What is the meaning of the H.O.W. part of DA H.O.W.?
H Stands for Honesty
In all 12 step programs, honesty is the cornerstone.
- Without self-honesty, you do not become willing to seek help nor even recognize you have a problem. Further self-honesty prevents self-justification for actions that are counter-productive or will lead to relapse. Self-knowledge may avail us nothing (which it states in the Big Book), but self-honesty, raw and deep, will lead us to a life of integrity and recovery.
- When you are dishonest with your sponsor, you are wasting the sponsor’s time and energy.
- Making a mistake is one thing, but lying to your sponsor about the mistake keeps you stuck in your illness. If you live by #1, above, you will invariably continue to be honest here even when it is painful or you risk losing your sponsor.
- Lying at a meeting or to your sponsees about having lost your abstinence is not doing either them or you any good and if you continue working a recovery program while doing so, you will most likely regress in other areas as well, such as resentment, fear, and abstinence.
O Stands for Open mindedness
Most people come into DA desperate for help. They may have hit bottom and have lost everything or they may have hit a higher bottom and there is still time to keep the boat afloat. Either way, only desperation leads us to a 12 step program. In DA H.O.W., there is a rigor and structure to how we work the steps and tools that is not usually present in they way the program is worked.
Invariably, as soon as we are presented with the “suggestions” of the H.O.W. structure, we balk. Suddenly, once again, we know best how to recover from this disease. We may like this suggestion, but cannot possibly do that one. If we work or have small children, there is no possibility to fit in 15 whole minutes to read and write, we insist!
But even regarding the one point upon which all DA members agree, that we do not use unsecured debt, some may balk. When told that we accomplish this goal, first and foremost by cutting up our credit cards and canceling all lines of credit and accounts, who among us hasn’t had a moment’s pause? “But what if there is an emergency,” cries one or “How will I rent a car to travel,” moans another or “what if I need dental work,” whines a third.
Being open minded means that we will listen to suggestions. This is not overtly an action step. But if you are only desperate and not open minded, then you will revert to trying the easier and softer way as soon as the feeling of desperation lifts, even briefly. You will continue trying to do things your way. And you know how well that has worked out for you.
I am a balker. It is a terrible defect of mine. Invariably at my PRGs, I’ll know how I want an issue to be resolved. As soon as I hear a new idea, I immediately panic and feel resistance. I feel frightened and instantly think up all kinds of reasons (excuses?) this won’t work and why I don’t like the idea.
But because I have worked on open mindedness, my PRG group knows to let me rant on for a few minutes because I invariably calm down. And once I am calm, I do finally become open minded. This is where meditation has been extremely helpful to my recovery.
Now, I am able to hear out my PRG group (or sponsor if an issue we are discussing) and really listen to their reasoning. Without being open minded, willingness is impossible.
W Stands for Willing
If you are honest and you are open minded, then you can become willing to do what is required for recovery, what has worked for others. I heard someone share a great piece of knowledge – I don’t have to like what I have to do … I just have to do it anyway.
- Willingness means we cut up our credit cards and cancel our accounts even if we are terrified about future need. We have faith that we will have enough and if we don’t, we will have help to address the situation. We can have this faith because we see that others have had the courage to take this action and it worked out. I nearly fainted with anxiety when I took this step.
- Willingness means one finds the time to do the writing, even with a sick child or looming work deadline. Surely there is time in the bathroom. Just making a small effort for a couple of minutes is better than no effort at all. Skim the reading if you cannot focus. Because I have an illness where I am exceedingly dizzy and foggy most of the time, I often have no clue what I just read, but I put in the effort anyway.
- Willingness means not spending what you haven’t committed even if you want to cry.
- Willingness means at least giving all suggestions presented by your sponsor and trusted PRG team a try.
Let me give you one caveat about this from my experience. If this is a new sponsor or PRG team for you and you don’t know them very well, I would then say to run their suggestions by your trusted network if you truly disagree with them. Otherwise, I would give all suggestions a good hearing and valiant effort, like it or not.
I will give you an example from my own life. I wanted to make a big purchase. My PRG team was very leery and the more insistent I was, the more concerned they became. I pretty much threw a tantrum on the phone. But in the end, I did what they suggested. Weeks passed. While I was still interested in the purchase, I no longer felt as if my life would end without it. The compulsion had passed.
I brought up this purchase again with each PRG member individually. Further, with complete sincerity, I told each that that if they still thought this was a poor spending choice on my part, then I would follow their guidance and stop asking about it.
And guess what! Independently, they both said they were now fine with it. Both said that the urgency and anger surrounding having to do it at that moment was part of their discomfort. Financially, other situations had resolved and it was more feasible for me to use the money as I wanted.
So never underestimate the power of willingness.
- Willingness, as described in that example, is not spending money as soon as I want something. It is often sitting in discomfort until it passes so you can see clearly.
This is a huge one for me! When I get a sudden urge for a discretionary item, as large as a car or as small as a book, I wait at least 24 hours to buy it. For me, that desperate kind of yearning is downright painful. I can’t think straight and never make good choices when I am in that “gotta have it” mode.
Willlingness to wait allows that feeling to die down. Once, I agreed that I would not make a certain small purchase until the desperation had subsided. It took an entire week before I felt ready to buy it.
On the other hand, I have most often found that my joy in the item is inversely proportional to my desperation to have it. Getting something I want, but am not painfully longing for, is always far more satisfying for me.
So when you think of something to buy that you have not committed as you go about your day, try to get willing to wait at least one day to buy it.