13th Step in Recovery

Most people are familiar with the term “12 Steps” even if they are not in recovery and even if they don’t know exactly what they are. Those who are or have been in recovery and part of a 12 Step fellowship are probably familiar with the 13th Step in Recovery.

The 13th Step in Recovery Defined

The 13th Step in Recovery is not actually part of the formal 12 Steps of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), NA (Narcotics Anonymous), or CA (Cocaine Anonymous) but is a slang term that is tossed around by members that refers to people with significant time in sobriety hitting on or dating newcomers – those who are brand new or relatively new to the fellowship, and therefore sobriety.

Dating in Recovery

There are no dating rules in 12 Step fellowships; however, it is strongly suggested to wait a full year before engaging in an intimate relationship with anyone. The idea behind this is, when you are new to sobriety, you have a lot of personal issues to work on and getting into a relationship right away can derail your program. As alcoholics and addicts, we often deal with other issues such as codependency and low self-esteem.

Implications of the 13th Step in Recovery

Those who engage in the 13th Step in Recovery are seen as engaging in predatory behavior which takes advantage of the emotional instability of newcomers to the fellowship. Newcomers should be able to find safe harbor in one of the fellowships from the emotional turmoil of their recent past-lives in active addiction.

Thirteen Stepping, as it is also called, creates a differing power ratio where someone is gaining power over someone who is weaker, and it can endanger the sobriety of both parties. It is important to keep in mind that it is not a gender-specific phenomenon; all sexes and gender preferences can be predators.

The Dangers of 13th Step in Recovery

Also called Thirteenth Stepping, the 13th Step in Recovery is dangerous for a number of reasons:

When newly sober, you can be very vulnerable therefore it’s for others to take advantage of you; this is exploitative.

Early sobriety demands all of your attention. You can’t afford to be distracted by a new romantic relationship.

If things don’t work out, as is almost always the case with these types of relationships, you might use this as justification to relapse into addiction.

Often times, people who have abused alcohol and/or drugs because of past emotional and/or sexual trauma. By 13th Stepping someone, they are not able to feel safe in the meetings.

Progress in recovery means living an honest and ethical life. By participating in the 13th Step in Recovery, you are behaving in a way that is unethical and exploitative. That means your recovery program (your beliefs) are at odds with your actions and this often leads to dry drunk syndrome.

Those in the fellowship who are habitual 13th Steppers, meaning they move from one newcomer the next, are really sexual predators that can do a great deal of damage to the reputation of the fellowship. Moreover, they can get in the way of people achieving lasting sobriety.









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