everything I asked and keeping up with all my guidelines as a sponsor. But when circumstances in their life suddenly changed giving them more freedom that wasn’t going to be dictated by the courts anymore, the calls to me started to be forgotten about, meetings weren’t attended, and homework wasn’t getting done. It’s been about a week now since I’ve spoken with them and sad to say, if they haven’t relapsed already, it’s probably just a matter of time.
In the end, the saying I’ve found that becomes most relevant through all these indicators again and again is how important it ultimately is for sponsees, or anyone living a life of sobriety for that matter, is to build their life around their recovery and not to build their recovery around their life, as anything placed in front of their recovery is bound to be lost…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson