So, How Much Time Does DA H.O.W. Take?

For the first year and a half in DA using the H.O.W. approach to the tools, I hated it most of the time. I felt so put-upon and couldn’t figure out how on earth there was time to do it all. I wanted to quit at least a dozen times. I got myself into a tizzy at least twice a week over how much time this program took, wasting time that had nothing to do with working my program on being upset about working my program.

Each time I lost a sponsor, as we all do, that was it. I was leaving. I was getting out. But I knew that if I did, I would surely go under as this was a way that worked for me.

So I kept staying in. Each day, I was frustrated with the challenge of finding a sponsor to call, but I did what I had done the day before, working the tools that kept me solvent and free from incurring new debt until I once again found a daily sponsor to call.

Now, these practices are a cherished part of my life and I would be lost without them.

But I have known too many people who leave because they say working DA H.O.W. means an overwhelming time commitment. They acknowledged it worked for them, but weren’t willing to see the pain through to the other side.

So, how much time does it take to work DA H.O.W.?

Here are the components of my program along with the timing, whether a H.O.W. suggestion only, and their benefit:

Calling my sponsor daily
Timing: 15 minutes
H.O.W. only: Yes for daily sponsorship
Benefit: Part of my problem with DA was that there was no regular accountability to a sponsor. It just isn’t enough for me to be left to my own devices for a week or so, periodically checking in with someone. In DA H.O.W., we call a sponsor daily to turn over our numbers, read our daily writing, and discuss other issues.

Timing: 15 minutes each
It is recommended that sponsors have no more than two sponsees, which then moves it to 30 minutes. More than that, for those with other responsibilities, may adversely impact them and cause program burnout.
H.O.W. only: Yes for daily sponsorship
Benefit: This is 12th Step work at its finest. This is how Bill W. stayed sober. It is through “giving back” what we receive that we keep it for ourselves.

Committing my daily numbers and only spending what I commit
Timing: Less than five minutes – I think about what I am going to spend in the morning and write it down. If other spending comes up during the day, I contact my sponsor.
H.O.W. only: Yes
Benefit: This is how I stay sober with money on the physical level. It is so tempting to spend more, but because I am accountable for every penny and living in clarity and honesty for today, I am more committed to my sobriety with money.

Doing my reading and writing
Timing: 15 minutes total between the two
H.O.W. only: Yes
Benefit: I couldn’t see this for a long time in program, but now I recognize this is how I work through my spiritual issues. Doing the 90 questions felt overwhelming, but I now realize that it was due to all the reading. When I sponsor, I have sponsees only do 15 minutes total unless they want to do more. That keeps it simple and less likely to overwhelm them. However, other sponsors may ask you to write for the full 15 minutes, which may mean another amount of time for reading. But that is not how I work my program.

Doing a daily 10th Step and turning it over to my sponsor
Timing: Included in daily writing
H.O.W. only: No – but yes regarding turning it over to my sponsor daily
Benefit: This is Step 10 work (also mentioned in Step 11). Not everyone in DA H.O.W. turns it over, but it is of tremendous benefit to me to live in clarity and remember issues I may want to discuss. We do this practice daily once we complete Step 10.

Prayer and Meditation daily
Timing: Individual – generally 20-30 minutes
H.O.W. only: No
Benefit: This is not a H.O.W. or even DA-specific suggestion, but a Step. Step 11 states: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. There is no way I would stay abstinent without meditation. It is how I learn the skills to face pain with equanimity because sitting in meditation is not always comfortable. They say prayer is asking for your Higher Power’s guidance and meditation is listening for answers.

Making one outreach call daily
Timing: 15 minutes
H.O.W. only: Yes
Benefit: Left to my own devices, I isolate. This is the tool I still struggle with, but I do it anyway because there have been times that I was given incredible insight on a call that I never expected. I have been told that if I leave messages for five people without reaching one, I can stop for the day. I try to keep limits on how long I stay on the call for health reasons, but also because my day could get eaten up with phone calls and I need to maintain balance.

Going to one DA H.O.W. meeting a week
Timing: 1-1.5 hours a week
H.O.W. only: Yes
Benefit: Meetings are a vital part of the fellowship of this program. We remember where we came from and hear sources of hope and strength that hold us up when we feel weak. It is crucial, as we are not a huge fellowship, that if DA H.O.W. works for you that you attend at least one DA H.O.W. meeting to keep this fellowship going.

Living by a spending plan that accounts for every dollar in and accrues in categories
Timing: Depends.

