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Picking a Good Sponsor

Jan 18, 2021

Joe Hartwell – Alumni Relations Liaison

Something I have observed over the years is a misunderstanding of what a sponsor is and what a sponsor is not. Ironically, the Big Book never uses the word sponsor. The closest thing you will read in the Big Book that would refer to a sponsor might be a Spiritual Advisor. The word sponsor came much later in our fellowship. But for the sake of argument, here are my thoughts on picking a good sponsor.

Where to begin

First, I recommend going to a good, literature-based meeting. If you’re unsure where to find one, we will be more than happy to help. Additionally, we encourage you to reach out to the sober contacts we gave you. In the meeting, introduce yourself by saying that you are new to the program and looking for a sponsor. Someone should approach you after the meeting. It’s our job as sponsors to approach newcomers as outlined in the Big Book. If no one approaches you, find another meeting.

Helpful questions to ask

  • Is the potential sponsor a real alcoholic or drug addict, or do they just go to meetings?
  • Do his or her whole deportment shout that they have a real answer? For example, do they share directly from the Big Book or just use one-liners?
  • How do they share in meetings? From some spiritual mountain top, or with a passionate, humble heart?
  • Does the sponsor have a sponsor (i.e., a “sponsorship lineage”)?
  • Is the sponsor an active member in a Home Group? Do they have a service commitment?
  • Has the sponsor had a spiritual awakening as a result of working all 12-Steps? If someone can’t describe to you what that looks like, it’s better to say thank you and look somewhere else.
  • Does the sponsor believe in moving through the Steps rapidly? Step Twelve says we will have a Spiritual Awakening as a result of working the program. We can’t afford to wait a year by working just one step per month.
  • Is this person willing to hold you accountable for completing the work of all 12-Steps?
  • Do they have a relationship with God? Are they tapped into the Power?

My personal experience

When my sponsor made the approach with me for the first time, he exhibited all of these conditions in the first hour we met. He didn’t assume I was an alcoholic or drug addict. He qualified me with the two questions on Page 44 in the Big Book. Next, he began to give me a hopeless case of alcoholism and drug addiction. Once he had me hooked, he simply asked me two more questions: “Do you want to be done for good and for all, not one day at a time?” and “Are you willing to go to any lengths for victory over alcohol and drugs?” I answered YES to both of those questions and thus began my journey to God.


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