Are 12-Step Meetings Safe: The Truth about the 13th Step

Are 12-Step Meetings Safe: The Truth about the 13th Step

The 13th Step

First and foremost, let me say that I don’t like writing about this. I’m a member of twelve-step recovery and have nothing but respect for all the fellowships. There are, however, some shady characters in the rooms of recovery. I’m talking, of course, about people that 13th step newcomers.

At this point, if you’re not sober yourself, you may be wondering what exactly 13th stepping is. Simply put, the 13th step is when someone with sober-time takes sexual advantage of someone who’s new to the rooms of recovery.

13th step

Sounds pretty horrible, right? It is! Think about it, there are women who turn to AA, NA, etc. for help, only to fall victim to someone’s sick desires. There are women who seek out twelve-step recovery as their last hope, their final shot, and they end up being thirteenth stepped. It’s horrible in every sense of the word.

Women aren’t the only ones being taken of advantage of either. I’ve seen females with time practice the 13th step on male newcomers. Perhaps because of the stigma associated with being a male victim of sexual assault this isn’t talked about as much. I don’t know. What I do know is that all 13th stepping has to stop!

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The Anatomy of the 13th Step

While a thirteenth step can take many different forms, there are a few constants. For example, there’s always one person that’s new to the rooms and, more often than not, counting days. Sometimes you’ll hear of a man or woman with close to a year being thirteenth stepped. This is a bit more rare though.

There’s always one person that has time abstinent from alcohol or drugs. Now, don’t confuse abstinence with sobriety! Thirteenth stepping is definitely not spiritual. Anyone who engages in it isn’t really sober. Rather, they’re practicing old behavior while not drinking. To put it another way, they’re dry.

Usually, the person with time will cozy up with the newcomer. They’ll say they’re trying to help the newcomer. They’ll say they have nothing but the newcomer’s best intentions at heart. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sometimes you’ll hear of two newcomers practicing the thirteenth step on each other. This doesn’t happen as often as someone with time taking advantage of someone without time. It has been known to occur though.

13th Stepping is Old Behavior

As mentioned above, the 13th step is nothing but old behavior. It’s a sure sign that a person isn’t living by spiritual principles. It’s also related to the idea that sobriety is about much more than simply not drinking.

I was taught early on, and have continued to see in my life, that quitting booze or drugs isn’t enough. Don’t misunderstand, no growth or healing can take place until we’ve put the plug in the jug. After that, though, is when the real work begins.

Sobriety, and by extension serenity, are directly proportional to the amount of work you put in. The work I’m talking about takes the form of the twelve-steps and unselfish, constructive action.

So, is engaging in the thirteenth step old behavior? It absolutely is. Is engaging in the thirteenth step proof that someone isn’t in recovery, but rather biding time until their next drink? It 100% is.

Speaking of shady stuff, learn about the prevalence of addiction in addiction medicine

Solutions to the 13th Step

thirteenth step

All the above information is well and good but, and this is the heart of any discussion around the thirteenth step, how do we end it? How can we, as men and women with long-term sobriety, protect those who enter the rooms of recovery looking for hope and peace?

Well, the easiest way is to simply start a dialogue around the thirteenth step. That is to say, let’s make it public knowledge when someone preys on a newcomer. Let’s make sure that everyone knows to stay away from that person.

Now I’m not saying we should exile a thirteenth stepper from AA or NA. Remember, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking or drugging. Rather, we should make sure that everyone knows they’re up to no good. We should make no bones about letting those new to the rooms know to stay away from them.

If we begin to have this type of public discourse about sexual predators in the rooms, then we’ll begin to see real change. It’s my belief that this is the only way to see things change for the better.

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