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A Recovery Nightmare: Dealing With These Sponsors From Hell

Being new to recovery can be overwhelming for all of us, so it’s natural to feel lost in the beginning. For those of us who want a little extra help through the process, finding a sponsor is the natural next step. After all, sponsors have a lot to offer newcomers, including:

  • Free and experienced advice
  • Guidance to keep you on the right path
  • Round-the-clock recovery support

They’re there to listen, celebrate our highs and support our lows – asking for nothing in return, other than our success. But what happens if we get paired up with a sponsor who’s not so ideal?

Not All Sponsors are Created Equal

My friends relayed horror stories about sponsors who made sexual advances, frequently relapsed, or issued constant ultimatums. This piqued my interest – just how many “sponsors from hell” were out there?

I Googled the term, curious to see what else I could dig up. Sure enough, there were numerous tales of not-so-great sponsorship experiences.

There was a woman who made her sponsee spend $500 to go to her personal therapist, another one who liked to massage her sponsee’s leg while reading from the Big Book and one who would only listen to her sponsee’s fourth step over the phone while she was on the Stairmaster.

I even read about a woman who found her sponsor parked near her house, intently watching her from his car with a pair of binoculars! Scary…right?

Finding the Right One

Thankfully, sponsors like the ones above aren’t the norm…but there’s no denying the fact that they do exist. To protect yourself (and your sobriety), it’s important to know the warning signs of a sponsor disaster.

Let’s look at a few of those issues you can’t afford to ignore:

  • Sponsors shouldn’t adhere to a few of the guidelines, while blatantly disregarding the rest of them. Familiarize yourself with the AA Sponsorship Pamphlet. If a sponsor can’t stay within its bounds, it’s probably your best bet to look elsewhere.
  • If a sponsor wants to interfere with your ability to thrive in sobriety, run the other way. Remember, the sponsee does the leg work – personal inventory, working through the steps and community service – while the sponsor is there to help and offer guidance. This way, the newcomer learns to rely on the AA program, not the sponsor.
  • You should never be afraid to question the advice you’re given; sponsors can give bad advice just like anyone else. Even though a sponsor has a longer period of sobriety, that doesn’t automatically mean they’re an expert. At the core, you’re simply two people living in recovery, sharing personal experiences, strengths and hopes.
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