The AA programme—the thing that helps us stay sober—consists of Twelve Steps. These are a bit of a complicated matter, but essentially they boil down to this: recognising that we need help, recognising that help is available (in the form of a system for staying sober), and then implementing that system, which involves looking at what does not work in our thinking and behaviour, rectifying that, and mending our side of broken relationships. We then help others. This system is supported by lots of service and fellowship (hanging out together, being open, and talking). From the individual's point of view, this is all you need to know, right now. There is a Higher Power, we believe, operating in the universe, but what this is is open to debate, and understanding it is certainly not necessary to make a start.
A sponsor is someone who has successfully completed the programme and is willing to show someone else how they apply the programme. The instructions for the programme are contained in the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, which was written in 1939, and, although people do try to do the Steps different ways, the best way in my experience is to do the Steps the original way. Typically men sponsor men and women sponsor women, partly because emotional and psychological identification is better. There are exceptions, however. It’s best to pick someone you feel comfortable with and feel you can trust.