There are no musts in Al-Anon, except the purpose states that you are affected by someone else's drinking and the disease of alcoholism. In fact, you don't have to have a sponsor to work any step.
But I would say that having a sponsor is recommended because that person has been through the steps. They can share their experience. My sponsor has helped me see things that I would have missed. Having a sponsor has helped bring a whole new dimension to the program and to myself.
Al-Anon is about sharing. Somehow though when you first come to the program you may hear those words but telling them to someone who is a control freak with a persecution complex, brought on by a falling down drunk, and accustomed to isolation and solitary pursuits, loses something in the first translation. I like the saying “our best thinking got us here”, and while there’s some truth in that, it’s what we do after we get here, that will actually spell our recovery.
It's my opinion that trying to do these steps by ourselves constitutes attempting to fix what’s wrong with us with what’s wrong with us. As much as we need to learn the “program”, we simply need help in it’s interpretation through the eyes and experience of someone who has made it work successfully. If not for having an “unbiased” but caring bystander, I would not be able to see more clearly and understand those portions of myself that I have had a great deal of trouble dealing with . And if you’re not sure what I’m referring to, there’s no doubt a sponsor would be of great benefit.
Steps worked in solitary, are neither verifiable nor accountable, by virtue of our perversity when we first arrive. I know that I wasn't capable of applying a “program” I knew little about, and the results I would have gotten would have no doubt reflected that. I suppose one could use the words “half measures” and the result of those being always “nil”.
Plus, having a sponsor gives someone the opportunity to be a sponsor. I have truly felt it an honor to be a sponsor. There is as much to learn being a sponsor as being sponsored. I read a lot on sponsorship before I got a sponsor. I don't just do things because someone tells me I "should". Al-Anon has some good literature on sponsorship and there is a chapter on it in "How Alanon Works".
Just with my own ideas though I offer the following on what a sponsor is and isn't:
A Sponsor is not a Guru. A Sponsor is not a Savior. A Sponsor is not a Higher Power. A Sponsor is not-God. A Sponsor also is not a spiritual guide, spiritual advisor, psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, occupational advisor, relationship counselor, preacher, or a recovery counselor. I don't think that it could be said any better than in the Big Book:
"We are not saints. The point is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines.The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection." From "How It Works", Alcoholics Anonymous.
But a sponsor is someone who has found a solution and serenity through Al-Anon and its twelve step program. I have faith, trust and confidence in my Sponsor to guide me to place my faith, trust and confidence in God as I understand him. It is my responsibility to seek guidance and direction from my HP in addition to seeking guidance and direction from my sponsor. I need God to help me when I work with others. I need the patience and compassion to not direct but to suggest.
This is all that is and should be required to meet a responsibility and fulfill a commitment to Sponsor, if someone has accepted such a commitment.
I believe that every Al-Anon member has the responsibility to perform 12 Step Work. However, not everyone has to or should be a Sponsor. I think that sponsorship is not a vocation, career, or full time occupation. Undoubtedly, sponsorship requires commitment and responsibilities but if we place the requirements and responsibilities of Sponsorship too high, we will have no Sponsors. I believe that it it is a privilege to sponsor someone. And it's one of the ways we keep what we have in our recovery. Every person I sponsor has taught me a lot about myself. I am most grateful to them for the trust that they have in me.