A big part of recovery is rebuilding and reestablishing the relationship you have with yourself and others. However, it can be incredibly challenging in early recovery because you have not yet learned how to manage the surge of strong emotions and feelings you are likely experiencing. One way to help you through these challenging times is to seek help from a sponsor. Such roles help you build back trust and social skills within yourself and with others.
A good sponsor will be able to share their experiences with you, listen to you and help you empathize with yourself and others as you move through the 12-steps. However, sometimes you might end up not being on the same page with your sponsor and even misconstrue perceptions as being a problem with you. If it’s not working out, that’s OK. Staying with a sponsor because you think you should damages recovery – especially if your sponsor abuses their role. Remember, your sponsor is your peer, not your leader. Let’s take a closer look into when it is time to “break up” with your sponsor.
They Are Not Trustworthy
The heart of every healthy relationship in your life flourishes because of trust. Being able to trust someone with your feelings and gain the trust of others promotes healthy connections and creates a safe place where you can go to not feel judged. Therefore, you should be honest with your sponsor and have faith that they will protect your feelings and help you by putting your recovery first. Likewise, they should feel comfortable confiding in you about their experiences. However, this might not be the relationship that you are developing with your sponsor. If you find yourself withholding information such as how you feel because you don’t trust their discretion, or they are disclosing your personal information with others that you do not know, then it is OK to seek another sponsor. Not trusting someone is a perfectly valid reason to “break up” with your sponsor.
Feelings of Romance Develop With a Sponsor
Early recovery takes a great deal of vulnerability and rawness to begin the healing process. During this time, your emotions can be “out of tune” or off-balance, and therefore, you might misinterpret, create or produce strong feelings for another. Whether the feelings are mutual or felt solely on your end or your sponsor’s end, it is a clear sign to look for another sponsor. Romanticizing about a sponsor, justifying that they understand you and know what you are about is dangerous to you and your recovery. Early recovery is about finding your footing with your emotions, and you need support from those that are not pursuing romance. When there is a hint of romance, move on to another sponsor. Dating a sponsor can become very confusing and triggering in the long run.
Your Sponsor Relapses
Sobriety requires vigilance and resilience; however, at points of weakness or in early recovery, you might lack the strength needed to help another without succumbing to substance use. While you always want to support and seek help for a peer in recovery, it is also essential to know that you are not responsible for their relapse. Thinking that what you shared with your sponsor led them to relapse is damaging to your self-perception and confidence. Instead, try to find the lesson that everybody in recovery needs support to sustain it and work toward continuing to strengthen your network. It is also OK to move on to find another sponsor if you do not feel that you each can get the other through the tough times that lie ahead. Remember, never blame yourself or hold yourself responsible for your sponsor’s relapse.
They Make Ultimatums
What might come off as “tough love” could be manipulation – especially if you have not reached a point where you are comfortable speaking up for yourself. If your sponsor is trying to control every aspect of your life by placing themselves in a position where you need to meet their demands, then it is time to “break up.” The sponsor/sponsee relationship should be reciprocal; therefore, a good sponsor will listen and support your needs and only lend advice when they feel that something is not in your best interest. If you sense that the sponsor’s role has gone to their head and they enjoy having power over you, then it is time to move on.
If you let them make your decisions because what they are saying works, then you risk developing a relationship built on dependency. One way to tell if your sponsor is trying to exercise control over you is to pay attention to how they approach your concerns. Do they support you and offer suggestions? Or, do they tell you that you are going about it wrong and tell you what you should do instead? While both might seem helpful, the latter will only create complications and possible resentment and mistrust.
They Are Abusive
Your sponsor should never act aggressive or angry toward you, no matter what. Such behavior includes:
- Yelling at you
- Hanging up on you
- Verbally abusing you and calling you out in front of others
- Physically abusing you
The relationship with your sponsor should motivate you to get better and instill confidence within. It should not operate to motivate you by shaming or humiliating you. If your sponsor is creating feelings of doubt, fear and the inability to manage your sobriety, they are not the sponsor for you.
When you are putting forth the work and giving it your all, your sponsor should be doing the same. If you sense that they have other motives or that you don’t gel, be honest about it and recognize that it is OK to move on. At New Hope Ranch in Manor, Texas, we work with individuals to help them identify the signs and practices of building healthy relationships. Sometimes this means understanding when a relationship just isn’t working. We work to maintain an environment that is comfortable, supportive and where everybody supports each other in creating both a network and community established in trust, motivation and perseverance. If you are in a place where you are having difficulty rebuilding relationships in your recovery, then the time to seek help is today. Remember, the path toward recovery begins with taking the first step. To learn more, call New Hope Ranch today at (737) 600-8565.