H.O.W. only: No
Benefit: My spending plan is my lifeline. I don’t live by my bank account, but by my spending plan and categories. This was crucial before I was in H.O.W. and continues to be crucial. Without accruing in my categories and living by what I accumulate, there is no way I could keep track of spending in clarity. I would never be able to pay intermittent bills (like car insurance) and save for discretionary items without it. Living by my spending plan takes me out of vagueness.

Having regular PRGs (every couple of months)
Timing: 1-1.5 hours every two-three months.
H.O.W. only: No
Benefit: PRGs are great for keeping me humble and solving problems that seem insurmountable! Sometimes I go into them with an agenda. That rarely works as my mind is not right about money and it is the wisdom of hearing two others in program come together that can convince me of the error of my ways, if that is the case (as it often is). At other times, I come into a PRG with a problem that I know has no solution and my team figures one out. It is truly a miraculous process where my Higher Power speaks through others. Sometimes, you may not have a PRG team that works for you. Please don’t stop trying to find a team that is a good fit because when you do, it’s an invaluable part of this process. We are not meant to do this on our own and dealing with the physical aspects of money is especially raw for us.

Giving PRGs
Timing: 1-1.5 hours when you do them
H.O.W. only: No
Benefit: Again, we keep what we have by giving it away, by doing service. I strongly advise people to limit how many PRGs they do in a month to prevent burnout. In fact, I would say one is enough. You are not the “hero/heroine” of DA. You are just a member trying your best to stay in recovery.

Only changing my spending plan in concert with my sponsor and PRG team
Timing: 0
H.O.W. only: Yes
Benefit: This is where the rubber meets the road in recovery for me. I strongly suggest that you have an annual PRG to review your spending plan to see if you need to make changes in categories. If I make my own decisions willy-nilly about moving money around, I am in danger of losing my abstinence. If I take from food to pay for gas, then I may need to take from clothing to pay for food. And then, maybe from insurance bill to pay for clothing. And then, when I need to pay my insurance bill, I’m short because I moved the money. That is not abstinence for me.

However, if I am short in gas or food, both of which I need, and I talk to my sponsor about it, we can make a measured decision in choosing which category is appropriate to cover the expense with the least amount of fallout.

So, how much time does all this take?

Daily: 1.5 hours
This includes:

  • Sponsor call
  • One sponsee call
  • Reading and writing
  • Meditating for 30 minutes
  • Reach-out call

That is 6% of your 24 hour day. Think about how much time you spent shopping either online or in person. Think about how much time you spent looking for the deal or obsessing about buying something you couldn’t afford. Think about how much time you spent agonizing over creditors and debt you accrued.

You can reduce your meditation time if necessary if you are truly strapped for time. There is no suggestion on how much time we must spend in prayer and meditation, just that it is important to our program of recovery. So do five minutes of meditation instead of 30. That takes your daily time commitment to a bit over an hour

Isn’t this time better spent than when you were in your disease?

As for the other amounts of time:

  • Reconciling, inputting, and closing/opening the month in my spending plan takes me about an hour a month.
  • Tax prep took me less than 10 minutes using YNAB.
  • Closing/opening the new year took me an hour.
  • PRGs and other service take about 2.5 hours a month. I generally don’t give a PRG during the month I get one. For me, there are health issues involved and I do other service helping people learn spending plan software that is easier for me, so I average about 2.5 hours a month overall.
  • I go to one DA H.O.W. meeting a week and it’s 1 hour.

Together, all these things take a little over 5 hours depending on what month we’re in. That’s really nothing in the scheme of my time. And I use Google calendar to ensure that I schedule around other activities. I have found that free software a God-send.

So now you know the truth about how much time this program takes. I may be off a few minutes here and there, but you get the idea. As I wrote at the beginning, it was a painful process for me to learn to love this program as I now do. I was like the wild horse who had to be tamed.

But now, I wouldn’t trade my recovery for anything. Working my DA program in this way has created miracles in many areas of my life aside from the financial, including my marriage, my relationship with my son, my spiritual path, and my acceptance of my health limitations.

I am so grateful I didn’t listen to that voice in my head that hates discipline and commitment, the voice of my disease.

The only requirement for membership in DA is a desire to stop incurring unsecured debt. There are many paths to recovery within the program. H.O.W. is just one of them. You are free to explore all paths until you find the right one for you. But I encourage you to work through the discomfort if you find a way to work DA that works for you.

The DA program is about our being Honest, Open-minded, and Willing around money. For those of us working the tools as DA H.O.W. suggests, it is the way we have found to stay sober, solvent, and abstinent with money one day at a time.

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