Some Thoughts About ACA Sponsorship
For Adult Children, having a sponsor should be a choice, not something that’s forced on them.
Newcomers need an immediate option for at least a temporary sponsor so that they have someone to talk with if they are in crisis.
A temporary sponsor is important while a newcomer gets to know group members until they are ready to make a more informed choice of sponsor.
ACA is less hierarchical than some other 12-step groups so e also encourage the more co-equal concept of Fellow Traveler.
A sponsor or fellow traveler provides needed empathy for the sponsee. While a sponsor is by default a fellow traveler, not all fellow travelers can be sponsors. A sponsor is someone who has done the ACA 12 Steps.
While cross-talk is discouraged in ACA meetings, a sponsor is expected to give feedback and guidance. But that should be preface with something like “Are you open to some feedback or suggestions?”
It is suggested the sponsor and sponsee be of the same gender unless sexual orientation would interfere with the focus of relationship being on recovery.
While working the steps is not the sole goal of the relationship, if a sponsee likes to visit and talk but gets lazy about working the steps, the sponsor can say “We can talk again when you have completed Step [x] in your yellow workbook.”
The sponsor is not responsible for the sponsee’s growth. Rather, the sponsor’s role is to listen, to empathize, to encourage, to help show new ways, and to help the sponsee take responsibility for themselves. The sponsee needs to see the sponsor not as someone who is superior to them, just further along in their healing. The sponsor helps make that point by sharing their own story of past difficulties yet also providing hope by telling how things have changed.
Because of Adult Children’s tendency for isolation, the sponsor should encourage the sponsee to make connections with other ACA members.
The sponsor almost always also benefits from the relationship.
Why Do We Have Sponsors?
We have sponsors in ACA because we cannot recover alone or in isolation. In order to find a sponsor we attend meetings and listen to others share their recovery. If we relate to what a person has shared it can be as simple as walking up to them and asking for help with the 12 steps. A temporary sponsor can help a newcomer understand the basics of ACA so they can begin building a foundation for their recovery.
After a few weeks or months the new person can make a more deliberate choice. Sponsorship can last for a lifetime, or begin and stop and start again. In ACA we try to avoid the teacher-student style of sponsorship because we can so easily fall back into co-dependence or people-pleasing behavior and submit to the sponsor’s authority. With the fellow traveler method of sponsorship, we are on equal footing with our sponsor. We do not allow the sponsor to take responsibility for us, or become our therapist or life coach. We are traveling with them as we both practice recovery. Because we have shared similar life experiences, we are in a unique position to help each other. Through sponsorship, we give and receive help, building trusting relationships we never had as children. “We progress from hurting to healing to helping.”
When we are asked to help someone or to be a fellow traveler we try to say yes as long as we are regularly attending meetings. We need not fear that we will make mistakes or harm someone thru our ACA relationships as long as there is a willingness to pursue recovery. There may be some hurt feelings or miscommunications, but lasting harm is not likely. Adult children are survivors. When we sponsor others, we continue to grow spiritually and live the promises of ACA. By remembering where we came from, we can avoid an ACA relapse and a return to isolation or self-sufficient hell. Please remember that it is strongly recommended that fellow travelers be of the same gender.
For more information on your fellow traveler / sponsorship journey, please see ACA Red Book chapter 11 on ACA Sponsorship. Pgs 365 to 390