Ask Katie: Is the One Year Rule in AA Worth Breaking?

This piece is part of the regular Ask Katie* advice column series at The Fix.


Dear Katie,

I’ve been in recovery for about three years, with a month or so of sobriety after a recent relapse. A new girl recently started attending my home group, and I’ve found that I have an easier time talking to her than I do with most people. The problem is that I’m starting to view her as more than a friend. I don’t know if the one-year rule on relationships applies to relapses, but it’s a moot point since the girl in question has less than a month. My sponsor doesn’t even think that I should be friends with her, but I can’t imagine finding anyone else that I connect with this well. What should I do? Are there exceptions to the relationship rule? Am I really not even allowed to be her friend? This isn’t some predatory 13th step thing, I really like this girl. Please tell me there’s some way to pursue this without selfishly jeopardizing her sobriety. I don’t want to put her at risk, but I hate the thought of not talking to her anymore. I guess I just don’t like the idea that doing right by someone I care about means not being in her life.

I know you’ll probably have to edit this question for length if you publish it, but I hope you’ll still consider everything I’ve said. I’ve never been this torn over somebody before. And frankly, it’s giving me some pretty strong resentments against AA. Being sober shouldn’t mean that I’m not allowed to feel like I’m worth anything to anyone.

Congratulations on a month sober and on the three years you put together before that. I know how hard it can be to get back into the rooms after a relapse, and you should be commended on doing that work.

For those who are unfamiliar with 12-step programs and this so-called rule, let me explain quickly: many 12-step groups discourage folks with less than a year sober from getting involved in a new romantic relationship. This is doubly emphasized when it’s two people who are newly sober. I’m fairly certain this isn’t a written “rule” and more of a strongly emphasized suggestion, but I’m well aware that the difference between those two things often seems minuscule. (continued)


*I am not an expert or a mental health or medical professional; I’m a sober person offering my experiences and advice about sobriety. Every other Tuesday I will answer one recovery-related question posed by Fix readers, based on my experience. Send your general advice questions to me at with the subject “Ask Katie.” 

By submitting a question to The Fix, you grant The Fix permission to publish it on its site. All questions will remain anonymous. Due to the large number of questions received, The Fix cannot guarantee a response. But they do check back frequently!

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Katie MacBride is a freelance journalist, essayist, and co-founder/associate editor of Anxy magazine. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, Vice, Playboy, and Buzzfeed, among other publications. Follow her on Twitter: @msmacb

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