— OA Twelfth Step Within Committee

If you are looking for a sponsor, take heart! A recent survey of 1,149 OA members suggests that three of every ten OA members are sponsors who are willing to take on new sponsees.

What’s the most effective way to find a sponsor? According to the survey, OA members are most likely to find a sponsor when sponsors and those looking for a sponsor announce themselves at OA meetings and events.

Here’s more good news: the survey suggests that eight of every ten OA members has a sponsor, and 80 percent of sponsees say their relationship with their sponsor is “going very well.”

Understanding OA’s Sponsors
The survey indicates that six of every ten OA members serve as sponsors. When it comes to the total number of sponsees that OA sponsors typically support, there is a fifty/fifty split: half of all OA sponsors have one or two sponsees while the other half takes on three or more.

What makes for a good sponsor? Here’s what members said, in order of importance:

  1. Being abstinent
  2. Working the Steps
  3. Having spiritual recovery
  4. Having emotional recovery
  5. Having physical recovery
  6. Having a sponsor of their own
  7. Having a perspective that the sponsee admires and that makes the sponsee feel understood
  8. Communicating clearly and giving advice that can be easily acted upon
  9. Having more time in program than the sponsee

Sponsors can serve in a variety of ways. The most common types of sponsors, in order of popularity, include:

  1. A single sponsor who covers all of a sponsee’s program needs
  2. Long-distance sponsor
  3. Steps and Traditions sponsor
  4. Food sponsor
  5. Temporary sponsor
  6. Co-sponsors (two people who sponsor each other)
  7. Service sponsor

The survey asked members if they were familiar with the sponsorship literature offered on oa.org and bookstore.oa.org. These were the top resources named in order of popularity:

  1. Twelve Step Workshop and Study Guide, Second Edition
  2. A Guide for Sponsors: Why, When, and How to Be an OA Sponsor
  3. Where Do I Start? Everything a Newcomer Needs to Know
  4. Sponsoring Through the Twelve Steps
  5. Temporary Sponsorship: Newcomers’ First Twelve Days
  6. Various sponsorship workshops found in the Document Library at oa.org

Obstacles to Sponsorship
Two of every ten survey respondents said they were reluctant to start sponsoring. These were the top five reasons:

  1. I haven’t been abstinent long enough.
  2. I haven’t finished working the Steps.
  3. I’m not recovered enough.
  4. I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake as a sponsor.
  5. I need training and don’t know how to get it.

More generally, survey participants cited these top eight obstacles that inhibit OA members from becoming willing sponsors:

  1. Fear of being unworthy of sponsoring
  2. Not feeling ready
  3. Not being abstinent
  4. Having sponsees who do not want to work the program
  5. Not having sufficient physical recovery
  6. Not having time
  7. Not being interested in sponsoring
  8. Not having sponsees available

When it comes to finding a sponsor, survey participants gave these top ten reasons why OA members generally have difficulties:

  1. Not having sponsors available
  2. Being afraid to ask
  3. Not finding anyone they like or trust
  4. Having sponsors available but not one who has what they want
  5. Having differing concepts of abstinence
  6. Not knowing anyone who is abstinent
  7. Not having the same concept of a  Higher Power
  8. Feeling like they don’t have time for a sponsor
  9. Not being able to find someone who shares the same eating compulsion (anorexia, bulimia, overeating)
  10. Feeling like they don’t need a sponsor

Improving Sponsorship: Next Steps
This survey was conducted by OA’s Twelfth Step Within Committee in November 2021, and a report was delivered to the OA Board of Trustees in February 2022. The committee is evaluating the results and formulating future recommendations to improve overall sponsorship in OA.

Based on these survey results, what can your group, intergroup, or service board do to strengthen sponsorship in OA?