In my last post, I showed you what it takes to have your first day of abstinence in DA using the H.O.W. approach when you don’t yet have a sponsor. So what next?
For days two and beyond, you continue with the daily practice of:
- Writing down what you plan to spend each day and what you actually spent the day before.
- Working on the next question or continuing with the question from the previous day. Remember, you only need to work on reading/writing for a total of 15-20 minutes daily. There is no need to press yourself to do more and burn yourself out.
Be consistent and persistent. Work on the writing and reading every single day. Again, if you haven’t done the whole reading one day, continue where you left off the next time that chapter is listed in the question.
This tool of reading and writing daily is crucial to the H.O.W. approach and not working on your reading/writing daily is considered a break of abstinence (unless there is a special circumstance that you discuss with your sponsor, once you have one). Though this may sound rigid, please believe me when I tell you that there is amazing spiritual growth that comes from doing this work, which increases clarity and willingness to keep moving through difficulties.
For nearly two years, I DESPISED the writing. Yes, I did. Now, I cherish it because I have seen the results of doing this part of the program. This is just as important as not debting or compulsively spending and, again, I know from my own and others’ experience that doing this work will help you gain clarity and willingness.
- Continuing to make contact with other members, and particularly sponsors, daily and turning over your numbers and your writing assignment. Remember, try up to five members for outreach to speak to one and leave messages on all calls. Creating a network is a vital lifeline when we are faced with challenges and need to talk to another addict.
- If an unexpected expense comes up during the day, call a sponsor and leave the information on his or her answering machine BEFORE you spend the money. In DA H.O.W., they suggest calling three sponsors before leaving it on your own sponsor’s machine. However, if you are without a sponsor, this is keeping you accountable to at least call one person. Some people feel that texting is ok as well.
Try to assess whether this is something that can wait until tomorrow instead of instantly and impulsively going with the urge. There is a difference between remembering that you need toothpaste or gas when you hadn’t committed it earlier and buying a couch for $800. I try to wait at least 24-48 hours (some people say 72) before making larger purchases. (Once I waited six months and ultimately decided not to make the purchase!) And I always discuss such purchases with other members or have a pressure relief meeting (PRG) first.
- Write down EVERY penny you spend and what you spent it on. Use some kind of spending plan system to track your spending. It can be as simple as a ledger in which you write categories, accruals, and spending or software to track your finances.
- As soon as possible, try to arrange a PRG so you can develop a spending plan. Having a spending plan is vital to success in DA. If you don’t have a spending plan, you cannot possibly know if the amount you spend in any category is too much, enough, or insufficient. It is the other side of writing down everything you spend. DA suggests tracking your spending for 30 days first.
- Getting to one DA H.O.W. phone meeting or live meeting a week. It has become clear that if the H.O.W. approach works for us, we need to support the H.O.W. meetings. Of course, you can go to other DA meetings as well, but it has become increasingly clear that we need to find a home meeting in H.O.W. to give back what we have received.
In DA H.O.W., you turn over your spending and assignment daily to a sponsor. However, for now, because of the difficulty of finding available sponsors, I believe it is more important that people can begin or continue to work their program. We lose too many people who get frustrated and leave because they are trying their best to work their program and daily cannot find someone to take their information. It can be exhausting. I know this from my own experience.
There are sponsors who will tell you to just try them during the day and they will answer if they are available, but they cannot commit to a specific time. If you can develop four or five of these types of people, you can just rotate. It is up to you to take advantage of this opportunity. if people are extending themselves to you and you don’t, then you may want to re-evaluate your commitment to recovery.
Accept temp sponsorship, even if for a few days or a week at a time. All interaction with sponsors will help deepen your understanding and commitment to your recovery. And you may find that a temp sponsor may eventually have a permanent spot in the future.
Finally, this is just my own personal suggestion and not part of DA H.O.W. Until you can find a sponsor, maybe you can find another member who also needs a sponsor and you can exchange your information daily. This would be separate from your daily call because you must create a network for yourself so you don’t become dependent on a single person for your recovery. Remember, your Higher Power, not another member, is the Power Greater than Yourself as it says in Step 2: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
But please do not use that as an excuse to stop looking for a sponsor. It is just a way to make it easier for you to do the daily call until you find a temp or permanent sponsor. You do need the guidance of a sponsor, who is someone who has answered all the questions and usually has more experience with abstinence in this program.
However, the reason for this post and the previous one is to show you that you can work this program fully until you get a sponsor. In fact, sometimes, these periods are for the best as they force us to step outside our comfort zone and reach out to new people. This will help us develop a network where we can receive AND give help to other suffering compulsive debtors.
You may never have had a sponsor or you may have been working the program and lost your sponsor. Too many people get demoralized and stop doing their daily work, getting more and more resentful. In the meantime, they start or continue to act out in their disease, possibly getting further into debt and spending uncontrollably.
No matter what the reason for losing the sponsor (losing his/her abstinence, time conflict, health issues, personality conflict, etc.) or if you have never yet had one, this does not have to cause a break in your program commitment.
You can believe me because I have been abstinent in DA using the H.O.W. approach since April 25, 2009. I had a sponsor for my first year (I was lucky), but have had many periods of months without one. And I continued working my program just as I had with a sponsor. Yes, it was frustrating, but it also built my commitment. I know many who have had the same experience.
It is your choice. There is recovery from the destruction and horror of compulsive debting in DA. While I have been in and out of DA since 1999, for me, using the H.O.W. approach has been exactly what I needed to stay sober with money. I am a heroin addict with debt and spending. I know, for today, that my recovery is not dependent on any one person. I know, for today, that I am able to withstand pain and deal with obstacles with my Higher Power’s help.
Finally, I know that today, just for today, and one day at a time, with or without a sponsor, I am gratefully recovering.