The Vital Role of a Sponsor: Being a Gift of Service

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I’ve written about how going it alone in recovery without support, guidance, and direction from a sponsor for a ninth-step amends process led to my relapse and the demoralization of myself and those around me. This humiliating experience was necessary for me to let go of my own willful desires and learn to trust God and those in recovery to guide me on the path of freedom from addiction. 

I had to fully surrender and rely on the help of those more experienced in recovery—those who radiated the peace, joy, and contentment that comes from living the Twelve Steps. This meant opening my mind and heart and allowing someone other than myself to show me the way toward “good orderly direction,” or G.O.D.

After my relapse, I came back into the rooms of recovery ready to do anything to find freedom, and that meant abandoning my unhealthy concepts, ideas, and preconceived notions. I began to pray earnestly for the willingness to listen intently to a woman who would become my sponsor. One who shared her experience, strength, and hope with grace and conviction. One who was genuine and humble as well as courageous and vulnerable.

Early on, my sponsor and I discovered that we shared the Catholic faith, and she helped me discover and foster a relationship with the Holy Trinity and Blessed Mother as well as pursue prayer, Eucharistic adoration, and much more. She was always there to offer guidance through my trials and difficulties as well as the joys and victories of living in sobriety. And as I spent more time with her, I began to see myself in a new way and to pray for the willingness to change and keep moving forward with my recovery.

She also helped me tremendously during my amends process, especially after she learned that my first attempt to make amends resulted in a relapse. My sponsor made sure I realized I wasn’t alone in this process—that she was there supporting me—and ensured I was working these steps for the right reasons.

She did this by sharing her experiences of how she made amends, emphasizing that any unjustified delay to doing this step could impede progress by instilling feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness, shame for past actions, and a fear of consequences. We got together many times to review my fourth step inventory before I made direct amends with those closest to me, which included my husband, children, parents, in-laws, siblings, co-workers, and friends. 

She helped me focus only on my wrongs (not the wrongs of others!) and to be vigilant to not injure those to whom I made amends. She helped me become prepared to make retribution if needed and to humbly accept the outcome, no matter how good or bad. My sponsor was an incredible gift to me during my eighth and ninth steps amends.

A sponsor is one who is concerned with their sponsee’s spiritual welfare, one who assumes responsibility for another during a period of instruction. This is a huge task of service that requires a great deal of time, patience, understanding, and love as well as a willingness to be honest with a sponsee, even when it’s hard.

These are the characteristics I saw in my sponsor, and the ones I seek to nurture in myself so that I may be a worthy sponsor for others and a conduit of the healing that stems from the Twelve Steps and the sacraments. A sponsor is truly an instrument of God’s grace—a gift of service that is meant to be shared in communion with others, especially with those in most need of God’s merciful touch. 

My heart is filled with gratitude as I reflect on all the ways my sponsor has been this gift of service to me. In her humble sacrifice, she loved me as Jesus loves each and every one of us!

I encourage you to take a few minutes to reflect on the gift of your sponsor and to write down all the things for which you are grateful. How has your sponsor enriched your life and recovery? How can you adopt some of these things if you’re a sponsor yourself? If you’re still looking for a sponsor, then reflect on the qualities that you’d like to have in one and ask God for the grace to find someone with those qualities.

By God’s grace, Kathy has been clean and sober since June 1, 2006, and is an active member of Catholic in Recovery. She also feels called to share the merciful love of Christ’s healing grace with all those suffering from the pain and wounds caused by abortion. On most days, you can find her at daily Mass, the gym, or caring for the needs of her family.