The 13th Step film on Amazon.

The 13th Step film on Amazon.

I thought this was a good time to mention the 13th step film by Monica Richardson, which is now available to watch on Amazon, which will make it available to a much wider audience. Amazon has also released “One Little Pill” by Claudia Christian and sells a huge number of great books on the subject. I feel the existance of Amazon has really helped me get well, as it was impossible to find helpful literature on “recovery” in most shops when I started my journey a decade ago. Last year I went to a screening of the film in London and it went down well with the audience. I wrote a review of the night on and have copied it here. I would urge you to watch this video, whatever side of the fence you are on with regard to AA. The world has changed since the structure of AA was devised and safety is in issue that should not be ignored.

Monica Richardson_Mayfair_Hotel

13th step review after London screening.

“This is a film that had to be made.” That was the verdict of a long-time AA member as he congratulated filmmaker Monica Richardson following the recent London screening of Richardson’ s film, “The 13th Step”. That seemed to be the reaction from most of those who attended the screening, including myself; both active members of AA and those who have moved on from the fellowship seemed to feel this documentary was one that was a long time in coming.

Members of the British press, film and television industry, many of whom are not in any way directly part of recovery from addiction, were also impressed, and the film has already won “Best Documentary” accolades at the Beverly Hills Film Festival. I hope “The 13th Step” goes on to win more awards and to be distributed to a wider audience. The message it conveys is important, although uncomfortable for some. For those who don’t know, “13th stepping” refers to the practice of long-term members of Alcoholics Anonymous preying sexually on newcomers or those in early sobriety.

I’d been aware of Richardson for a few years now and have seen her determination to bring attention to the potential dangers faced by vulnerable people in the 12-step recovery world. When I first met her she was still an active member of AA and had been running workshops to stop 13th-stepping in LA after becoming aware of these problems within the fellowship. She attempted to make changes from within AA, but frustrated by a lack of progress, she left the organization. Richardson went on to set up several websites aimed at ending 13th-stepping and has actively campaigned against the lack of safeguards in AA. She has appeared on TV shows such as Katie Couric’s talk show and CBS’ “48 Hours: The Sober Truth.”

What ‘The 13th Step’ Is About

“The 13th Step” contains dreadful stories from those who have been abused after meeting men in AA meetings. Some will say that this is rare in AA, and that it could happen anywhere, but they are missing the point. People are often vulnerable when they join the fellowship, making them a natural target of predatory behavior. We have seen this happen in other venues, for sure, most notably the Catholic Church, which have had to finally make changes and acknowledge difficult truths. I feel the 12-step world needs to do the same. AA is no longer a fellowship of middle-aged, male, low-bottom drunks, as it was in the 1930s. But it has not updated its traditions or literature to reflect this.

The film also contains interviews with experts in non-12-step recovery who talk about some more modern solutions, as well as interviews with an AA member who admits that most people leave the program quite early. These parts of the film could be especially useful to people who don’t know much about alternatives to AA in recovery. AA seems to have become stuck in that past and too resistant to change. Many long-time members who could influence change are more interested in discussing dogma rather than the safety of newcomers; this could lead to even bigger problems in the future if action is not taken. I would like to see Richardson’s film shown at AA conventions, where current members can discuss the issues raised. It would also provoke discussion at the local level, in meetings, and this could have an effect in improving safety as well.

Some say the film is simply AA-bashing, but Richardson told me that the AA head office was given a chance to give their point of view, but declined, saying it was an issue the organization. The film does feature interviews with current AA members who seemed, based on my experience, fairly typical of long-term members of the fellowship, and this gives the film balance.

After seeing the London screening, many of us who came stayed on for a couple of hours to discuss what we’d seen. I spent quite a lot of time talking with UK members of AA who’d come to see the film. I respect them all, knowing they’re trying to help others beat alcoholism. I told them why I left AA and discussed some alternatives. There were also people from SMART Recovery(R) and others who had left formal support groups, having found the strength to live life without needing a program. Bringing people together is so important in recovery, as there’s no lack of petty rivalries, especially in online discussions. It was a powerful experience and one I have not felt since my early days of getting sober, when I felt a sense of power and belonging when I went to certain AA meetings. After Richardson’s film I again felt that same feeling of identification with others in recovery, but this time everybody — from all kinds of recovery solutions — was united and that was new and special. It was good to see people meeting together and respecting each other’s views and trying to support the changes that others are trying to make in their lives.

