Working with a Self-Harm Sponsor for Recovery
A strong support network can play a vital role in self-harm healing and recovery. Someone like a self-harm sponsor, for example, can provide invaluable insight and encouragement throughout your journey—but what exactly is a self-harm sponsor, and who should you ask to be yours?
What Is a Self-Harm Recovery Sponsor?
You may not have heard of a self-harm sponsor before; it's not a particularly widely-used term. But you've probably heard of an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsor—someone who is walking the path to recovery from substance abuse and who is far enough along that path that they can now provide support to others who are just beginning their journeys. A self-harm sponsor plays a similar role, just with self-harm recovery rather than substance abuse or addiction.
What to Look for in a Self-Harm Sponsor
Your self-harm sponsor should, first and foremost, be someone you feel safe and comfortable with. An ideal sponsor will:
- Have personal experience with self-harm
- Be actively engaged in their own recovery journey
- Be aware and understanding, of your history of self-harm
- Talk with you about self-harm openly, without judging you or putting you down
- Be available to talk to or meet up with when you need to (within reasonable limits)
- Motivate you without pushing you too far beyond your limits
- Respect your privacy, but also look out for your safety
- Empower you to heal and make progress without enabling dependent or unhealthy behaviors
Keep in mind that while bonding with your sponsor is part of the process, healthy boundaries must be maintained as well. For this reason, close relatives typically do not make good sponsors, as you may worry about them talking about your recovery with other relatives, which may hold you back from sharing things you need to share. Romantic partners—whether current, past, or potential—are also not ideal choices, as such relationships are more complicated and have different boundaries and needs from that of a sponsor and their partner.
Where to Find a Self-Harm Sponsor
The best way to begin your search is to talk with your therapist or another medical professional about the idea. While there isn't necessarily an organized network of self-harm sponsors as there is for AA, your doctor should have some good ideas of where you can look and who you should ask. If they're thrown off by the phrase "self-harm sponsor," simply explain that you are looking for a mentor—someone who not only can help you recover but who has been through recovery themselves.
If that is not an option right now, Googling "self-harm sponsor" won't turn up much yet, but you can look for local or online support groups. Through these groups, you'll be able to connect with other people walking down similar roads to recovery and hopefully find someone you'll feel comfortable walking alongside.
Just be sure to monitor your relationship with your sponsor. They should never intentionally make you feel guilty, insecure, or ashamed of your history of self-harm—even if you relapse while working with them—and you should always feel they are in your corner. You choose who to let into your support network, and it is also up to you who to exclude from that network if your relationship becomes unhealthy or unsupportive. A good rule of thumb to follow: if you find yourself constantly making excuses for how this person treats you, or if you always feel worse after speaking or spending time with them, it may be time to part ways.
Again, I strongly encourage you to talk about this with a therapist or counselor if you can—a trustworthy outside perspective will help you ensure your relationship with your sponsor remains a healthy one.
Do you have someone in your life whom you would, or could, consider a self-harm sponsor? Would you be interested in taking on this role for someone else? Please share your thoughts or advice in the comments—and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Kim Berkley (2022, March 10). Working with a Self-Harm Sponsor for Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, May 31 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2022/3/working-with-a-self-harm-sponsor-for-recovery