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The Sponsor

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So, you've acknowledged that you have a problem with addiction, and have made the decision to join a support group. While this is a great first step, you will soon find that the path to recovery is a long one, and the temptation to go back to your drug of choice can be great when you are outside the safety of your weekly meetings. If only there was someone you could call for advice. A veteran who is experienced with the pitfalls recovering addicts often face. Someone who could help you stay strong when your willpower is at its lowest...

This is where The Sponsor comes in.

The Sponsor is a specific type of mentor who specializes in helping a character, usually the protagonist, deal with the trials and tribulations of recovering from an addiction. A former addict himself, The Sponsor is in a perfect position to give others the benefit of his experience and help keep them on the straight and narrow. The shared struggle between sponsor and sponsee can give the former shades of Older and Wiser.

A particularly attentive sponsor will often help a character with issues that on the surface seem unrelated to her addiction... after all, it is often the stresses of life that led the character to addiction in the first place. It is not uncommon to see The Sponsor helping out with repair work, searching for information that will bring down the Big Bad, or even bailing the protagonist out of jail. On the other hand, bad sponsors will actively impede the recovery of their wards through incompetence, malice, or both.

See Mentors for comparison with characters whose function is not related to addiction. Sponsors who get in too deep run the risk of provoking Rage Against the Mentor or Mentor Occupational Hazard. For a character who monetarily sponsors a team, see The Team Benefactor.

Not to be confused with advertising "sponsors", who may in fact drive a show's production staff to drink more.


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    Comic Books 
  • In the Iron Man story Demon In A Bottle, Tony Stark had a stint where he gave up the suit and wallowed in booze and despair for a while. Fortunately, his then-girlfriend, Bethany Cabe, picked him up and got him back in the game.
  • In The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, reformed supervillain M.A.C.H. VII is Boomerang's sponsor at Supervillains Anonymous. Except Boomerang has no interest in reforming, just in not going back to jail.

  • William Hurt's character in Changing Lanes is The Sponsor for Doyle (played by Samuel L. Jackson). He shows genuine concern for Doyle throughout the film, even going so far as to bail him out of jail during Doyle's Escalating War with Ben Affleck's character. Near the end he finally gets fed up with Doyle's increasingly unhinged antics, delivering this scathing commentary:
    "You know what, Doyle? Booze isn't your problem. It never was. You're addicted to chaos. Rage is your drug of choice."
  • The Alphabet Killer: Though it is not drug-related, head of Defective Detective Paige's support group Richard Ledge acts in a The Sponsor-like capacity for her, giving her advice on dealing with the resurgence of her visions and even helping her out when she later gets in trouble with the police.
  • In the commentary of Iron Man 2 John Favreau reveals that Nick Fury was written as Tony Stark's sponsor. He even went to AA meetings and talked to various sponsors to make sure his dialogue was right.
  • In Everything Must Go, Detective Frank Garcia is this to Nick Halsey for his alcoholism. Interesting as Frank has been able to help Nick out of trouble, but is also willing to arrest him too if necessary.
  • Richard Dirks is Daryl Poynter's sponsor in Clean And Sober.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dexter: Lila from season 2 becomes Dexter's sponsor after he joins Narcotics Anonymous. Shortly after falling for him, Lila drops all pretense of looking out for Dexter's best interests in favor of deliberately sabotaging his life so that he'll have no one left but her... all the while unaware that Dexter's true addiction is to serial murder.
  • Aaron Stark is protagonist Mark Benford's AA sponsor in Flash Forward. As the first (and only) season of the series progresses, his focus shifts from helping Mark with his addiction to finding his kidnapped daughter.
  • On The John Larroquette Show, John had as his AA sponsor David Crosby, perhaps the Poster Boy for rock star addicts. Once at the start of a meeting Crosby admitted he had had fallen off the wagon, leading John to respond: "My sponsor needs a sponsor?"
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Charlie's court-ordered AA meetings become a lot more voluntary when The Waitress offers to be his sponsor. Unfortunately she's only doing it to get closer to Dennis and drops Charlie when it doesn't work out.
  • The Showtime TV series Rude Awakening was about a Hard-Drinking Party Girl going through AA, who ended up having UST with her sponsor.
  • In The Mentalist episode "Jolly Red Elf", the bizarre death of a Santa-suit clad alcoholic lead Jane to seek out his AA sponsor, who was later revealed to have been in love with the victim.
  • On Party Down Ron joins AA and gets a sponsor, who is a plumber. When he needs a plumber at a party, he calls the sponsor, who comes to the alcohol-filled party and promptly falls Off the Wagon. Then his sponsor shows up. And that's how Ron got kicked out of AA.
    Sponsor: Do you understand what AA is actually for?
    Ron: I though I did!
    Sponsor: You DON'T!
  • Though never seen onscreen in Warehouse 13 Pete mentions that every other artefact requires him to call his since so many of them cause effects akin to intoxication (or in one occasions body swapping with a slightly drunk Myka).
  • Walon, Bubbles' NA sponsor on The Wire. Played by actual recovering addict Steve Earle.
  • Since this version of the character is a recovering drug addict, Sherlock Holmes in Elementary has one: Alfredo Llamosa, a reformed car thief turned security consultant for car companies. Alfredo proved rather popular with the fanbase, and there was much joy from the fandom when he reappeared in a later episode.
    • In season 2, a subplot involves Sherlock becoming a sponsor, something he's not sure he's ready for.
  • A version on One Life to Live when Todd Manning is ordered to attend sex offender counseling as a condition of his parole. His counselor is himself a convicted rapist.
  • After Without a Trace's Martin Fitzgerald finally admits to having become addicted to painkillers and joins his friend/fellow agent Danny Taylor at an AA meeting, the next episode has him telling Danny that he met someone at another meeting who offered to be this to him.
  • In Season 2 of Iron Fist (2017), Ward Meachum is attending Narcotics Anonymous, but is having sex with his sponsor instead of confronting his issues. He has a Heel Realisation after getting her pregnant, but she rejects him; pointing out she will have enough problems raising a child and dealing with her own addiction without sorting him out as well.

    Video Games 
  • There are dozens of RPGs where the player becomes this for NPCs with whom he will spend a grand total of four minutes in conversation. The Fallout series is quite fond of this. (In contrast, if the player character gets addicted in Fallout, the only moral support they get is a shot of detox meds and a stern reprimand.)

    Western Animation 
  • In the Season 4 episode of The Simpsons "Marge in Chains", Lionel Hutz also calls upon David Crosby when he's tempted by "...that bottle of delicious bourbon. Brownest of the brown liquors..."
  • Subverted in The Venture Brothers when Sergeant Hatred begins drinking in a fit of depression.
    Dean: Hatred! You listen to me! This is your sponsor talking! What is Step #4?
    Hatred: make a fearless moral inventory of ourselves?
    Dean: Yes. And what are you doing in there?
    Hatred: I don't know what "moral inventory" means! And you're not my sponsor!
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Birds Anonymous", Sylvester joins the titular group to kick the bird-eating habit, and his sponsor is there to make sure he doesn't try to eat Tweety in a moment of weakness. However, the sponsor himself falls Off the Wagon and goes after Tweety, while Sylvester tries to stop him.
  • The Flintstones Fred Flintstone once joined Eaters Anonymous, and his sponsor would grab whatever food Fred got a hold on while giving the group's secret call, "Gobble, gobble, gobble!"