When someone is new to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) community, it won’t be long before he or she will look for a sponsor. Interestingly, the word sponsor is derived from the Latin word spondere, which means to make a promise. Essentially, a sponsor takes on the responsibility of guiding a new AA member along the journey of recovery, specifically supporting them through the 12-step process. However, later in recovery, changing sponsors (which might have to happen for a variety of reasons) might have a problematic effect on the one in recovery.

A sponsor is none other than a mentor; and mentors, no matter what area of life – career, health, school, spirituality, relationships, and sobriety – have proven to dramatically improve one’s ability to reach their goals. Sponsors can be a hand to hold through challenging times, and a companion on the journey of recovery. Sponsors can significantly boost a person’s confidence and their ability to create life change, including sustaining their sobriety. In fact, one of the reasons why having a sponsor is so beneficial because of the sponsor-sponsee relationship. In fact, when the sponsor/sponsee relationship is strong, it can be the foundation upon which a newly sober individual can find hope, support, and faith in the process.

Ideally, a person will continue with the same sponsor throughout their first five years of sobriety, or even longer. However, as one can imagine, there are a number of reasons why the sponsor-sponsee relationship might have to come to an end. These include:

  • -Either the sponsor or the sponsee move out of the area.
  • -The sponsor might be too busy with personal responsibilities and may not be able to provide the level of support a new sponsee needs.
  • -The sponsor might relapse, which might have a negative effect on the sponsee.
  • -An attraction might develop between the sponsor and the sponsee, which might cause them to end their sponsor-sponsee relationship. Instead, the sponsee may have to find a new sponsor.
  • -There might not be the right level of rapport or the sponsor and sponsee may not get along.
  • -The sponsor may not be what the sponsee had hoped for.
  • -If there is a lack of trust in the relationship, the sponsee may not be able to see the sponsor as someone to emulate or someone to look up to.


These are valid reasons for ending a sponsor-sponsee relationship. However, there are plenty of unsatisfactory reasons why the sponsor-sponsee relationship ends. For instance, a sponsee might want a more popular or more attractive sponsor. A sponsee might want to change sponsors because he or she may not like the way that they are being challenged to grow.

It’s best to talk to another long-time AA member before bringing your sponsor-sponsee relationship to an end. If you find that you are going to end the relationship, it’s best to do this respectfully, gracefully, and professionally. You might do this by:

  • -Thanking your sponsor for what they’ve done for you.
  • -End the relationship in person, versus in an email or text.
  • -There is no need to explain in detail why you want to end the relationship. Simply providing a short and simple explanation will do.
  • -Do your best to end on good terms.


No one likes the end of a relationship. Whether you are the sponsor or the sponsee, be sure to go through this process with care.

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