Due to years of research and study, we now know addiction to be a disease of the brain, characterized by continuous relapse due to a fixation and compulsion to abuse harmful chemicals and mind-altering substances. As a result of this more modern and enlightened perception of addiction, recovery mostly entails a variety of clinical, medical treatments, especially those relating to counseling and psychotherapy. In fact, much of the effective addiction treatments used today as based on the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to identify harmful patterns of thought and the resultant behaviors while helping individuals to learn healthier alternatives. Consisting of a variety of such psychotherapeutic techniques, addiction treatment programs are offered by countless rehabs and recovery centers, nationally and worldwide, consisting of numerous therapies that address the individual symptoms and effects of substance abuse.
Although these clinical treatments have shown to be incredibly effective at helping individuals to overcome chemical dependency and preparing them for lasting sobriety, these types of addiction treatments aren’t exactly the “full picture” of recovery. As a matter of fact, there are other components to one’s recovery that are often considered of equal importance to counseling and psychotherapy, such as one’s social and spiritual recovery. Consequently, it’s become increasingly common for the inpatient and outpatient programs offered by drug rehabs to incorporate treatments that address social and spiritual recovery in order to make the programs more comprehensive and account for a mind-body-spirit mode of rehabilitation.
Recovery the Twelve-Step Way
In the early-twentieth century, a man named Bill Wilson was struggling with alcoholism and making the rounds in the addiction support groups that existed at the time, most of which were based on the principles of Christianity. Unfortunately, he hadn’t found one that was able to sufficiently rid him of his alcoholism and prevent his recurring relapses. Wilson started Alcoholics Anonymous—the original twelve-step recovery fellowship—in 1935 out of his efforts to help Dr. Bob Smith, an associate of Wilson’s who also suffered from alcoholism. In just a few short years, Wilson’s group has expanded exponentially, leading him to publish Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism, which is colloquially referred to as “the Big Book” by group members. In Alcoholics Anonymous, Wilson explained that the most basic goal of his recovery fellowship was to help individuals achieve sobriety while helping others to achieve sobriety. Additionally, the Big Book contained the first appearance of the renowned Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Twelve Steps, as envisaged and designed by Wilson and his early associates, are a sort of recovery checklist meant to be achieved, or “worked,” in numerical order by individuals who suffer from and wish to overcome chemical dependency. Although the Twelve Steps were created to combat alcoholism, they’ve since been used in the numerous groups that are derivative from Alcoholics Anonymous, such as Narcotics Anonymous and even Gamblers Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous. Over the course of the Twelve Steps, alcoholics and addicts come to terms with and accept the reality of their illness, recognize their powerlessness to the disease, appeal to the higher power of one’s understanding for the ability to overcome addiction, take a moral inventory of character defects and previous wrongdoings against others, make amends, and help others to achieve recovery through the Twelve Steps. What’s unique about twelve-step programs relative to addiction treatment programs is the focus on one’s social and spiritual recovery alongside physical, psychological, and emotional rehabilitation, which tends to be of greater emphasis in more clinical treatment modalities. However, the Twelve Steps help individuals to be more accountable for their own recovery and is seen as being the more proactive approach as individuals put much effort into their recovery rather than receiving it through treatment.
What is a Sponsor?
The process if twelve-step recovery entails finding and having faith in something outside of oneself, making than an integral part of lasting sobriety. After all, addicts have shown that they’re unable to maintain sobriety through any power already within, which means that recovery can only be found by finding it from without. However, especially for those who aren’t spiritual or religious, or for those who are simply unsure of how to work through the Steps, the process of twelve-step recovery can be daunting. How do you begin? What do you do next? What does it mean to “take a moral inventory”?
A sponsor is someone who has already progressed through the Twelve Steps and achieved physical and spiritual recovery, which makes their knowledge of the twelve-step recovery, the Twelve Steps, and achieving sobriety of great value to newcomers. When a sponsor is chosen, that individual is tasked with being a resource, helping to guide a new member to the group through each of the Twelve Steps. This can entail educational meetings where the sponsor mentors the sponsee in what each of the Twelve Steps mean—both literally and figuratively—or it can entail being an on-call emergency resource, such as in the event that a sponsee is experiencing cravings or feeling tempted to relapse. By definition, an individual can only be someone’s sponsor if he or she has a sponsor of their own, has worked the Twelve Steps and achieved sobriety, and is willing and able to guide in accordance with what the Big Book says about being someone’s sponsor.
How to Choose the Right Sponsor
There’s no cut-and-dry formula for choosing a sponsor. Much like choosing a romantic partner, it’s a very personal, individualized process. However, there are some loose guidelines for finding and selecting a sponsor that have been helpful to some. For example, it’s often recommended that a sponsor and sponsee be the same gender though this isn’t a requirement so much as a suggestion. In addition to a sponsor having a sponsor of his or her own, one’s sponsor must be incredibly honest at all times, even being willing to tell a sponsee things he or she may not want to hear. What’s more, the best sponsors are often passionate in service work and/or helping others, often volunteering when able and willing to lend others a hand when needed. Good sponsors are also good-natured, kind-hearted, laugh frequently, and are strong, dependable people that you know you can count on. Finding the right sponsor won’t usually happen overnight, but those willing to attend frequent meetings, participate regularly, and work the Steps will find the right sponsors sooner rather than later.
Learn More About Addiction Treatments and Recovery Today
If you or someone you love is suffering from chemical dependency and would liked to learn more about twelve-step support groups or addiction treatment programs, the Palm Beach Institute can help. We have a team of knowledgeable recovery specialists available to help those in need find the right addiction treatments that allow them to regain their health and sobriety. Call us today so you can live a fulfilling, productive life once again.