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. As fellow travelers on the road of recovery, the sponsor and sponsee find empathy. This is the mutual understanding that puts action into our identification with another adult child. With true empathy, we recognize our similarities. We recognize the difference between love and pity. With empathy, we are ready to help another person and to accept help. We understand what it means to be a friend.
ACA sponsors offer respect and understanding instead of criticism and conditional love.
ACA sponsorship has evolved from the many styles of sponsorship of the various Twelve Step programs. ACA uses the “fellow traveler” or co-sponsor method of sponsorship in most cases, but there are other variations of these methods. ACA sponsorship could be described as peer-to-peer help. The sponsor and sponsee are on equal footing, seeking answers and solutions together.
We learn to desire the equality and trust that come from being in a sponsor and sponsee relationship. This partnership is such a contrast to our relationships before we arrived at ACA. As adults, most of us seemed to have relationships in which we dominated people or worshipped people.
The fellow traveler method of ACA sponsorship seems to work best for us because it places us on equal footing with our sponsor. We can drop our people-pleasing or self-sufficient traits and ask for help. We do not have to feel intimidated. We do not have to think we are a burden by asking for someone’s time. We also learn we can make mistakes and not have to know all the answers to be helped. We see sponsorship, whether we sponsor others or are being sponsored, as a chance to grow.
Another form of ACA sponsorship is the co-sponsorship model. This model works best for two ACA members with long-term recovery rather than newer members just beginning the program. In co-sponsoring one another, the two experienced members have a working knowledge of the Steps and Traditions and have completed family-of-origin work. They understand grief work and post-traumatic stress disorder and know how to address both. They have carried the message to others and served their group or Intergroup well. They sponsor one another with experience and respect.
The question on when to get a sponsor is best answered by the newcomer, but it’s agreed that as soon as the newcomer commits to the program of recovery he/ she should connect with a sponsor so that they can find direction and not wander rudderless from meeting to meeting.
ACA Red Book, pg 365-390