This is NA Fellowship-approved literature.
Copyright © 1983, 2004 by
Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc.
All rights reserved
One of the first suggestions many of us
hear when we begin attending NA meetings
is to get a sponsor. As newcomers, we may
not understand what this means. What is
a sponsor? How do we get and use one? Wh
ere do we find one? This pamphlet is
intended to serve as a brief in
troduction to sponsorship.
Our Basic Text tells us that “the heart
of NA beats when two addicts share their
recovery,” and sponsorship is simply one a
ddict helping another.
The two-way street
of sponsorship is a loving, spiritual, an
d compassionate relationship that helps both
the sponsor and sponsee.
WHO is a sponsor?
Sponsorship is a personal and private relat
ionship that can mean different things to
different people. For the purposes of this
pamphlet, an NA sponsor is a member of
Narcotics Anonymous, living our program of
recovery, who is willing to build a special,
supportive, one-on-one relationship with us
. Most members think
of a sponsor, first
and foremost, as someone who can help us
work the Twelve Steps of NA, and
sometimes the Twelve Traditio
ns and Twelve Concepts. A sponsor is not necessarily a
friend, but may be someone in whom we
confide. We can shar
e things with our
sponsor that we might not be co
mfortable sharing in a meeting.
My relationship with my sponsor has been the key to gaining trust in other
people and working the steps. I shared the
total mess that was my life with my
sponsor, and he shared that he had been in the same place. He began to
teach me how to live wi
thout the use of drugs.”
WHAT does a sponsor do?
Sponsors share their experience, strength,
and hope with their sponsees. Some
describe their sponsor as loving and comp
assionate, someone they
can count on to
listen and support them no matter what. Ot
hers value the objectivity and detachment
a sponsor can offer, relying on their direc
t and honest input even when it may be
difficult to accept. Still others turn to
a sponsor mainly for guidance through the
Someone once asked, ‘Why do I need a sponsor?’ The sponsor replied, ‘Well
it’s pretty hard to spot self deception...by yourself.’”
Sponsorship works for the same reason
that NA works—because recovering
members share common bonds of addiction an
d recovery and, in many cases, can
empathize with each other. A sponsor’s role
is not that of a legal advisor, a banker, a
parent, a marriage counselor, or a social work
er. Nor is a sponsor a therapist offering
some sort of professional advice. A sponsor
is simply another addict in recovery who
is willing to share his or her jo
urney through the Twelve Steps.
As we share our concerns and questions
with our sponsors, sometimes they will
share their own experiences.
At other times they may suggest reading or writing
assignments, or try to answer
our questions about the program. When we are new to
NA, a sponsor can help us understand things that may confuse us about the program,
from NA language, meeting formats, and the s
ervice structure, to the meaning of NA
principles and the nature of spiritual awakening.
WHAT does a sponsee do?
One suggestion is to have regular contact wi
th our sponsor. In addition to phoning
our sponsor, we can arrange to meet up at meetings. Some sponsors will tell us how
often they expect us to contact them,
while others don’t
set those kinds of
requirements. If we cannot find a sponsor who lives close to us, we can look to
technology or mail to keep in touch. Regardless of how we communicate with our
sponsor, it is important that we be honest
and that we listen with an open mind.
I rely on my sponsor to give me gene
ral direction and a new perspective. If
no-thing else, she’s an important sounding board. Sometimes all it takes is
saying something out loud to someone else
for me to see things differently.”
We may worry that we are a burden to ou
r sponsors and hesitate to contact them,
or we may believe our sponsors will want so
mething in return from us. But the truth is
our sponsors benefit as much as we do fr
om the relationship. In our program, we
believe that we can only keep what we have by giving it away; by using our sponsors,
we are actually helping them to stay clean and recover.
HOW do we get a sponsor?
To get a sponsor, all we need to do is ask
. While this is simple, it may not be easy.
Many of us are afraid to ask someone to be
our sponsor. In active addiction, we may
have learned not to trust anyone, and the id
ea of asking someone to listen to us and
help us may feel alien and frightening. No
netheless, most of our members describe
sponsorship as a crucial part of their
recovery. Sometimes we finally gather our
courage, only to have someone say no. If
that happens, we need to be persistent,
have faith, and try not to take his or her
decision personally. The reasons people may
decline probably have nothing to do with
us: they may have busy lives or many
sponsees, or they may be going through di
fficult times. We need to reaffirm our faith
and ask someone else.
When I picked my sponsor, I looked at it like an interview. Are we a match?
What are your expectations and what are mine? I looked for someone open-
minded who I felt comfortable talking to.”
The best place to look for a sponsor is at an NA meeting. Other places to seek a sponsor are NA events, such as service meetings and conventions. In seeking a sponsor, most members look for someone they feel they can learn to trust, someone