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regarding "13th stepping"

Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2023 6:06 pm
by Scott
There seems to be some large variance around what people consider appropriate or inappropriate as far as people making romantic connections in a recovery fellowship. And different ideas about what the term "13th stepping" means.

I want to share the approach used in my local AA fellowship when I was new, not because I think it's the one right way. There are surely many different workable approaches. This one was clearly explained to newcomers in my area and seemed to work really well in protecting newcomers, not shaming people, and respecting each other as adults.

Newcomers were told two things:
1) While you're a newcomer in your first year, it's a bad idea to start a new relationship and a really bad idea to start one with another newcomer. You'd both be highly vulnerable to relapse. FIrst things first. Maintain sobriety, get solid ground under your feet.
2) Once you have a year of sobriety, if you are seeking a relationship, leave the newcomers alone. Anyone with less than a year is off limits. No "13th stepping" (which got the name when people who'd completed the twelve steps and achieved a year's sobriety were eager to get into a relationship, sometimes with vulnerable newcomers who looked up to them.)

Most of my fellows, friends, and our sponsor network bought into this. People didn't mess with newcomers. And it worked. An amazing number of newcomers achieved long-term sobriety in that area. Coming from that background, I came to highly respect that approach.

If newcomers ignore the "first year" advice, we couldn't control that. I don't call that 13th stepping. If longer-term members (a year or more off games) connect with each other (or try to), that's okay. They're adults! I don't call that 13th stepping. Even if they do it in an unhealthy way, that's not 13th stepping to me. That's just recovering addicts making mistakes along the way.

In recovery we all need to learn how to respect other people's boundaries and set good boundaries for ourselves. Yes, let's discourage longer-term members from taking advantage of people vulnerable in their first year. But otherwise, we're responsible adults and fellows who can speak up for ourselves and communicate necessary boundaries, with the help of our support systems.