In ACA, the relationship between a sponsor and sponsee represents a spiritual connection between two people helping each other find life beyond the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional family. Adult children cannot recover alone or in isolation. Together, we learn to offer and accept healthy support. We learn what it means to be a friend.
Being a Sponsor
An ACA sponsor shares his or her spiritual program of recovery with a sponsee and provides guidance for the newcomer building his or her own foundation for recovery through the Twelve Steps of ACA. A sponsor understands the effects of being raised in a dysfunctional family. A sponsor also understands the importance of resolving stored grief and reparenting one’s self through the ACA Steps. ACA sponsors are not therapists or counselors, but they can offer needed support to a sponsee revisiting abuse, trauma, and other overwhelming experiences of childhood.
An ACA sponsor:
- Shares their own story, as well as their experience, strength, and hope in recovery.
- Helps a sponsee understand emotional intoxication, the Laundry List traits of an adult child, and the effects of family alcoholism and dysfunction.
- Encourages active Stepwork, meeting attendance, journaling, meditation, and seeking a Higher Power.
- Encourages a sponsee to break old family rules which discouraged talking, trusting, feeling, and remembering.
- Helps a sponsee identify, express, and understand feelings.
- Leads by example in their own active recovery.
An ACA sponsor with an addiction must not be active in that addiction. We cannot sponsor others if we are drinking, drugging, or engaging in some other behavior that would qualify as a relapse.
It is also important to remember that an ACA sponsor:
- Is not a parent, authority figure, or Higher Power to the person being sponsored.
- Does not judge or invalidate the feelings or insights of the person being sponsored.
- Does not do for a sponsee what they can do for themselves.
- Does not give or lend money.
- Does not become romantically or sexually involved with a sponsee
Fellow Traveler: This is a traditional method of ACA sponsorship. A person is willing to share experience, strength, and hope in helping the sponsee work his or her way through the Twelve Steps and to pick up the recovery tools for facing life on life’s terms. To read more about the Fellow Traveler approach, click here.
Temporary Sponsor: Serves as an interim sponsor for a short time until a permanent one is found.
Multiple Sponsors: More than one sponsor to serve various needs of the sponsee, as long as the sponsee isn’t hiding out in the various relationships. We don’t use multiple sponsors to avoid intimacy with one person or to “shop” for an opinion that we desire.
Co-Sponsors: Where two people are in agreement to sponsor each other. This model seems to work best for ACA members having significant time and experience in the program.
Long Distance Sponsors: This can work well for geographically isolated ACA members. There is snail-mail, e-mail, skype, telephone, tape recordings, and voice stream where distance or circumstances prevent person-to-person contact. Additionally, the Internet has made these long distance relationships more meaningful.
Some ACA members who are geographically isolated use online ACA meetings, ACA teleconference [phone bridge line] meetings, and live chat to work an ACA program. They use a private chat room or the telephone to do extensive Step work with a long distance sponsor. In addition to the Steps, there can also be discussion and meaning found in the Twelve Traditions in this method of sponsorship.
Being a Sponsee
A sponsor will expect a sponsee to actively participate in his or her own recovery. The sponsor will expect the person to be honest with themselves and others. Sponsees will need to make regular contact with their sponsor and will be expected to follow through on commitments. Sponsees with addictions must also be committed to abstinence. We cannot work an effective ACA program if we are dosing ourselves with alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behaviors.
A sponsor will watch for willingness from the person being sponsored and will pay attention to whether the sponsee completes Step work and attends meetings regularly. A sponsor will expect a sponsee to accept full responsibility for his or her program and behavior.
Making a decision to end a sponsor / sponsee relationship is not abandonment. However, when either party decides he or she needs to move on, that person needs to be honest and tactful about the decision.