What is a Sponsor in Narcotics Anonymous or NA?: Sponsorship is a Key Part of Working a 12 Step Program of Recovery

Sponsorship is an important tool for people recovering from drug addiction and alcoholism in fellowships like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. An essential part of 12 step recovery is the idea that one addict can most fully and truly understand and help another. Sponsorship is derived from this powerful concept.

While the practice of sponsorship is present in all 12 step fellowships, this article will deal most specifically with its role in Narcotics Anonymous, or NA.

A sponsor is an experienced member of NA who can offer a newer member support and guidance as they learn how to stay clean. Additionally, a sponsor helps a sponsee begin working the 12 steps on which the program of Narcotics Anonymous is based.

It’s Important to Have a Sponsor in Narcotics Anonymous

One of the first things a newcomer to in NA hears is the suggestion that he should choose and start working with a sponsor as soon as possible. This suggestion is based in the common experience of the fellowship’s members. Doing anything new can be nerve-racking. This is especially true for a person who is detoxing from drugs and at a low point physically, mentally and emotionally. Folks don’t walk into a Narcotics Anonymous meeting because everything in their life is going well.

Getting clean is not easy, especially in the beginning. Even people who are attending meetings regularly and trying to stay clean can feel deeply disconnected from this strange fellowship with a language, literature and energy that is different from anything most using addicts have ever encountered. Having a sponsor early in the game gives a newcomer a trustworthy person to take questions to.

How to Ask Someone in Narcotics Anonymous to Be a Sponsor

If an addict is attending meetings in an area, he will probably come into contact with some people who are around regularly. By listening carefully to what different members have to share before, during and after the meetings, many people find themselves naturally drawn to certain others.

Members of Narcotics Anonymous come from all walks of life. They share similar experiences, but their paths are unique. It is important for a new member to pick a sponsor they can relate to and what this means will be different for different people.

As a rule, it is a good idea for men to sponsor men and women to sponsor women. Most sponsor-sponsee relationships become intimate and it is easier to get to the benefits of that close friendship without the potential distraction of sexual attraction.

Sponsorship is personal and individual and there are as many ways to sponsor people as there are people willing to act as sponsors. No special training is required, but most people learn about how to be a sponsor from their own sponsor. A drug addict who wants another recovering addict to sponsor them should simply ask the person directly.

What to Expect from Sponsorship in Narcotics Anonymous

The Narcotics Anonymous informational pamphlet regarding sponsorship gives some guidelines, but does not set out many absolutes. There are as many ways to sponsor and be sponsored as there are members in the fellowship of NA. The specifics of how this relationship unfolds is left up to the two people involved.

The fellowship does suggest that a sponsor be someone who has worked the steps and who has an active relationship with his own sponsor. A sponsor is not a guidance counselor, a marital therapist, a parole officer, a parent or a boss. A sponsor does not have magical, godlike powers or abilities or any special training that makes them worthy above others to assume the role of sponsorship. A sponsor is not perfect.

A sponsor is a recovering addict who is willing to personally extend himself to another recovering addict who wants to get better. In the end, it is a relationship based on the bonds of shared friendship, experience, strength and hope.

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