Aims: The aim of this study was to explore the roles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsors and to describe the characteristics of a sample of sponsors.
Methods: Twenty-eight AA sponsors, recruited using a purposive sampling method, were administered an unstructured qualitative interview and standardized questionnaires. The measurements included: a content analysis of sponsorsâ€™ responses; Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaireâ€”Community version (SADQ-C) and Alcoholics Anonymous Affiliation Scale (AAAS).
Results: Sample characteristics were as follows:
- the median length of AA attendance was 9.5 years (range 5â€“28);
- the median length of sobriety was 11 years (range 4.5â€“28);
- the median number of sponsees per sponsor was 1 but there was a wide range (0â€“17, interquartile range 3.75); and
- the sponsors were highly affiliated to AA (median AAAS score 8.75, range 5.5â€“8.75, maximum possible score 9).
Past alcohol dependence scores were surprisingly low:
- 5 (18%) sponsors had mild,
- 14 (50%) moderate and
- 9 (32%) severe dependence according to the SADQ-C (median 26.5, range 11â€“56).
Sponsorship roles were as follows:
16 roles were identified through the initial content analysis. These were distilled into three super-ordinate roles through a thematic analysis:
- encouraging sponsees to work the programme of AA (doing the 12 steps and engaging in AA activity);
- support (regular contact, emotional support and practical support); and
- carrying the message of AA (sharing sponsor’s personal experience of recovery with sponsees).
Conclusions: The roles identified broadly corresponded with the AA literature delineating the duties of a sponsor. This non-random sample of sponsors was highly engaged in AA activity but only had a past history of moderate alcohol dependence.
Research report; Paul J. P. Whelan, E. Jane Marshall, David M. Ball and Keith Humphreys. The Role of AA Sponsors: A Pilot Study. Alcohol and Alcoholism March 18, 2009