What Does 13th Stepping Mean? - Garden State Treatment Center

Many people who have turned their lives over from addiction have the 12 Step programs to thank in finding a meaningful life in recovery. Not everyone that gets sober goes through AA or NA. This is not a recovery option that works for everyone, but for those who it does work for there can be spectacular results. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous offer far more than fellowship and support compared to S.M.A.R.T. recover – they also give the individual a program that they can use to rebuild their life. The fellowship is not perfect, but it doesn’t claim to be.

We are all imperfect people. If we weren’t imperfect, we wouldn’t have to go to recovery groups for addiction in the first place. That being said, Alcoholics Anonymous is made up of imperfect people who are mostly trying to improve their life. The only requirement for membership is a desire to quit drinking, and therefore, almost anyone can join. These groups are a melting pot. They are made up of people from every type of background, and some of them will not have the best intention for attending. There are even those individuals who join groups like AA so that they can exploit or take advantage of other members. One type of this is particularly disturbing, is referred to as 13th Stepping.

What Does 13th Stepping Mean?

What is 13th Stepping?

13th Stepping is not part of the step or the official program of Alcoholics Anonymous or any 12 Step group. It is said to occur when somebody who has more than a year of sobriety tries to start up a sexual relationship with somebody new in recovery – or less than a year sober. Sometimes relationships like this do develop in AA, but they are viewed negatively and are not a good idea for either of those involved.

The Dangers of 13th Stepping

13th stepping is dangerous for several reasons including:

  • When people are new to recovery and first become sober they can be highly vulnerable. So it is easy for other people to take advantage of them.
  • Early sobriety requires all of the individual’s attention. The reason why it is said not to get into a relationship within the first year.
  • When things don’t turn out right, there is a breakup, etc., as they almost always do with this type of relationship, the newcomer might use this as justification to relapse.
  • It can also put distrust in one, that has been taking advantage of, to getting help from anyone else.
  • Some may not feel safe in meetings when this is heard of the thing that happens to newcomers.
  • Some individuals in AA or NA move from one newcomer to the next. These sexual predators can do a great deal of damage to the reputation of the fellowship, and they can get in the way of people achieving lasting sobriety.

13th Stepping and the Addictive Personality

We hear about addictive personality a lot in recovery, especially in therapy. The addictive personality is a set of characteristics that make people more likely to fall into addiction. When people become sober they can still allow these characteristics to rule their life, and this makes them susceptible to 13th Stepping type behavior. The aspects of the addictive personality that encourage this include:

  • The tendency to act impulsively without thinking about the consequences of their actions.
  • Inability to delay gratification.
  • A feeling of alienation from other people.
  • Those who have low self-esteem may believe that their chance of developing a relationship is with those who are vulnerable.
  • They tend to be highly insecure in relationships, and this may mean that their relationships tend to be short-lived. This can mean that they move from one sexual encounter to the next.

Once people become sober and go through the 12 steps they need to continue to practice the steps in everyday life so that addictive behavior doesn’t creep back in. If they fail to do this they can fall into bad and destructive behaviors such as 13th stepping. The 12 step program aims to allow the individual to escape the addictive personality and find real happiness in life.

Addiction Treatment that Works

Garden State Treatment Center is an outpatient and partial care addiction treatment facility that offers nuanced levels of care for individuals struggling with the horrors of substance abuse. It is our explicit goal to help addicted clients rebuild their lives from the inside out and reintegrate themselves back into society.


  • What is the 13 Step?

Published on: 2020-09-09
Updated on: 2024-02-16