The 12 Step Sponsor’s Tool Kit: Introduction

You agreed to be someone’s sponsor. Good for you! This is how it works for everyone in the program. You gained recovery from your addiction with the help of a sponsor. And now you are ‘giving back’ by helping another addict who still suffers.

Your sponsee is no different from you. He/she brings the same ‘baggage’ as you when you first got started in 12-Step recovery. Here are two of the most common items:

  • Shame

Shame is what fuels the addiction. It is one of the reasons we act out so compulsively. Your new sponsee feels like a ‘zero’ and will want to hide and isolate from others. He/she may try to avoid the truth by withholding information – even though you were the one they approached initially for help.

  • Denial

Denial plays a big part in keeping sponsees stuck. It’s how we addicts deal with shame. We remember what we did, but minimize (deny) the pain, the risks and the consequences of our past actions. Denial will jeopardize your sponsee’s very first step and make it impossible to move forward in the program.


Before starting any 12-Step work with your new sponsee, there are certain boundaries that need to be established. You are entering into a relationship which requires certain ‘recovery agreements’ that help to establish mutual expectations and goals. Always agree to a ‘contract’ that clearly defines these expectations.

Here are 10 suggestions:

1. A permanent address: Your sponsee needs to be settled with a permanent address and phone. Constantly moving around from one location to another is not conducive to recovery.

2. Take medication as ordered by a doctor: If your sponsee is on medication, they need to commit to taking their ‘meds’ while you are their sponsor. Self-medicating is not conducive to recovery.

3. Call every single day: A good line of communication is necessary to successful recovery. Your sponsee is learning to stay connected and avoid isolation. Encourage your sponsee to call you every day

4. Get a journal or notebook: Your sponsee needs to record his/her experiences while in recovery. It’s important that they learn to be more mindful of their experiences in early recovery. It will also be necessary to record their progress through the 12 steps.

5. Meet once a week: Sometimes long-distance communication is necessary; but nothing can substitute a face-to-face, belly-to-belly meeting between a sponsor and a sponsee. Be sure to meet one on one regularly.

6. Never miss a meeting: Your sponsee needs to commit to regular attendance at local meetings. Attend as many meetings with your sponsee as possible.

7. Set bottom lines: Help your sponsee set his/her bottom-line behaviors. This will help define your sponsee’s sobriety and help you both to accurately measure the progress of your work together.

8. Record sobriety date: Everyone in a 12 step program needs to know when they began the rigorous work of recovery.

9. Maintain abstinence: Your sponsee must commit to total abstinence while working the steps. Half-measures are not acceptable.

10. Get a copy of the basic text: Most 12 step programs have their own Big Book (similar to A.A.) Your sponsee needs to become familiar with the basic text of the program and any other conference-approved literature.

Next week we will continue with The 12 step Sponsor’s Tool Kit:  Step One