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Social Networks and 12-Step Sponsorship

Attendees of 12-step meetings and venues learn early on that the secret to sustained abstinence and quality recovery is securing a sponsor.

What is a sponsor?

A sponsor is a person that has been in abstinence-based recovery for at least a year and acts as a newcomer’s mentor, recovery-friendly advisor, and support person. Sponsors are not paternal. Sponsors will not approach you; you have to approach them. Sponsors are there to guide you away from destroying yourself.

Rynes and Tonigan point out that sponsorship “is a basic and important part of the 12-step approach to recovery from substance abuse (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2005) and research has shown that having a sponsor is associated with increased involvement in 12-step programs and improved outcomes” (Bond, Kaskutas, & Weisner, 2003; Tonigan & Rice, 2010).

Rynes and Tonigan “hypothesized that the association between having a sponsor and increased abstinence outcomes would be explained by increases in one’s abstinence-based social network.”

The researchers set out to test their hypothesis and did so by studying five different studies.

Rynes and Tonigan concluded: “Results suggest that the prospective association between sponsorship and abstinence is not explained by increases in the abstinence-based social network and demonstrate the need for future studies to use rigorous and time-lagged methods to test social support for abstinence as a mediator of the effects of 12-step involvement” (Rynes).

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If you or a loved one wants to learn more about our substance use programs, please reach out to us today. Our admissions team is available 24/7 at (877)-RECOVERY to answer your questions.

Rynes KN, Tonigan JS. Do social networks explain 12-step sponsorship effects? A prospective lagged mediation analysis. Psychology of Addictive Behavior. 2012 Sep;26(3):432-9.