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  • Writer's pictureJennifer McCrackin

 A Cautionary Tale: Beware of the 13th Steppers

Addiction treatment

Would you recognize a predator in your own 12-Step group? Recently I was doing some research for an article and I came across the term “thirteenth-stepping” on quite a few web sites. Never having heard of it before, my interest was piqued: What is this lesser-known step and what exactly does it mean? 13th Stepping Defined Simply put, the 13th Step is a colloquial term for when a 12-Step old-timer hits on a group newcomer with less than a year of sobriety. It can be for a variety of reasons — emotional, financial, physical – but either way, it’s someone in a position of power trying to take advantage of someone who is weaker. Despite what you may think, these predators aren’t just limited to men – all sexes and gender preferences can fall into this category. And, unfortunately, AA meetings give these perpetrators the perfect opportunity to work their disgusting magic.

Think about it;newbies in recovery are the ideal “fresh meat” for predators. They’re vulnerable and lonely. Their self-esteem is low and the boundaries they’ve established aren’t very strong. Thirteen-steppers know this and prey on these easy targets for their own personal gain. They’ll cozy up with the newcomer at each meeting, offer a shoulder to cry on and say they just want to help. Because they’ve been around the block once or twice, these individuals already know all the right things to say and all the right moves to make. It’s all too easy, then, to get sucked in. Sadly, many newbies find themselves romantically involved with a 13th stepper during their first few months of recovery. The Damage Done This can be detrimental to recovery for several reasons. First, staying sober needs to be one’s top priority, and those in recovery are strongly advised to refrain from entering into a sexual relationship for the first year.

That first year is crucial because it’s a time designed for self-betterment; a time to reclaim that lost sense of self. Once a romantic interest is added to the mix, however, the focus shifts off that person and onto another, thereby jeopardizing his or her recovery. That first year is crucial because it’s a time designed for self-betterment; a time to reclaim that lost sense of self. In addition, a relationship with a 13-stepper is rarely long-term, so once things turn sour (as they most often do), the newcomer might use this as justification to relapse back to his or her addiction. Finally, newbies getting hit on by old-timers often end up feeling violated, and the thought of going back to meetings may leave a bad taste in their mouths. They may even abandon recovery completely due to this bad experience. If you happen to spot someone at a meeting who could fall into this category, go the other way. The 13th step is nothing but old behavior. These individuals are often referred to as “dry drunks” because even though they’re not drinking, they still haven’t overcome that stinking thinking one uses in active addiction. It’s also a sign that they aren’t invested in their own recovery – and no one who is focused on long-term sobriety has time for that. Additional Reading: Are AA Members Responsible for Influencing Each Other’s Behaviors? Of Course!

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