Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What is a Sponsor?

A sponsor is a more experienced member of the program who guides the newcomer through the process of recovery. Generally, a sponsor has at least one year or more in the program; however, some cities have so many new people coming into the CLA meeting that supply and demand makes such criteria unrealistic. With this in mind, some CLA communities suggest a sponsor have six months living the program. The most effective sponsors have:
  • A working knowledge of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions
  • Personal experiences dealing with life in recovery
  • A willingness to listen
  • A willingness to help another person build a foundation for recovery by sharing their experience, strengths, and hopes
  • A willingness to guide a person through the12-Steps based on their own personal experience
  • A willingness to make suggestions and refrain from giving advice.

Having a CLA sponsor provides the opportunity to learn to trust and be trusted, perhaps for the first time. Many of us wrestle with our problems alone for so long; there is a tendency to isolate, even after coming into recovery; we have to come to believe that we are not alone and that we never have to be alone again. We can do what we could not do alone. Calling a sponsor usually provides comfort, identification of the feelings, and hope that, in spite of how the person feels, he or she does not have to self-destruct.

A sponsor provides a listening ear and acts as a sounding board for decisions that have to be made. If a sponsor has no experience in a particular area, a wise sponsor will direct the person to someone else who has had similar experiences. Guidance is freely given so that the person gets practice in making sound decisions.

Sponsors do not give advice; they only make suggestions, based on their experience, strengths, and hopes. Sponsors who have had experience with a particular situation that is presented, will share with the person what their feelings were and how they handled a similar situation using the tools of recovery. This shared experience process keeps the newcomer from feeling alone with their problem. In the fullness of time, the newcomer sheds the question that haunts most of our lives, "Am I the only one in the world who feels like this?" The realization that we are not so different, not alone, in our problems gives us relief.

It is the member's choice whether to take the suggestions once they are given. There are no "musts"; "Take what you want and leave the rest." Sponsorship is an effective tool of recovery because sponsors are people who have suffered with the same problem and are on the same road seeking recovery from the chains that once bound them; sponsors understand because they have been there.

Good news, victories, and hopes are also shared with a sponsor. Some of the principles both sponsor and the person being sponsored practice through developing this crucial relationship are unconditional love, selfless giving, patience, tolerance, honesty with another human being, and trust.

A sponsor is neither a counselor nor a mental health professional. If, the sponsor is a counselor professionally, that role is left at the door of the CLA Program. The sponsor is in recovery, too. Sponsors are equals who are members of the program also on the road in search of lasting recovery. Sponsors are not to be used as therapists, loan companies, landlords, nor do they work the program for you. They listen, share their experience, and guide the people they sponsor through the12 steps and 12 traditions of the program. When additional help is needed, members are encouraged to seek professional guidance; doctors, accountants, marriage counselors, and financial brokers are all to be found outside of the program.

It is suggested that a sponsor should be of the same gender. The newcomer to the program is quite vulnerable; for some of us, this is the first time we have expressed our true feelings, our secrets, and our fears. Experience has shown that this new relationship with a member of the opposite gender could be misinterpreted, which if acted upon, could reduce the chances for sustained recovery for both parties. One of the advantages of choosing a same-gender sponsor is that the member will get to know more about himself or herself as a member of that gender. Experience has also shown that it is sometimes more difficult for a male to talk to a female and vice versa. As open dialogue is of paramount importance in the sponsor/newcomer relationship, it makes good sense to avoid gender based communication problems.

    • A sponsor is an objective person on the outside looking in.
    • Sponsors are able to see patterns that emerge and point out problem areas before the person sponsored gets into more trouble.
    • Sponsors see how much a person has changed and offers encouragement along the way. There’s a slogan that defines the need for a sponsor, "Other people see you better than you see yourself"
    • Sponsors generally stress accountability
    • Sponsors help the people they sponsor stay focused on their recovery.

Sponsorship is a two-way street. It is a relationship built to help the sponsor and the person being sponsored; therefore, people who opt not to choose a sponsor, or later not to sponsor others, are cheating themselves and fellow human beings out of a great opportunity to grow spiritually and emotionally.

Sponsorship is a vital tool of recovery. Sponsorship allows another person in so that together they can begin the process of healing and learning how to live one day at a time.

Sponsorship is a beacon in the night; this is especially true, in the beginning, when the new member feels that his or her whole life is one opened festering wound. Newcomers usually say they feel like they are bombarded by an onslaught of emotions, feelings, and painful memories; they doubt that the program can and will work for them; and they are usually angry because of their failure to control their own lives.

Newcomers, normally, have a myriad of complex problems that are a direct result of the out-of-control lifestyle; these problems will not go away overnight and will take time and patience to remedy—patience that newcomers usually don’t possess. This is where a sponsor can shed a bit of light by sharing with the newcomer his or her own experiences, strengths, and hopes. Sponsors can empathize because they have been where the newcomer is; they have known the hopelessness, desperation, humiliation, and powerlessness to control or change themselves for the better. Someone was there for us when we first sought help in the program; so, we want to be available for the newcomer. The program is built on this mutual sharing of recovery. Sponsors strongly believe the motto: "You can not keep what you have unless you give it away."

