You and Your Sponsor Are Not a Great Match: What to Do Next

Everyone who is in recovery from a substance use disorder—or who loves someone who is in recovery—knows that there are tricky moments that must be managed from time to time.

We have weighed in on some of those moments with blog entries that form an informal “now what?” series:

In this entry, we want to tackle another one of those challenging moments. What should you do when you and your sponsor turn out not to be a great match for one another?

It can be an uncomfortable situation. After all, your sponsor has done something immeasurably kind by agreeing to be a primary pillar of support for your ongoing sobriety. They have your best interests in mind while also managing their own recovery journey. It is a difficult role for anyone to play. For all of those reasons, it can seem nearly impossible to address the situation when the relationship is not a good fit. It can feel a lot like a break up—and breaking up is, as the old song says, hard to do.

Still and all, sometimes a change is necessary. Here are some ideas for handling that change with grace and kindness.

Clearly Identify Your Concerns Before the Conversation

Awkward conversations can become even more awkward if you do not have a plan going into them. So if you have decided you need to make a sponsor change, you should be sure you can clearly and calmly explain why. There might be any number of reasons, including (but surely not limited to):

  • You and your sponsor just are not a good match in terms of personality. Maybe, for example, you are an introvert and your sponsor is an extrovert (or vice versa), and there is simply a disconnect.
  • Your sponsor is not as responsive to you as you feel you need them to be. Sometimes a sponsor’s schedule and responsibilities means they are not always available when you would like them to be.
  • You feel your sponsor is pushing too hard—or not hard enough. Everyone needs different kinds of support in recovery, and it is possible that your current sponsor’s approach is not working for you.

Many times, as in the example above, the disconnect between a sponsor and the person they are sponsoring is nobody’s fault. For one reason or another, things just are not working out.

Before we move on, however, we do want to acknowledge that sometimes the reason things aren’t working out is because one—or both—of the people in the relationship is not holding up their end of the bargain to put in the work necessary to stay sober. If it’s you, then switching sponsors may not be the best move. Instead, a recalibration of your approach to recovery is probably in order.

Have the Conversation in Person—Even if it Feels Hard

Just like it is not cool to break up with someone by text or email, it isn’t cool to end a relationship with your sponsor that way. This is one of those conversations you need to have in person. If you have prepared in advance as we have suggested above, and if you are committed to being kind but clear, you can get through this tricky talk.

And the results may surprise you. Your sponsor may agree that you are not a good match. They might feel relief. They might be delighted to remain friends as you both move forward on your individual recovery journeys. They might have a suggestion about who would, in fact, be a good fit for you when it comes to finding a new sponsor. 

There is also a chance that their feelings will be hurt or even that they will be angry. That’s okay. The important thing is that you express your gratitude for their willingness to sponsor you—and that, if appropriate, you remind them not to let the strong emotions they may be feeling in the moment upend their own sobriety. 

Forge a Relationship with Wooded Glen Recovery Center

When you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, it can feel as though you are all alone with nowhere to turn for help. Fortunately, however, effective treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders is, in fact, available.

At Wooded Glen Recovery Center—located in Henryville, Indiana—we offer medically supervised detoxification, a rehabilitation program that includes group and individual therapy, and a continuum of care designed to support you as your recovery journey gets underway. If you are ready to end your relationship with drugs or alcohol, starting a relationship with Wooded Glen Recovery Center is a great way to get started.