Sponsorship in CoDA – Workshop held in Birmingham 21/4/07

I am a recovering codependent who normally attends the Birmingham Branch of CoDA, and the following relates my experience of the above Workshop. There were two speakers; Emma, who shared her experience of Individual Sponsorship, and Hilary, who shared her experience of Co-sponsorship.

Co-Sponsorship in CoDA

The speaker described how she had been in CoDA for around 3-4 years, following sponsoring in another 12 Step Fellowship. There was a lack of available sponsors, and the co-sponsoring relationship was set up in the light of this.

She described the ‘mechanics’ of the relationship, which has been helpful in various ways. A regular weekly slot is allocated, and each takes it in turns, both to make the telephone call and to share. The length of the call is also decided on the basis of need. Because of the regular routine, it is very clear whose role is which at any time. She described the benefits of knowing the other person over a long period of time, and the experience of really being known. A great sense of security is also created between contacts, knowing that there will be time available at some point in the future to home in on and clarify issues.

She described the various options available, which include email, phone – where it is not always necessary to receive a reply – and working the steps when this is appropriate. There are different strategies to avoid a sense of victimhood and to maintain detachment, involving both contact with another person and prayer.

She also mentioned the benefits of the ability to be there for another person, to develop listening skills and not to get deeply embroiled in someone else’s life events. As in Individual Sponsorship, the boundaries are being maintained, but because both parties are establishing them at the same time it may flow more smoothly. Strength and focus are still needed, nevertheless, to deal with the discomfort of raising controversial issues and to maintain boundaries as necessary.

The speaker also felt that there were issues which could still be addressed by her; these included working the Steps in depth. Because of the time slot, these could sometimes be skipped over. She also reiterated her own need to stay focused – the co-sponsoring relationship did not negate the need to do other work, too.

In Conclusion

There was some discussion following the talks, when both speakers mentioned how healing the sponsoring relationship can be, in terms of providing an opportunity for identification with another person, and the feelings of reassurance and acceptance that this can give. It can really relieve the feelings of isolation and shame that many codependents carry. For myself, I came away with the realisation that by setting clear boundaries for oneself, it makes it easier for the other person to define themselves. And, I guess, that the ideal sponsor-sponsee relationship can provide a blueprint for managing all relationships – within CoDA and outside.