I’ve had the same sponsor throughout the entirety of my recovery. Maybe you have too. My sponsor did more than just take me through the steps. She reminded me, through her daily walk, of the person I was called to be. She has been an example of strength, freedom and wisdom for me. I didn’t call her daily, but she was always there when I needed her.
The sponsor / sponsee relationship is strong. So, how do you handle it if your sponsor relapses?
My Sponsor Relapsed: Now What?
I received a text one morning. Still half asleep I mistakenly thought the message was from a girl I had been mentoring. Halfway through the day I realized it was from my sponsor.
“I just wanted to be transparent and let you know that I’ve relapsed.”
I felt my heart sink for a minute. Not because I was disappointed in her, but because I knew the weight of shame, regret, hopelessness and self-hate that tries to attach itself to an individual who has relapsed. It is difficult to get through and takes intentional navigation.
So, what now? For me, I reached out to her and offered a hand of support as well as an ear to listen. Relapse is not ideal, but it does happen. I’m just so thankful she didn’t spiral into a lengthy cycle of addiction. Because this situation is so fresh on my mind, I want to offer a few insights that will help you if your sponsor relapses.
Remember Who You Are
The first, and probably the most important, point to remember is that we are all human. You may have looked up to your sponsor, but he or she deals with the same struggles and temptations as you do. We are all on the same playing field, working on our recovery together.
If you were looking at your sponsor as your savior, your rock, or your higher power, take this opportunity to recognize this as an unhealthy viewpoint and unrealistic expectation.
Watch Your Words
The first thing you might be tempted to say is, “Wow. I thought he or she was so strong. If they can’t stay clean, how can I?” Your sponsor’s walk is not your walk. Don’t allow someone else’s slip to become an opening for your own by talking about it as if your own relapse is now inevitable. Remember, addiction is sneaky. Don’t give it an opportunity with your words.
If you want to seal the deal and put yourself in a prime position for your own relapse, go ahead and start talking poorly about others. Sometimes we like to disguise gossip by saying things that sound so nice and spiritual. Things like, “Oh, so-and-so really needs our support right now. Have you heard that they relapsed?” I personally am aware of so many individual’s relapses just because I have friends who tell me things I absolutely don’t need to know.
Don’t be one of those people, and if you have a friend who is constantly feeding you the inside scoop on everyone’s condition, you should think about replying with something like, “Thanks but I really didn’t need to know that.” Personally, I find that incredibly hard to do, but if you want to live a life of integrity, it’s something you’re going to have to be able to say.
Be supportive, but not pushy. If your sponsor relapses, let them know you are there to support and encourage, but don’t assume the roles have reversed and you’ve now become this person’s mentor. They will choose the people to go to for help. Allow them that choice.
If you need to process your own feelings or fears, by all means do not hesitate to reach out to someone. I generally turn to leaders in my church family, licensed therapists or counselors when I need to process my thoughts and feelings. It is definitely my suggestion that you reach out to a professional. If you think you are vulnerable, you probably are. It’s best to be proactive about your recovery and get MORE help than less.
If Your Sponsor Relapses: Should You Get A New Sponsor?
If your sponsor relapses, giving them a time of healing and a chance to work on their own lives and spiritual health is just a good idea. You probably already know a few other individuals who would be happy to sponsor you, either temporarily or permanently. For me (and this is just my individual walk) my sponsor was the person who took me through the steps and helped support me through early recovery. After three years, I have developed other supportive relationships, with people in recovery, with Christian leaders and other mentors. If you take the initiative and constantly strive to surround yourself with excellence, you will organically develop an inner circle of personal influencers, and to me that’s the healthiest way to live.
If you or someone you love has relapsed and is in need of addiction treatment services, our team is here to help.
Call us today.