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!


Step One invites us to admit two things: that we were powerless over alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc., and that our lives had become unmanageable. I had a hard time with the unmanageability part. You see, when I first got sober, a lot of the things that I wasn’t able to manage in my life suddenly became manageable. The first couple of weeks were a bit tough financially and I remember wondering where I would have gotten the money to feed my habit for the rest of the month had I not quit, but in truth, I know that I would have found the funds somehow.

After a few weeks, I discovered that I now had the money to pay all of my bills without juggling the monies around credit cards and accounts so no one was on my tail about paying up. I  began to do necessary repairs and maintenance on the property and so tenants weren’t at my door complaining. My little ‘fiestas’ had stopped. I was keeping the house clean, doing laundry and even finding time to read again. Things were turning around so quickly that it was easy for me to see how my addiction had caused all of the unmanageability in my life.

But then something changed. I ran into a problem and I didn’t know how to deal with it. My first thought was to find something to take the edge off. That had been my ‘modus operandi’: using something to help me forget the problem and pretend that it wasn’t a problem after all. But hanging around the folks at meetings must have been helping because I knew that probably wasn’t a good option. I got on my motorcycle and drove. I headed out to the country and just drove and repeated over and over again the Serenity Prayer.

Gradually the emotion that had taken control of my mind began to subside. Slowly I calmed down. Like a mantra, the prayer helped rid me of distraction and to focus on what I needed to do: go to a meeting and talk to my sponsor.

I learned through this and other experiences that manageability is more than paying bills and doing what I should have been doing all along. It’s easy to have a manageable life when things are running along smoothly.  They don’t always. Manageability has to do with living life on life’s terms and accepting what comes along and dealing with it as it arises. I had to learn new ways to manage my life. I need the program not to iron out my life but to help me face it. I needed, and still do need my recovery program to guide me when things don’t go according to my plan and problems arise.

I still get overwhelmed at times. Something seem to be insurmountable and I feel I can’t deal with it. Stepping back, walking the dogs, and still driving on my motorcycle help me to clear my head and put a plan in place. While I can still spiral down into unmanageability, I now have solutions to help me make the turn around and I have my program to thank for that.


Falling Together


“Just when it looks like life is falling apart, it may be falling together for the first time.”                 …Neale Donald Walsch
     I was a little more than a year into recovery when I broke my leg. I remember thinking, while I was lying there waiting for the ambulance, ‘This is going to change a few things!’ I ran my own business (a Bed and Breakfast Inn) and did most of the work myself. A couple of weeks later my relationship that had been limping along for several years finally ended. I thought, ‘What the hell, is this going to continue?’  My ‘go to’ for keeping myself somewhat sane was going to about 12 meetings a week and driving my motorcycle to out of town meetings. That wasn’t going to be happening for a while. The final thing was that I had already started the process with my doctor of weaning myself off of anti depression medication so I was ‘phasing’ every once in a while
     For the first month or so I was pretty much confined to home. I hired two people who were also in recovery to help me do all the work at the B&B. My mother and my ex pitched in when they could as well. And it was all working out fine. My sponsor came to visit as did other program friends. We had meetings around my bed at first, and later in the living room. Friends lent me some recovery literature. And I survived.
     I also learned several things. I learned that I didn’t have to do anything alone if I didn’t want to. I learned again of the generosity of people. I learned that things didn’t have to be done ‘my way’ to be done ‘properly’. I learned that my ‘perfectionist’ ways could be a whole lot more flexible. I never heard one complaint that I didn’t make the muffins or that the bed was made wrong or the bathroom was dirty. Everything got done just fine.
     I learned that while I wasn’t all that happy with how my life was at this particular moment, I was learning in recovery to play the ‘long game’. I might not see exactly what was happening or why it was happening, but I could trust the process and know that all was happening as it should. And I learned that I could survive and stay clean and sober even when the wheels fell off of the cart, or in our case, the wagon. Finally, it was at this point in my life that I began my journey deeper into spirituality and awakening.
In the time since that epic month of August in 2012, everything that came apart, came back together. After a couple of operations, a hard cast, a soft cast, walkers, crutches and canes and a month of physiotherapy, my leg healed.  A year later the business sold and I moved full time to Costa Rica, which had been a dream of mine. I haven’t had the need to return to medication for depression and I am still in recovery. There was a lot of change in a short time and a new me emerged from the ashes.
     Other momentous things have happened since in recovery. I now tend to look at them as stepping stones on the path. Some I have liked and some I would have preferred to avoid, but if that’s the next right step, then I take it. I’ve learned to trust my Higher Power and the process. My life fell back together in a way I couldn’t have imagined. I am grateful.