top of page
  • Writer's pictureMike and Glenn

The 12 steps are enough – love relationships in AA.

When we came through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for the first time, we were severely ill. We were sick individuals seeking healing. We quickly surmised that people of the same sort surrounded us. We learned that vulnerability became an asset, not a liability, if appropriately channeled. We found that the more we were open and honest, the more recovery came. This put us in an uncomfortable position, but we forged ahead, desperate for repair. We slid across the thin ice, trusting in the process – trusting in the program and trusting in the people. Over time we have come to appreciate that we were the rule and not the exception.

Today's rant addresses the dangers, some truths, and our sharp criticism about what is referred to as the “13th step”. defines the extracurricular advance as: “The act of “13th Stepping” is when a more experienced member of a 12-Step group – man or woman – pursues a romantic relationship with a new group member.”

For many reasons, and with no exceptions, we stand firmly against “pursuing” a romantic relationship with a vulnerable, at-risk, defenseless human of the same sex, the opposite sex, or the identification of their choosing. In the community of AA, there is simply no room for praying to the weak – and that is exactly what a newer group member is.

“But, I am human.”

A dog in heat will hump a fire hydrant, whereas a mature human will act more civilized (we expect).

We totally understand that we possess a sex drive. We also acknowledge the desire to be in deep relationships with other humans and feel the world has ample opportunity for us to fit that need; one can go to a house of prostitution, a strip club, a singles bar, or a local library. Don’t attend an AA meeting or event to satisfy this basic need.

If AA is our only choice to find romance, we must check ourselves at the door. What is our motive? How can we best be of service to ourselves and others? For we know the answers to these questions when we ask them with a pure heart.

“But, It was consensual.”

Fair enough if both parties are in a genuine and legitimate position of stability and a healthy mental state. Can a hindered person truly consent?

The courts have weighed in on many a claim of perceived consent. Time after time, they have decided that the weak, immature, and vulnerable can not consent.

Though some of us possess the character asset we call charm and know how and when to turn it on, it doesn’t mean it cannot be used destructively. In the real world, charming could be described as grooming (the practice of preparing or training someone for a particular purpose or activity.) or predatory.

Our rule is to stick with the focus on sobriety and keep sex off the table and out of the rooms.

“But, I have seen it work out.”

Stick around; it seldom works.

What we are talking about here is the experienced/newer relationship, NOT two emotionally sober (which takes, if ever, years to reach) people here. There are differences and opportunities when talking about emotional adults. We trust the reader has recognized our view that new people (new to the program) should be off limits regardless of one’s own length of sobriety.

“But it’s my business.”

Sobriety, our own and that of others should be the only business conducted within the walls of this proven program.

When engaged in a deeper relationship, there is deeper responsibility by default.

And responsibility should be considered for all those involved and AA as a whole, as bad actions and accounts of predatory behavior spread like wildflowers in a fertile field.

Imagine, if you will, that a desperate, maybe suicidal, individual jumps online to check the credibility of Alcoholics Anonymous and unearths the noise left behind by somebody who has been taken advantage of. With few options, there is no telling how that story might end.

We keep this mental cheat sheet handy as we enter the doors of AA:

  1. AA is a safe place to seek mental, physical, and spiritual healing. Not a place to find new love. Those attending meetings and events are damaged and vulnerable, and any pursuit beyond supporting their restoration is exploitative and shameful.

  2. Sex-driven relationships are distractive and detrimental in early recovery. Most who have succeeded in AA have lived by the rule that no new relationship be started within the first year of recovery. This rule seems to work well. It takes discipline but pays rewards.

  3. One failure can lead to two failures quickly, as one who is drowning is in no position to help another drowning individual. If two frightened, inexperienced, and panicked people are drowning in a lake, they need a life raft, not a love partner. We have seen a high rate of relapse when relationship supersedes recovery.

  4. The act of pursuit-for-selfish-gain damages AA as a whole. It goes against everything the organization stands for. In this information-sharing era we live in, one misstep can affect thousands. In 1982, 8 bottles of Tylenol were tampered with and poisoned. Seven people died. As a result, over 30 million bottles of the pain relief medication were pulled from the market. It took years (and changes in protective measures) to rebuild trust in the wonder drug.

So, we act responsibly in love and authentic support, as our primary purpose is to stay sober and help the next struggling alcoholic achieve sobriety.

May that kind of love be with you and surround you today.


Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from a podcast titled #120 R.E.S.P.E.C.T. and the 13th step”....The podcast dropped on 7/12/2023. Click here to hear the podcast.


Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page