How I Work the DA (H.O.W.) Program

People are curious about how one works DA HOW. So I thought I’d write about how I work this program. The one important thing to remember is that this is not a separate program from Debtor’s Anonymous. It is simply a rigorous method of working the tools.


1. I read a couple of pages of recovery literature and do writing. Together this should take about 15 minutes. There is a set of 90 questions that newcomers start with. (Click here to download the 90 DA HOW questions for sponsees)

Note: When I started, I nearly quit because there was so much reading and rereading in each question. I now only ask that sponsees read a couple of pages so that there is enough time to write within 15 minutes. Sponsors may vary in this. But I know that if you have a full life, having to take 30 minutes or more may be overwhelming. Since you will reread chapters as you go through the questions, it is fine with me if you read a few pages while doing one question and then read some different pages in the next question that refers to the same chapter.

2. I call my sponsor at 8:15 am every day and we have a call not to exceed 15 minutes

Note: This time limit is so important. Just think about your own schedule. Most calls are in the morning. Just think about the fact that each person you sponsor takes 15 minutes of your morning when you may have to get kids off to school or get ready to work. Please be mindful of your sponsor’s time.

3. I tell her the following:

  • How much I planned to spend yesterday by category (e.g., groceries $100)
  • How much I actually spent by category
  • How much I plan to spend today by category

I write in a composition notebook that I keep next to my phone. Here is an image of one page:

At the beginning of the day

Note: “I” stands for income. I don’t anticipate getting any income on that day. “E” stands for Expense. I draw a line down the center of the page.

At the end of the day

Note: I also write to whom I paid the money, if a check, what is the check number, and if more than one store, I add up to total it.

4. Since I am finished with my steps, I read her my Step 10 inventory (newcomers won’t do this, of course)

5. I read my writing to her

6. We discuss any other outstanding issues


I attend and do service at one DA HOW meeting. This has become imperative as we are a small group and it is important for newcomers to find sponsors at specifically DA HOW meetings. Service includes, leading the meeting, being the timer, doing readings, or sharing.

Monthly or less

I participate in one or more PRGs (Pressure Relief Groups). I will talk more about these in another post, but these are meetings with two other DA members (not exclusively DA HOW) to work with a member on any financial pressures or creating a spending plan, etc. PRGs can also be about issues rather than just money.

I also have my own PRG every few months where two other members help me.

As needed

I do not spend one penny unless it is committed to someone. I have been abstinent in DA HOW since April of 2009. We know that spending may come up that you didn’t anticipate in the morning. For instance, let’s say you didn’t plan to go anywhere, but realized you have to. You get in the car and realize you need gas. It’s totally fine. Just let a DA HOW sponsor know. Some sponsors require that you get a sponsor on the phone (trying at least three before leaving a voice message for your own sponsor), but many (like me) are fine with a text message. Now, this does not mean that you can decide to buy a car in the afternoon and text a message that you will spend $15,000. Use common sense and discretion.

I try to practice delayed gratification, which is one of my difficulties. So I may ask myself – can this wait until tomorrow? This has been one of the practices that has truly been the most healing for me.

Five dollar limit

Many sponsors allow for $5 over a committed amount. This means that if you are at the grocery store and you committed $100 and the bill is $104.53, you can go ahead with the purchase and not contact anyone. If it is $105.10, you would contact someone FIRST.

However, this is NOT free reign to buy a bunch of different items for $5. It is for an overage of spending and not to be abused.


Mistakes are different to me than slips or relapse. If you made a calculating error and didn’t know you had less in a category, that is a mistake. If you did everything you could to ensure that you didn’t overspend, and again, you forgot about an automatic debit, so you were over, that is a mistake. If you go to the gas station and realize as you finish pumping that you didn’t commit it this morning and call immediately, even though you just spent the money, that is a mistake.

But if you buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks knowing you didn’t commit and just don’t call because you don’t feel like it, that is a slip to me.

In this program, intention is very important. DA HOW has a very high bottom. That is because those of us who work this program know how insidious the disease is for us. In DA, the pure measure of losing abstinence is debting. In DA HOW, if I DELIBERATELY don’t call in my numbers, for me, that is the mark of losing my DA HOW abstinence.


So that is how I have worked my program since April 25, 2009. I hope this gives you some clarity. It is really clear and simple. And doing so has profoundly changed my life for the better.

3 thoughts on “How I Work the DA (H.O.W.) Program

  1. Hi. Thank you for this article. I’ve been contemplating a return to program and know that I need a more rigorous plan of financial living. I’m a fan of details.

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