Dating Your Sponsor In Recovery: Risks, Problems & More

In Alcoholics Anonymous, dating among sponsors and members is strongly discouraged, especially for newcomers in their first year of sobriety. Dating your sponsor is also discouraged due to the negative effects that it can have on your path toward recovery.

Dating Your Sponsor In Recovery: Risks, Problems & More

Your relationship with your sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is sacred. It’s built on supporting your recovery needs.

When this relationship moves from role model to significant other, it changes the dynamic entirely.

While a sponsor can provide unbiased perspectives about step work, life changes, and growing pains that come with sobriety, a romantic partner may struggle to provide objective feedback.

A sponsor is meant to be a person you can call on for help in times of need. However, constantly relying on a significant other for sobriety-dependent support can lead to codependency.

When A Sponsor Pursues Their Sponsee: What It Says About The Sponsor

Sober people in AA, especially those in long-term sobriety, are well aware of the damage that a romantic or sexual relationship can cause in a sponsor-sponsee relationship.

If a sponsor pursues their sponsee, this means that the sponsor is willing to do what’s not in the best interests of their sponsee or the program.

A sponsor should know better than to pursue a relationship with their sponsee. An AA member who makes such a compromise is not putting the well-being of the group, or AA as a whole, first.

If you’ve worked with a sponsor who has made romantic or sexual moves toward you, it’s best to speak to a trusted group member about what’s going on, and find a new sponsor.

Navigating Relationships In Recovery

It’s a common suggestion in AA, and other recovery programs, that newcomers should not start romantic or sexual relationships during their first year of sobriety.

The reason for this suggestion is multifaceted. New relationships can distract newcomers from their recovery journey and cause them to neglect their AA program.

Because they are just beginning to develop healthy boundaries and coping mechanisms, a traumatic experience like a break-up may push newcomers toward substance abuse.

It’s not uncommon for newcomers to form relationships with others in recovery during their first year. However, this is a risky decision that can jeopardize their chance of sobriety.

Sometimes, an inappropriate relationship may begin between a sponsor and sponsee. In most cases, this relationship is frowned upon because it often impacts the recovery process of both people involved.


Codependency is a known problem for people who attend 12-step meetings like AA or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

In codependent relationships involving people in recovery, the partnership often produces the same highs and lows as active addiction did.

Marked by dysfunctional patterns and a reliance on the partner for a false sense of happiness — much like a high — codependency can drastically affect a person’s recovery.

These types of relationships also hinder personal growth and well-being by consuming the parties involved.

Many people enter AA unknowingly addicted to the highs and lows of addiction. When these highs and lows stabilize during sobriety, a person may subconsciously seek out chaos, simply because it’s what they’re used to.

It can take a long time to realize how ingrained these behavioral patterns are. If a person doesn’t have the opportunity to acknowledge these behaviors, they’ll neglect sobriety and jeopardize their recovery.

Lack Of Development

In a sponsor-sponsee relationship, a sponsee learns to call their sponsor when they need help, such as when cravings hit, when they need advice, etc., or simply to check in.

Learning to call a sponsor instead of giving into cravings is the start of developing healthy coping mechanisms.

However, if a sponsor becomes a significant other and the relationship falls apart, the sponsee is left without support. This can lead them back to substance abuse.

Because of the “power” that a sponsor holds in this relationship, it’s also possible for the sponsor to use their position to manipulate their sponsee.

Such an experience can affect a person’s self-esteem, mental health, and lower the sponsee’s chances of long-term sobriety.

What Is An AA Sponsor?

Members are taken through the 12 steps of AA under the guidance of a sponsor. A sponsor is a trusted person in recovery who has already gone through the steps themselves.

In the 12-step program, a sponsor serves as a spiritual advisor and source of support. For many people in early recovery, their sponsor is their first introduction to a healthy, substance-free relationship.

Sponsors are also influenced by the sponsor-sponsee relationship. Many sponsors feel that they “get back more than they give” because of the rewarding aspect of being there for someone.

The relationship between a sponsor and their sponsee is among the most important connections that AA members develop.

Unfortunately, not all relationships between AA sponsors and sponsees are healthy, or appropriate. When the partnership teeters into the realm of inappropriate, it can significantly affect addiction recovery on both ends.

Choosing A Sponsor

When you enter AA, you’ll be asked immediately to choose a sponsor. A sponsor should be someone who “has what you want” in regard to their sobriety and lifestyle.

A sponsor should also be a person you admire, both in and out of the program. You don’t have to share a similar life experience with your sponsor, but they should be a role model with ideals that you’d like to work toward.

There isn’t a universal standard that states the years of sobriety that a person must have to become an AA sponsor. The most important factor is that a sponsor has experience in the program.

A sponsor is a core part of an AA member’s support system. This person is someone you can call when cravings hit and someone who can help you navigate sober life.

Although this relationship can develop into a friendship, it’s important that boundaries exist between a sponsor and sponsee. These boundaries allow the sponsor to guide their sponsee objectively rather than subjectively.

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If you or a loved one is experiencing alcohol or drug addiction, contact and get connected with a treatment center today.

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