If you have chosen to become a sponsor to a recovering addict or alcoholic, there are certain things you will need to remember. For example, while you are not acting in any professional capacity in your role as sponsor, you are expected to keep your relationship with your sponsee strictly confidential. This is one of the most important aspects of being a sponsor.
Taking Care of Your Sponsee’s Interests
Being a sponsor to a recovering addict is a big responsibility, and you must take this role seriously. It is important that you can keep a confidence; even if the recovering addict’s friends or family members approach you for information, you must be ready to say no.
You may be wondering what to do if you believe that things your sponsee has told you could mean that he or she is acting in a dishonest way or if it could hurt another person. In this case, it would be wise to encourage the sponsee to come clean and make the decision to disclose the information him or herself.
While taking care of your sponsee’s interests is your priority, do not forget that you have no legal protection in terms of protecting confidences. So if your sponsee tells you something that would indicate anything criminal, you should make the decision there and then to end the relationship. The last thing you need is to be implicated in a crime or be charged as an accomplice.
Protecting Others from Harm
Your priority is always going to be your sponsee, but if you fear that your sponsor could hurt another person, you need to think carefully about how to handle this situation. If your sponsee tells you something that makes you think another person will be seriously hurt, you have a moral obligation to speak out.
While confidentiality is a crucial part of your relationship, preventing another person from being seriously harmed is far more important.
What to Do if You Believe Your Sponsee Might Harm Another Person
If you fear for the safety of someone else because of something that your sponsee told you, there are a number of ways to handle this situation. Your first port of call might be to consult with other sponsors from your fellowship support group, particularly if you believe the danger is not immediate.
However, if you feel that your sponsee could be on the way to hurt another person after speaking with you, you have a duty to do anything you can to prevent this from happening. In most instances, it would be a good idea to get in touch with the police.
What if the Situation is Not So Clear?
In some instances, your sponsee might not make his/her intentions clear, and while you may suspect that he or she could be about to hurt another person, this has not been confirmed by the individual. Your sponsee may have said things to you that would make you suspicious of his or her actions, but without clear evidence, you may be unsure of what the best way to handle this situation is. Encouraging your sponsee to talk to a family counsellor might be wise in this instance. In addition, be aware of signs and hidden messages that the individual is sending your way.
Make Your Intentions Clear from the Outset
The role of the sponsor is to encourage a recovering addict to move through recovery and to help him or her to learn from past mistakes. It is not the job of the sponsor to pass judgement on the sponsee. It is important for the sponsee to know that anything he or she tells you will be kept confidential but that you also have a duty to protect others from harm.
From the very beginning, tell your sponsee that you will keep everything between you confidential unless you believe that another person may be in danger.