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Alcoholics Anonymous is a group of men and women working together to help each other overcome alcoholism. The organization was founded by Bill Wilson, commonly referred to as “Bill W.,” and Robert Holbrook Smith, referred to as “Dr. Bob.” The two founded the organization when they realized that they both needed another alcoholic to talk to about the difficulties remaining sober. They each became the other’s first Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.
Nearly anyone in the program can become an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, as long as they have reached a higher level in their recovery than the new member they are sponsoring. While Alcoholics Anonymous does not have any set rules regarding the length of time a sponsor must have abstained from alcohol, they recommend at least a year of continued sobriety. The sponsor should also be enjoying their sobriety as much as possible, to help teach their sponsored person that life without alcohol can still be pleasant.
Sponsors must also be willing to show a continued interest in the progress of those they sponsor, and be available as often as possible to help the person when they need it. Their main responsibility is to listen and help the new member remain sober. Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors are not able to provide psychological therapy or medical advice to members, but a sponsor can encourage the new member to seek medical help if needed.
Aside from being available for the new member during difficult times, an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor should also take an active interest in helping the new member feel welcome. This may include introducing the newcomer to other members of the group, especially those that share similar interests; helping the new member understand the Alcoholics Anonymous literature; and explaining the meaning of the Twelve Step process that is the foundation of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Sponsors should never impose personal views and beliefs on new members.
In groups large enough for members to choose an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, the program strongly recommends that the two be of the same sex. The primary reason behind this is to avoid conflicting emotions that may divert the sponsor and new member from the goal of remaining sober. Exceptions to this rule may be made under certain circumstances and at the discretion of the group.
The act of sponsoring another member is beneficial for the Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor as well. It helps reinforce the sponsor’s own sobriety and provides a sense of responsibility towards another person. In many cases, the sponsor-newcomer relationship evolves into a close friendship in which both support each other.