This post was originally published on June 3, 2014.
Ah, sponsorship. It’s one of the most fundamental, beloved tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous. Sponsors are supposed to help AA members navigate their way through the 12 steps, but they do more than that, too. Sponsor-sponsee relationships retain a unique depth that not many other relationships have—sponsors pretty much know everything about you at your most embarrassing and heinous. For that reason alone, it’s worth picking someone you really click with. Here are some ways to determine if it might be time to part ways with your sponsor.
1) You and Your Sponsor Become (Or Already Are) BFFS
Okay, so I know lots of people who maintain a friendly but professional distance with their sponsors. I also know multiple peeps who, over time, become big-time besties with them. I’m of the opinion that friends and sponsors should be two different animals. Friends are people you ride roller coasters and make fart jokes with; sponsors are people you do heavy reading and engage in humiliatingly intense and intimate disclosures with. If you’re starting to think of your sponsor as more than a sponsor, you might think about finding another one who’s a little less fun and/or cool.
2) You Have No Interest in Calling Your Sponsor, Ever
If you like your sponsor A-Okay but for whatever reason you just, well, never ever feel like calling her, you might have a little issue. Said issue could be either that you don’t fully trust or relate to her, or that you don’t trust or relate to AA as a whole (which is an entirely different article). Picking up the phone and maintaining a lifeline to your sponsor is important; she should be one of the first people you call when something particularly awful or awesome happens. If that’s not the case, reconsider.
3) Your Sponsor Rarely Makes Time For You
Say you’re smack in the middle of a super-difficult time—a crisis of sorts—and you need as much support as you can get. Obviously your sponsor isn’t your therapist (you already have one of those, thank you very much). But your sponsor is supposed to be a support system of sorts—if you call crying multiple times and don’t get a call back, it might be time to jump ship (you can always talk it out first, though, to see if there’s a valid excuse). There’s another, far worse, version of this of course: the sponsor who doesn’t have a sponsor, isn’t working steps and tends to use your calls as opportunities to tell you what’s wrong with you. Holding onto an overly busy or otherwise dysfunctional sponsor who doesn’t show up for you can only breed resentment, and the last person you need resentment toward is your sponsor!
4) Your Sponsor Is Preoccupied Or Distracted
Picture this: You arrive at your sponsor’s airy one-bedroom apartment to find her sitting at her living room table, snacking on corn chips and perched over her laptop. She asks if you want a cup of tea and then returns to her laptop as she prompts you for a status update on what’s going on in your program. As you tell her, you can’t help but awkwardly notice that she doesn’t look up once but remains perched at her damn computer, writing emails or shopping on eBay or whatever the hell it is she thinks is more important than actively listening to you and acting like she gives a damn. If this type of situation befalls you, it’s time to bail.
5) Your Gut Tells You That You Should Get a New Sponsor
Ah, the gut check. There’s pretty much nothing quite as effective as just listening to your intuition when it comes to personal relationships, and your bond with your sponsor is no exception. If your sponsor meets with you regularly, answers your calls, and seems generally solid, yet you still find yourself feeling like there’s something missing or you’d be better suited with someone else, why not test the waters? You’ll never know unless you try. Of course, don’t up and dump your sponsor unless you have a better idea of someone else you’d like to work with; going sponsorless for too long can be hazardous for your sobriety.