The programs of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are 12 Step programs. Twelve-step programs are organizations that were created for recovery from substance abuse. The first twelve-step program that was created is Alcoholics Anonymous; it was created in the 1930s.

The 12 Steps were created to establish guidelines to help those that were struggling with alcoholism overcome their addiction to alcohol. Because the 12-steps and program helped so many people in its early years, today there are a lot of 12-step programs available for several different addictions and compulsive behaviors.

What is the "13th Step" in Recovery?

Is There a 13th Step in Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous?

The “13th Step” is not officially part of any 12-step program. The definition of “13th stepping” is when an individual who has over a year of sobriety attempts to develop a sexual relationship with someone who is brand new in recovery, or who has less than a year of sobriety. When you join a 12-step program, you are strongly advised against starting a relationship of any kind for at least the first year of your recovery.

The Dangers of 13th Stepping

Starting a relationship of any kind, especially a sexual relationship, when you are new in recovery can be dangerous for several reasons. Here is a list of some of those reasons.

  • When you are new in recovery, you are very vulnerable. For someone, that has been in recovery, to take advantage of a newcomer is exploitative.
  • Starting a new relationship, especially a sexual relationship, can distract you from sustaining recovery.
  • If the relationship doesn’t work out, the potential for relapse is there, and this gives the newcomer justification to relapse.
  • It can drive new members away. This is a betrayal of trust.
  • 13th-stepping can damage the reputation of the program and individual meeting groups.
  • It can make a newcomer feel very unsafe and like they can’t trust the program or anyone in it.

The act of 13th Stepping is detrimental to anyone that is involved. It is detrimental to the program and specific meeting groups.

How Do You Protect Yourself from 13th Stepping?

There are several ways to protect yourself from 13th Stepping. Here are some things you can do:

  • It is best to stick with a sponsor of the same sex if you are heterosexual and of the opposite sex if you are homosexual.
  • If any sponsor in the program makes sexual advances towards you, it is very important to end the relationship immediately. Sponsors are there to help support you and give you advice only. Any other behavior can be damaging to the newcomer.
  • Newcomers’ priority should be their sobriety, so any sexual relationships should be avoided in the first year of recovery. Sexual relationships put the newcomer at too much risk.
  • Flirting is normal to an extent, but if the flirtatious behavior is making the newcomer feel uncomfortable, they should immediately talk with their sponsor about it. Their sponsor will be able to give them advice on how to deal with the behavior.
  • The only time it is acceptable to have a sexual relationship with another member of the program is when both parties are secure in their recovery and both have at least a year of sobriety under their belts. Sometimes even a year of sobriety isn’t enough depending on where each party is in their recovery.

AA meetings and groups, on the whole, are safe, but if you attend a meeting and notice any unethical behavior, it would be best to find a new meeting to attend. People in recovery are far from perfect; no one is perfect, but if you witness this type of behavior, especially right off the bat, it would be in your best interest to get away from it immediately.

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Published on: 2020-09-18
Updated on: 2024-04-18