Light-hearted and flirtatious at best, manipulative, exploitative and potential devastating at its worst, the “13th Step” is an unfortunate residual threat to new members of any recovery based community; whether in groups or online.
The phrase ‘13th Stepping’ was coined way back, with the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous, and is defined as a senior or more experienced member of the recovery group, man or woman, who exploit the trust of newcomers, taking advantage of their vulnerabilities for sexual gain. With the growth of social media, the epidemic has infiltrated most, if not all, recovery communities and doesn’t just exist within the confines of the AA or NA program. Within any society that features large numbers and cultural diversity you will always get a few creeps – it’s a sad but true fact – but you can avoid being sucker punched by first accepting that 13th Stepping exists, and staying vigilant.
The practice and its effects infuriate me, because new members of any recovery circle want, and need, to feel safe, secure and trusting in those scary early days, and have enough to worry about. Having some slime ball manipulate and exploit that trust is despicable, and can scare people away from their group, and recovery as well.
It may have been suggested to you to try and stay well away from new relationships within the first 12 months of recovery and for good reason. Something as emotive as a new relationship will distract you from your primary goal of sustaining your sobriety through your chosen program of recovery. If the relationship breaks down, and from what I can tell very few survive, it can lead to extreme emotional pain, and more often than not, relapse.
If you feel you are being harassed by someone in your group, don’t suffer in silence, let someone who has a senior standing know. In some odd cases, the aggressor may not even know that they are overstepping your boundaries, so make it clear what those boundaries are, and you should be able to move forward. But in most cases, the perpetrator will be full aware of what they are doing, and continue until you either relent to their advances or make you feel so insecure within your supposed ‘secure’ environment, that you leave.
Remain vigilant, ask questions, speak up when you feel threatened, and resist those advances in the first 12 months of your journey without substance. Focus 100% on your recovery and, in time, you will come to understand the true meaning of what being involved in a relationship really means, starting with yourself, and it is so much more than some tacky, seedy thrill which can derail your recovery.
Back off 13th Steppers… you’ve been warned!
Lots of love Andrew