But I thought there were only 12 steps… (aka: “How I Met Your Step-Father”)

Kids, yesterday’s post was a little on the heavy side and rather than continue in that vein, I thought I’d lighten it up a bit… with a topic which is actually much more serious than it sounds. Yes, kids, the infamous Thirteenth Step is not just the name of an album by A Perfect Circle. It was first defined to me as the 1st step plus the 12th step: “My life is unmanageable and I want to share it with you.” As shocking as it may be (where is that sarcasm font when you need it?), alcoholics aren’t the best at building healthy relationships. They have a tendency to be very clingy and codependent and don’t really have any concept of taking things slow. A common joke in AA circles goes “How can you tell an alcoholic is on their 2nd date? There’s a U-Haul in front of one of their houses.” Kids, I am happy to report it was at least the 4th or 5th date before your step-father moved in with me.

There is a reason why those new to sobriety are told to wait a year before they get into a relationship. Actually, the way I learned it was, “No big changes for the first year.” While a person is still counting their sobriety in months instead of years, they will go through amazing highs and lows in their search for their higher power and for themselves. The alcoholic’s “all or nothing” mentality goes hand-in-hand with thinking “this will last forever!” and it takes a while for him to fully grasp that “this too shall pass” applies to all aspects of his life, not just the urge to drink. It is very common for newcomers to find themselves in these idyllic relationships where they’re both in recovery and life is great and unicorns are shitting rainbows in their backyard and nothing will ever, ever tear us apart because we are SOUL MATES! Yeah. So two weeks later, when they break up, their whole world falls apart because they realize that they have made that person their higher power and their higher power has failed them. I have seen far too many people go back out and drink over this. I always tell people not to get into a relationship early because we don’t even know who we are for the first couple years. “But you and Biggie…” Yeah, so obviously I know what I’m talking about! The fact that we are together 4+ years later is a miracle of the highest order (or a testament to our stubbornness). Those 4 years have NOT been pretty!

These newcomer hook-ups aren’t proper 13th steps, though, as they generally occur before either person has completed the first 12. The sad truth is that even after someone has been sober for some time, many of their character defects remain. And for some people, that means taking advantage of others by placing themselves into a position of loving authority over someone who doesn’t know better. Newcomers generally don’t know how to properly express gratitude, happiness, love, etc. Most alcoholics have come to learn “the only time people are nice to me is when they want something.” So, when they encounter those who show them love and compassion, they want to show their appreciation in the way they are accustomed… which for most young women means sex.

It takes quite a while for an alcoholic to fully realize just how much they have been hurting themselves over years of addiction. They truly believe it’s no big deal, perhaps even normal, to allow people to take advantage of them in exchange for the kindness they’ve been shown. It isn’t until they’ve worked through the steps a time or two that they come to realize just how badly they have treated themselves through these sorts of acts. This is why newcomers are urged – “Women work with women; men work with men.” It is all too easy for newcomers to be taken advantage of by sick people who know how to talk the talk. This doesn’t happen nearly as often as it could, but the fact that it happens at all is appalling. There is absolutely no reason I should have to get up in the face of a man with double-digit sobriety and scream at him to leave a suffering newcomer alone, but I have had to do just that (thankfully only once, so far).

My name is Laurie and I am an alcoholic. I do not follow instructions well AT ALL, so I have to learn everything the hard way, especially regarding relationships. But no, kids, I didn’t REALLY thirteenth step your step-father as we were both in early recovery when we hooked up.

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