Sponsors are committed to the fact that they get more from the sponsor/sponsee relationship than they give, as it is a mutual benefit. Sponsors know that sponsoring supports their own 12 step recovery and commitment to "sober" living.

A sponsor's primary responsibility is to help a sponsee work the 12 Steps

  • A sponsor helps us work the 12 Steps by providing explanation, guidance and encouragement.
  • A sponsor helps us get established quickly in our Fellowship by explaining basic concepts and terminology and by introducing us to other members.
  • A sponsor is a safe person whom we can learn to trust.
  • A sponsor can answer the many questions that we can have as newcomers or develop as "mid-timers."
  • A sponsor can help us in the process of self-examination that the Steps require.
  • A sponsor encourages us to read the basic text of our Fellowship and other program literature and to engage in Fellowship activities and service work.
  • A sponsor can monitor our progress, confront us when it is appropriate and generally help us stay on the recovery path.
    • A sponsor confronts our behavior, not our being, and he or she does it with compassion.
  • A sponsor reminds us to apply 12 Step principles in our lives.
  • A sponsor models the 12 Step program of recovery.
  • Our sponsor is available in times of crisis.
  • A sponsor provides practice in building relationships.


  • A sponsor cannot keep us in recovery.
  • A sponsor is not our therapist
  • A sponsor should not attempt to control our lives or encourage an unhealthy dependence.
  • A sponsor should not take advantage of us our exploit us in any way.


  1. Has what we want
  2. Lives in the solution
  3. Walks the talk
  4. Has a sponsor
  5. Emphasizes the steps
  6. Has more time in recovery than we do
  7. Has worked more steps than we have
  8. Is available for telephone calls and meetings
  9. Emphasizes the spiritual aspect of the program
  10. Gender is the same as ours*


Some reasons are:

  1. The person is currently sponsoring as many people as he or she can handle. A sponsor who takes on too many sponsees does each of them (and himself or herself) a disservice.
  2. The person is not taking on new sponsees because of a heavy travel schedule, a planned move, or some other reason based on where he or she is in life or the program.
  3. After discussing the potential sponsorship, the person realizes the match would not be a good one. That conclusion is as much about the potential sponsor as it is about us.
    • When potential sponsors reject our request for sponsorship, it is usually about them.
    • It's a privilege to sponsor someone. And it's one of the ways we stay in recovery.

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Berkeley Clutterers Anonymous

You are cordially invited to join us in person!
North Berkeley Clutterers Anonymous Meeting

Monday evening 7:15-8:30 PM

Tuesday morning
10:00 AM sharp until 11:15 AM

Epworth United Methodist Church
1953 Hopkins Street
Berkeley, Ca 94707

Directions to Epworth:
Epworth United Methodist Church is located at 1953 Hopkins Street at Napa Avenue, near the south portal of the Solano Avenue tunnel.

By Public Transit:

AC Transit local routes 43, 9, and 7 stop at the corner of Hopkins and Sutter (Shattuck Avenue), near the south portal of the Solano Avenue tunnel. (Route FS provides TransBay service, weekday commute hours only.)

From there, it's a one-block downhill walk to the church. Route
15 stops at the corner of Hopkins and The Alameda (MLK Jr. Way), near the North Berkeley Branch Library. Walk uphill on Hopkins past Milvia - the church will be on your left.

Transfer to the 43, 9, and 7 buses at the Berkeley BART station. (Route 9 no longer stops at North Berkeley BART.)

On Your Bike:

The northern end of the Milvia Street Bicycle Boulevard intersects Hopkins Street, just a block from the church.

From Major Highways:

From the Eastshore Freeway (I-80) take the Gilman Street exit and continue eastward until Gilman intersects with Hopkins. Turn left and proceed uphill on Hopkins. You'll pass Monterey Foods, MLK Middle School, and the North Berkeley Branch Library on the way.

From Highway 24, take the Tunnel Road exit, and proceed west on Ashby Avenue to Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Turn right on MLK, drive north for about two miles, then right again on Hopkins.

First Tuesday of the Month: Business Meeting
Second Tuesday: Speaker Meeting
Third, Fourth, Fifth Tuesdays:
CLA Literature

Our blog at exists to achieve the goal of the 5th Traditon: "Each group has but one primary purpose; to carry its message to the person who still suffers."

We have a Google Group for email discussions!
Group email

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Isolation and shame are two major factors from which many clutterers suffer. Sometimes it takes a long time to really see improvements in our physical clutter and our thinking. We welcome you! You are taking a bold step forward and you are not alone! Remember: Progress, not perfection! The information posted here, the tools, readings, phone meetings and resources support us all in our process to recovering from cluttering.
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