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All About the 13th Step in AA Meetings

by | Last updated Oct 2, 2020 at 2:47PM | Published on Mar 26, 2020 | Drug Addiction


First and foremost, this isn’t an attack on 12-step groups out there. However, as someone who’s part of a 12-step program, I feel the need to share the bad apples that often visit these meetings. I’m talking about something called the 13th step.

What’s the 13th Step?

Also known as 13th stepping, this is not an official part of AA meetings (or any 12 step program). This happens when someone who’s been over for over a year tries to start a sexual relationship with someone in early recovery. These forms of romantic relationships occur in AA groups. However, they’re often discouraged as they can’t be harmful to those in early sobriety.

On occasions, the person with years of sobriety might make sexual advances on those struggling with staying sober.

The Dangers of 13th Stepping

While a thirteenth step can take many different forms, there are a few constants. For example, there’s always one person that’s a new aa member. Usually, the person with time will cozy up with the newcomer. They’ll say they’re trying to help the newcomer. It’s important to know that both men and women can fall victim to this practice.

These are some of the dangers 13th stepping has on group members:

  • New sexual relationships can be distracting and impact your sober time
  • When relationships fail, newcomers tend to use it to justify a relapse
  • The practice keeps people away from meetings

The Role of Addictive Personality

There are a set of characteristics that make people prone to addiction. In the same way, people who become sober can still be susceptible to 13th steeping behavior. Those who have addictive personalities encourage this type of behavior. Some of these aspects include:

  • A tendency to act impulsively
  • Inability to delay gratification
  • Feelings of alienation from other people
  • High tolerance for deviance
  • Fall for highly-insecure relationships

Once a man or woman becomes sober, these character flaws start to chip away. Failing to move on their addiction treatment can lead them to destructive behaviors like 13th stepping. 12-step programs aim to provide individuals the tools to avoid these addictive behaviors and find long-term recovery.

Solutions to the 13th Step

The way to prevent and fight 13th stepping is by challenging addictive personality behaviors. If you or someone you know is looking for ways to avoid it, remember:

  • Sexual relationships are acceptable, only when both partners are committed to their sobriety
  • Sexual relations with sponsors are off-the-table as they can damage the sponsor-sponsee relationship
  • Newcomers should avoid sexual relationships within the first year of recovery
  • Flirting is normal and often harmless, but beware of flirtations meaning something else
  • Beware of sexual predators who filter through AA groups

Commit to Recovery

If you or someone you love is in early sobriety, having the right support system is paramount. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our aftercare treatment programs offer the support you need to maintain your sobriety and continue building the skills and coping tools you need to longterm sobriety.

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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