The 13th Step

Looking for Love at AA

MY LAST FULL-TIME boyfriend was an alcoholic. I'd dated drunky-pants losers before him, but none had fucked up their lives as royally as Martin. (Names have been changed.) Booze had cost him jobs, a habitable apartment, friends, and, eventually, me.

After I dumped his sorry ass, I resolved to only date sober boys. I fantasized about skipping last call, already being at home in my bed with my new, non-beer-farting boyfriend. We'd enjoy coffee beverages and perhaps engage in a fitness activity! Our love would not involve sloppy, vodka-fueled makeouts in alleys and the furtive vomit that sometimes follows.

So where better to find sober guys than at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? It seemed a larky idea, but little did I know I'd stumbled onto a hot new dating trend. Even though mining the 12-step circle for tail is officially frowned upon, everyone's doing it! One of my friends met a man there. Another source informed me that his father had married a woman through a 12-step program. Still another friend's ex-wife snagged herself a husband (who happened to be an ex-rock star!), and they beat their addiction in tandem. Maybe my future rock star was sitting on a metal folding chair in a smoke-choked church basement somewhere!

The only problem was, I didn't have a drug or alcohol program. Minor detail, thought I. Then I spoke to my old pal Buzz, an AA veteran who had a different take on things: "My sponsor advised me that all the women I'd meet there would be crazy, and while it was OK to hook up with them, I wouldn't want to get serious with anyone I met there." So it's just crazy women; the men I'd meet there would be perfectly sane, right? I asked hopefully. "Crazy is not gender- specific. It seemed fairly evenly divided." Oh.

But it still appeared to be the perfect dating scenario?a room full of people all talking about their feelings and working to better themselves. "I wouldn't call it dating," Buzz smirked. Oh no, what would you call it? "Predatory scamming." Oh, again.

Then Buzz told me about something called "the 13th step." That's where old-timers mack on the vulnerable, fresh new blood. Getting romantically involved with someone before you have a year's worth of sobriety under your belt is an AA no-no. "Do people actually follow that rule?" I quizzed. "Not willingly," he scoffed.

That's not to say there aren't other hazards to dating within the recovery niche. I asked one AA advocate if she'd ever found love among the Friends of Bill. "I had," she admitted. "But then he relapsed."

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