H.O.W. to Recover

How does one recover from addiction and alcoholism? This is the H.O.W. of recovery:  Honesty, Open-mindedness, Willingness. These attitudes go a long way toward a life that is happy, joyous and free. Without any of them, my chances at recovery are slim.

Honesty is an attitude of no more secrets. Revealing who I am, at least to myself, my Higher Power and another person is a necessary part of my recovery. I need to be accepting and true to who I am. Honesty is standing tall without pretending or pretense. It is humility: this is ‘me’, this is who I really am. I need not tell everyone everything about who I am, but if I want to live with integrity, I can no longer hide behind a curtain of half truths and false impressions.

Open-mindedness is that which allow me to seek answers and to step away from my comfort zone. It is a realization that I don’t know everything and that what I do know may not be correct or in need of a change or two. When I am open-minded I am asking questions and seeking answers. I am convinced that seeking the answers to new questions in life today is far more important to my personal growth than hanging onto the answers that solved yesterday’s question.

Willingness is the desire to move forward, do the work and put forth some elbow grease. It’s often easy to rest on yesterday’s laurels and take my comfort. But if I am to grow I have to be willing to move, to change and to expend the energy necessary to make changes in my life. It’s doing the work even when I don’t see the results right away. It’s following the recipe of recovery even when I don’t understand it or why I am doing it at the time. It is trusting the process and moving on.

Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness are H.O.W. I got sober and they are the attitude that keeps me that way. If I am lacking any of these attitudes I am taking steps away from my recovery. They form the foundation of a recovery that will allow me to grow and change and evolve. Who I was yesterday is not who I am today. I cannot cling to the self I started with in the program if I want to change. Believing that I’ve ‘got it’ leads to stagnation and decline. I have to keep it fresh.

I think these attitudes are absolutely necessary for people in recovery and I am quite sure they are absolutely necessary for people who aren’t. Honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are attitudes that allow for a life that is constantly growing, changing and evolving into a newness every day.

I am grateful to my sponsor Bob who reminded me of this acronym last week. ¡Gracias amigo!


When I first started in recovery I was told that if I want to get it and to keep it I needed to do five things: don’t drink/use, go to meetings, get a home group, get a sponsor, work the steps. A little over seven years later, I’m still doing these five things and I would have to say that there is no way my life would be as complete as it is today without following that advice.

Over the years I’ve probably gone to an average of six meetings a week.  At the beginning I often went twice a day: it gave me something to focus upon and besides, I didn’t know what else to do with my time. Before recovery I spent most of my time drinking/using or scheming to drink/use, scrounging for cash or dreaming of the perfect high. Now (somewhat) sober, I found meetings allowed me a reprieve from drifting back into my old ways of thinking and taught me new ways of approaching life.

By going to meetings I learned how others applied the steps to their lives. I could use their experience as my own. I know what happens when you allow anger to take over your life because I have heard about the experience of others. I don’t have to invent tools and approaches to situations because I can borrow the tools and approaches that others have shared at meetings. I don’t have to wonder what will happen to me if I stop going to meetings because fellow members have shared what happened to them when they stopped. I may only have a day or a week or a year or 10 years in recovery, but if I go to meetings with an open mind I can benefit from the many, many years of experience of those that are sharing around the table. You’re my team and without you, I have no chance of winning.

Early on I was taught the 70-20-10 rule of going to recovery meetings. Seventy percent of the time you hear good solid material that you can pack into your toolbox and use at a later date. Twenty percent of the time what you hear has you at the edge of your seat because it’s exactly what you need to hear now. And ten percent of the time the share is a lesson in patience and tolerance of others. What I must remember in this, because it has happened to me it that while I may be experiencing a  10% moment, it could be a 20% moment for another person in the room. I can always learn something at a meeting.

Making meetings isn’t the program of recovery; the Twelve Steps are the program. Meetings, however, are part of the way that I can learn about the program and deepen my understanding. They are one of those first five things that have been working for me in my recovery. When I feel I don’t really need a meeting or I don’t want to go, that, I have learned too, is exactly when I need to go to a meeting. I keep the program close to my heart and mind; I don’t even want to consider the alternative. I’ll stick with the winning team.

Maintaining Equilibrium

I’ve spent the last five days battling a tropical cold-flu combination that really kicked my ass. I’m on the mend now, but I know I still have to nurse myself back to health. I’ve slept more and seen more Netflix than I really wanted to this week. Those things I was planning on doing, well, they either went on or didn’t without me. Today I am going to venture out of the cocoon for a short bit and return home to relax. I’m not going to push myself.  I’m not 25 and I don’t bounce back as quickly as I used to.

The experience of this week has reminded me that I still have to take care of my physical self. I’m not superman, and even he had his kryptonite. It’s a reminder as well that what happens in the body affect the mind and visa versa. And a reminder of something I learned in the rooms early on: H.A.L.T. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.

Whenever I am stretched out in some way, emotionally, physically or spiritually, whenever I am off balance, that is when I have a greater chance of succumbing to a disease be it addiction or another disease such as the flu or cold. I’ve come to see over the years that there’s a very strong mind-body-spirit connection and what happens in one area affects all other areas. I’ve also come to believe that when I am stuck in bed it’s a good time for me to reflect on what is out of balance in my life and make the necessary changes to get myself back into balance.

Soon, I know, I will be back to my normal self, going about my daily chores and routines. I know it will be easy to slip back into the patterns that can lead me right back to where disease can take over again. In order to take care of my physical body I need to take care of it by getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet, and not letting my emotions run the show. H.A.L.T. reminds me that it’s easy to get myself off track and that it’s just as easy to get back on the path.

My spiritual, mental and physical health all require balance. A violin string that is too loose doesn’t sound, if it is wound too tight, it breaks, but when it is in balance, it creates the sweetest sounds. And like the violinist checking if he’s in tune, I must check to see that there’s balance in all aspects of my life. If I want to keep on track in my heath and in my recovery, I can’t take it for granted that ‘I’m okay’, I have to work at it constantly.