Written By: Fiona Stockard

13th Step? I Thought There Were Only 12

13th step

Ah, the sneaky little 13th Step. The little talked about, but widely known, practice of being a shady motherf**ker. One of the reasons to stay away from clubhouses. The reason for that old saying, men with men and women with women.

At this point, you may be scratching your head and wondering “thirteenth step? I thought there were only twelve-steps?” You’re not alone. Although 13th stepping is as old as AA itself, it isn’t talked about much. So, what is this 13th step?

13th stepping is the practice of someone with sober-time doing the dirty with a newcomer. It’s when someone with multiple years bumps uglys with someone with multiple days. Tired of these lame ass metaphors? Yeah, me too. 13th stepping is when some who knows better f**ks someone who doesn’t know better.

Sounds shady as hell, right? IT IS! Despite being almost as unspiritual as drinking, it’s still fairly common, especially in areas with lots of young, sober people.

Isn’t That Old Behavior?

So, we know what 13th stepping is (you still gagging? Yeah, me too). Now, the million-dollar question, why do people do it?

Why do people who are trying to “practice these principals in all our affairs” engage in such harmful behavior? Why do people, trying to grow in the image and likeness of their own God, prey on newcomers? S**t, I wish I had an easy answer for you.

There are probably a million reasons. First, remember that not everyone in recovery is a saint. A sober horse thief is still a horse thief. To put it another way, a sober predator is still a predator.

Just because someone has time, well, that doesn’t mean they’re working a program. The rooms of recovery are filled with scumbags. They’re also filled with, hands down, the best people on earth. Sadly though, the scumbags are sometimes more prevalent.

Sex feels good and there are always going to be people trying to feel good. There are always going to be people interested only in selfish satisfaction, even if AA attempts to teach us different.

Some people may not think what they’re doing is wrong. My friend’s sponsor is a great guy. He helps a ton of men and has been sober since the 80’s. He does service and makes sure the hand of AA is always available. Still, he hooked up with his wife when he had a year and she had a few days. Did he think he was 13th stepping? Probably not. They’re still together, and sober, so it worked out.

However, most of the time, the story doesn’t end with happily ever after. Most of the time, someone relapses. Usually it’s the newcomer being preyed upon. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, it’s the assh**e taking advantage of the newcomer. I mean, they’re not living by spiritual principals, anyway!

How Do We Stop 13th Stepping?

Again, I wish I had an easy answer for you. Like most harmful things in life, stopping 13th stepping is complicated. It requires education, patience, and some good ideas. Hey, good ideas? I have a few of those!

First, and this is already common practice, newcomers should stick with their own gender. The saying “women with women and men with men” was invented for a reason. In early sobriety, limit the amount of time you spend with members of the opposite sex. It’ll take your focus off God, trust me, I know. So ladies, if a guy approaches you and says he’ll sponsor you – kick him in the nuts and run away! This applies to cute guys, too!

Next, there should be education about 13th stepping. I certainly didn’t know what it was when I came into recovery. Lots of people may know about 13th stepping, but they’re not talking about it. Let’s get a dialogue going! Let’s get people sharing who tried to take advantage of them. That way, newcomers will know to stay away from those people.

Finally, I think clubhouses should have a no-tolerance policy. If someone is a known predator, kick ‘em out! I don’t care if this person has fifty years sober. Like I said above, a sober predator is still a predator!

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