Your “Say Yes to Life” Monday Motivator: the H.O.W. of Recovery (Honesty-Openness-Willingness)

I first came across this powerful principle many years ago in my own recovery from an eating disorder. Long credited to the Twelve Step communities, H.O.W. nevertheless feels like a universal recovery principle, applicable to any individual at any age and in any stage of their pursuit of recovery, health, and whole-person wellness.

In the course of my professional life, I am always delighted to find a new resource that outlines this fundamental recovery principle. On this week’s reading list is an innovative new book called Beating Ana: How to Outsmart Your Eating Disorder and Take Your Life Back. The author, Shannon Cutts, is herself a survivor of an eating disorder, and the book is structured to allow the reader glimpses into not just her own day-to-day hard work of recovery, but also into the recovery journeys of others she has mentored and encouraged along the way.

In Beating Ana, this is accomplished by structuring each chapter around a question from one of her mentees, her answer to that question, and then what she calls a “Recovery Workshop” that invites the reader to learn new recovery skills and tools to progress toward their recovery goals. Each chapter ends with a “Life Celebration Affirmation” which strengthens the reader’s awareness of the hard work they are doing and encourages them to continue doing the hard work of recovery.

In the chapter called “The H.O.W. of Recovery”, Ms. Cutts explains how easy it is to be bullied by the fast-moving train of an eating disorder as it progresses. She writes, “We convince ourselves that we are but spectators at our own funeral, powerless to do more than watch as events unfold to their logical conclusion….We do not yet see the truth. We do not yet perceive that, even as our inexplicable, indescribable self-torture escalates, and even when the eating disorder rolls out the big guns, we are still here.”

We accomplish this awareness and regain our inspiration, courage, and strength to keep fighting, she explains, through practicing the H.O.W. of Recovery – often better known as Honesty-Openness-Willingness. Beating Ana explains each of these principles as follows:

  1. Honesty: objectively looking at your life and seeing what is broken and who can fix it
  2. Openness: being open to believing that the way life has been doesn’t dictate the future
  3. Willingness: the “I will do whatever it takes” attitude that sustained recovery requires

Ms. Cutts then encourages readers to journal about each of these three core elements to any successful recovery process – in her words, “[to ask] yourself whether or not you feel that you have each quality and have it in sufficient measure to commit to healing and to your own life.”

It has been my experience as well that when we have the honesty to admit what is no longer working in our lives, the openness to believe that we have the power to change what isn’t working, and the willingness to do whatever it takes, that literally anything is possible. No dream is too unrealistic, no amount of work is too much, and no sacrifice is too great to achieve release and lasting freedom from the prison of an illness that claims body, mind, heart, and spirit without a backward glance.

I encourage all of you to examine H.O.W. you are approaching your own recovery, health, and wellness goals this week and thus far in 2010. If you find that you are struggling to connect with your awareness of your own Honesty-Openness-Willingness, we encourage you to tackle this challenge by being honest, open, and willing to ask for help. At Southlake Counseling, we have more than two decades of expertise and compassion invested in helping individuals just like you to achieve their dreams and realize their full potential. We are excited about sharing your journey as you reach for and even exceed your own potential! Contact us today at – we look forward to hearing from you!

Be Well,


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