13th Step Trailer.


Commenting area

  1. She’s so so angry on her podcasts that it’s hard for me to imagine this documentary being close to fair. Maybe I’m wrong.

    • I think it is worth watching for people in AA, and there were quite a few at the London showing who thought it was important that these issues are raised. I have known Monica for a long time and when we were first in touch she was a member of AA trying to get some simple changes made to protect women. She was prevented from doing this by people who feel AA should never evolve, and who were not prepared to listen to a woman with over three decades of experience in the rooms. She left AA and started campaigning and has become a focal point for many who have suffered abuse in AA.

      There are many good people in AA, as with any religious type group but these type of groups often attract those with predatory instincts. That is a problem that needs to be addressed rather than simply swept under the carpet. Monica is certainly bitter about AA, more so than myself, but has had to deal with many accounts of ill treatment that could have been avoided, had some simple steps been taken. I think AA needs to to look at this film and take responsibility for making it’s members experience in the rooms as safe as possible and at least warning newcomers about certain pitfalls.

      The other issue is that there are more modern solutions to beat alcoholism, such as the Sinclair Method and it is imporatant that people hear about solutions that can help them. This type of information is supressed in AA and this holds back progress.

      The film is uncomfortable to watch at times, but if it makes people look out for others in the rooms or makes it harder for predators to exist in AA then that is a good thing.

      Now people have a chance to see it and can certainly comment on it here if they want. There have been many comments by people on certain forums who have not seen it and are ready to trash anything that questions AA.

      • It was very empowering for me to watch Monica’s documentary. I started AA 25 years ago. I had many bad experiences. I did not like the meetings and felt worse after I left. I didn’t really believe in the 12 steps and when I questioned things I was ostracized or told “your in denial” and “you’ll never get better unless you worked the steps.” It would get so bad that I would leave AA for a year or two only to return because I didn’t know about the other alternatives out there. When I returned, the same types of bad experiences would re-occur. I didn’t like sponsors telling me what to do or how to live my life. I was told “you need to take directions from others or you will never get better.”
        I feel bitter towards the rehab industry and AA because I feel I’ve been completely hoodwinked. AA and the rehab industry needs to be honest with people and tell them upfront that AA only works for some people. They needs to promote other alternatives besides AA and the 12 steps.
        I am very grateful that when I started to get so many red flags I simply left the program. I never got overly involved with people. I have a family who supports me whether I go to AA or not. Had I not had that, I imagine I would of been victimized and abused like so many because that has been my pattern through out my life and is one of the reasons why I started drinking and using in the first place. I commend Monica for her film and so grateful I watched it. I feel now I’m not alone.

        • I felt a lot of relief when I realised there were many out there who had moved on from AA and done well. I did see some seedy characters there which does not surprise me. I also got to the point when I felt worse after going to meetings although they had helped in my early days.

  2. Watching right now. Well worth the wait. Im seeing many people and faces who ive read and the organization s they have founded.
    Im an x 12 step member now and this film is dead on . Thanks Monica..

  3. I found in my AA there was a mentality of if someone is behaving badly its because they are a sick alcoholic so you just have to put up with it.

  4. Just finished reading the AA expose.. sober truth. Lovely and refreshing to hear someone saying what you are thinking even though i thought it was a bit overly negative at times. I always found in AA the members are so blinkered if you tried to open up any critical dialogue what people tend to do is just say oh do not worry about it to..another slogan I heard from someone when i said i was not getting everything the big book was saying was..Think if you cant you can..which i can only guess means just blindly go along with it. some people are just plain uncomfortable with any talk which is rocking there boat. But I need to be compassionate as belief systems are the way some people surive through things it seems for some people its the only thing protecting them from complete destruction. I am happy I need not live in this fear any longer.

  5. 23 years of recovery and a lot of hell in those rooms. It’s time to recover now from the abuse of A.A. l never was a criminal or even close to one but until now l feel released from jail. I got sober the first time 23 years ago and never went back to drinking. But l was stuck in A.A meetings feeling like there is know way out. Now l know l will always have a place and friends but l don’t need to be abused and hurt by really insane and crimminals who are predators and are not interested in recovery or ever will. That’s my true awakening. Moving on but l will never forget the good years but there were way more hell years then l ever had before drinking. Thanks A.A. for a hand full of true recovered people and the rest well .oh well hopeful it won’t take other old timers 23 years to figure it out that there is a life after A.A.

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