What is the 13th Step of AA?

by | Published on Sep 28, 2021 | 12 Step Programs | 0 comments

What is the 13th Step of AA?

Home » 12 Step Programs » What is the 13th Step of AA?

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are incredibly well-known and their reach extends far beyond addiction recovery circles. Even if you know nothing about substance abuse or the pursuit of sobriety, you’re very likely aware of AA and its prolific dozen rules. The mention of a thirteenth step then can be a bit baffling. It is not, as you might initially think, a secret bonus instruction or an unspoken rule among members. In this article, we’ll highlight precisely what the infamous 13th step is, why it’s harmful, and how to avoid it.  

 

What Is The 13th Step?

The twelfth and final step of AA encourages members to help others and contribute towards the organization as others did for them. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous individuals use this as a guise to engage in predatory behavior. 

The 13th Step of AA is an unofficial term referring to longer-standing members attempting some sort of romantic involvement with 12 Step newcomers (newcomers are considered those who’ve been sober for less than a year). Under the guise of offering help as a well-established member, these bad eggs known pejoratively as ‘13th-steppers’ take advantage of the vulnerability of those new-to-recovery and treat them as a dating pool. 

Having experienced the lows of addiction and addiction recovery themselves, the “old-timers” are perfectly aware that the newbies are likely feeling extremely vulnerable when they first come through AA’s doors. They likely have low self-esteem, a limited support network, and have difficulty setting boundaries. The 13th-steppers may offer to be your sponsor, manipulatively offering words of comfort and a sympathetic ear to individuals often starved for positive social interaction.

 

Why Romance & Recovery Don’t Mix (At least, not at first)

While it’s nothing new for people in positions of authority to abuse a power dynamic, it’s particularly insidious when it involves those who are new to recovery. Yes, the exploitation itself is obviously problematic but romantic relationships can be highly detrimental to the recovery process. In fact, A.A. strongly discourages members from pursuing these relationships (especially with one another). 

 

Distracting & Time Consuming

The first year of recovery–when one is considered a newcomer–is easily the most important. It’s a time for individuals to focus on themselves and instill better habits and ways of thinking. It is this intense period of re-connecting with oneself that sets the stage for lasting sobriety. Relationships very quickly get in the way of that. 

They require time and energy–energy that, for a newcomer, would be much better spent on self-improvement. Dating too early in recovery is a major distraction that brings healing to halt. In the case of a 13th stepper, this relationship is one built on manipulation and will bring few, if any, real benefits to the newcomer. 

 

Dealing With Fallout

The other risk of getting invested in a relationship is the very likely possibility of it ending (and badly). Since 13th steppers typically engage in their twisted behavior for non-authentic reasons, the majority of these predatory relationships are rarely long-term. To a vulnerable person, this breakup could be devastating. At best, the newcomer might no longer feel comfortable attending those particular meetings. At worst, the emotional stress could be enough to trigger a relapse or cause them to abandon recovery entirely.

 

No Organization Is Perfect

As an organization with no real ruling body, each group has nearly full autonomy to develop their own customs and cultures. Some can lose their way (as is alleged of this Washington-based AA chapter). However, these ill-intentioned individuals don’t make up the majority of Alcoholics Anonymous members.

Trust your instincts when it comes to finding a 12 step group that feels right. You may need to attend several groups before you do (and it’s totally normal!). No matter what, certainly don’t return to group meetings where you don’t feel comfortable, because of 13th steppers or otherwise. 

Written by: Tyler Fordham

Written by: Tyler Fordham

Tyler is a writer with dual degrees from the University of South Florida. Having grown up with an alcoholic father, she understands both the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that addiction can affect the family unit. This Miami native has become a champion of mental health and an active believer in the power of positive thinking. When she isn't at the beach, Tyler enjoys running, jigsaw puzzles, and snuggling with her cat, Poof.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Going to Your First AA Meeting

If you've decided that Alcoholics Anonymous could be helpful for your recovery but have no idea what to expect or how it works, this article will guide you to your first AA meeting.  What to Expect from Your First AA Meeting Be prepared for some level of...

What Are You Supposed to Say When Making Amends in AA?

Making amends is a vital part of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It's one of the 12 steps that every AA member needs to complete. Not only does making amends help you get over past mistakes, but it also helps repair your relationships with other people. However, some...

Reading Guide for ‘We Agnostics’

The target audience for “We Agnostics” is relatively easy to define. (aga7ta/Shutterstock) Groups such as AA and NA have many detractors, people who believe that they are religious organizations or even cults. This misconception extends to 12-based treatment centers,...

Follow Us

24/7 Help for Drug & Alcohol Use

If you or someone you love is suffering from the addiction, there is no reason to delay. Start working on a solution today. Our phones are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our staff are trained to deal with drug and alcohol problems of any kind, and will recommend the right treatment for you based on your situation. Call now!

(888) 447-7724

Related Articles

Going to Your First AA Meeting
Going to Your First AA Meeting

If you've decided that Alcoholics Anonymous could be helpful for your recovery but have no idea what to expect or how it works, this article will guide you to your first AA meeting.  What to Expect from Your First AA Meeting Be prepared for some level of...

read more
What Are You Supposed to Say When Making Amends in AA?
What Are You Supposed to Say When Making Amends in AA?

Making amends is a vital part of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It's one of the 12 steps that every AA member needs to complete. Not only does making amends help you get over past mistakes, but it also helps repair your relationships with other people. However, some...

read more
Reading Guide for ‘We Agnostics’
Reading Guide for ‘We Agnostics’

The target audience for “We Agnostics” is relatively easy to define. (aga7ta/Shutterstock) Groups such as AA and NA have many detractors, people who believe that they are religious organizations or even cults. This misconception extends to 12-based treatment centers,...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Amethyst Recovery Center