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 Addiction.com 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.
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.