What is SLAA HOW?

History of S.L.A.A. H.O.W. 

The S.L.A.A. H.O.W. way of working the S.L.A.A. program was inspired by the Overeaters Anonymous (O.A.)  H.O.W. approach.  O.A. H.O.W still exists within O.A. as well as a separate fellowship called CEA (Compulsive Eaters Anonymous) which works the steps the H.O.W. way. The H.O.W. approach is also used by the Debtors Anonymous (D.A.) Fellowship.

S.L.A.A. H.O.W. originated in Australia around 1996, when a group of authors from S.L.A.A. changed the wording from, “compulsive eating and food”, to the words used in S.L.A.A. for sex and love addiction, thereby creating from O.A. a similar H.O.W approach and documents for S.L.A.A. The authors felt that S.L.A.A. needed a structured and disciplined approach to help members define and maintain sobriety in S.L.A.A. They felt that sobriety was essential to achieving freedom from the debilitating disease of sex and love addiction and that long lasting recovery was possible through working the Twelve Steps.

The founding members took the entire O.A. H.O.W. program, including the format, tools and writing assignments for Steps One to Twelve. Where O.A. H.O.W. used a specific food plan to define abstinence, the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. authors created the first seven-day questions to define Bottom Lines so that, in consultation with their sponsor, members could define the addictive behaviors that they chose to abstain from in order to begin recovering from sex and love addiction. 

The S.L.A.A. H.O.W. way of working the Steps has spread across the world and become a successful approach in many countries. In particular, S.L.A.A. H.O.W. meetings can be found in Australia, Asia and the Pacific, the UK, in English speaking meetings in Europe and also in the US. 

This widespread use speaks for itself in terms of the success of working the program the H.O.W. way. Although H.O.W. is not for all, it is not intended to be. It is there for those who need it and for whom it works.

The H.O.W. Concept

The Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous H.O.W. concept was created to offer the sex and love addict a disciplined and structured approach to working the Twelve Steps. 

There were, and still are, no absolutes for sobriety in S.LA.A., as individual patterns of sex and love addiction vary. However, some of us found that, when our compulsion had reached a critical level, we could achieve sustained sobriety by working the S.L.A.A. program in the H.O.W. way. We remembered that the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. groups were formed to suggest an alternative way to long term sobriety to those of us who had tried other ways and failed, to those of us who knew that we needed this kind of approach, and to those of us who were not achieving the level of joy and sobriety desired. 

Therefore we accepted our H.O.W. defined Bottom-Line sobriety, Step questions, Maintenance Questions, outreach calls, the Twelve Steps, Traditions and Concepts and our other tools as requirements for our recovery. We committed ourselves to a black and white sobriety in order to deal with the grey areas of living.

In H.O.W. we found that, if we committed to using the tools of recovery on a daily basis, our disease of sex and love addiction could be arrested, one day at a time.

S.L.A.A. and S.L.A.A. H.O.W. 

In S.L.A.A. H.O.W. everything associated with working the S.L.A.A. Twelve Step program applies, including all Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, core S.L.A.A and AA literature, and all published S.L.A.A. FWS literature.  

As in all working of the Steps, S.L.A.A. H.O.W. also requires that sponsees work through the Twelve Steps, attend meetings, and work with a sponsor. S.L.A.A. H.O.W. is a way of working the Twelve Steps, not a  different program.

S.L.A.A. H.O.W. is a Choice 

There is no requirement to work the S.L.A.A. program the H.O.W. way, it is merely a choice for those who wish to and who find that it helps them. There are other ways of working the S.L.A.A. program and we research them before making our decision.   

However, those of us who decide to work the S.L.A.A. program with the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach, are required to do this in a certain way. 

All S.L.A.A. H.O.W. meetings are open to those who are working the program the non H.O.W. way. Additionally, people using the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach can attend any S.L.A.A. meeting, not just S.L.A.A. H.O.W. ones. 

In S.L.A.A. H.O.W. everything associated with working the S.L.A.A. Twelve Step program applies, including all Twelve Steps, Traditions and Concepts, core S.L.A.A and A.A. literature, and all published S.L.A.A. F.W.S. literature.

How the H.O.W. Approach Works

The H.O.W. approach to working the Twelve Steps is a thorough approach that supports and protects us as we take a much-needed and cleansing look at ourselves, our behavior, our relationships (or lack of them) including our love, or lack of love, for ourselves.

We begin by answering the first seven “Bottom Line” questions, to see if the H.O.W. approach works for us. We answer one question a day, working with a sponsor (an S.L.A.A. H.O.W. member with more experience than us whom we have asked to guide us). We normally call our sponsor at the same or an agreed time every day and read our answer out to them over the phone. For many of us, this disciplined approach offers a welcome safety net and sense of security and purpose to our recovery and our new lives. It can seem difficult at times, but we value the structure this provides.

By the end of the first seven questions most of us are clearer on the activities and actions we need to avoid (or start taking) in order to give ourselves a chance to heal from an often exhausting, debilitating dis-ease that can make our lives unbearable and unmanageable. We review our answers with our sponsor and set Bottom Lines that will serve to heal and support us in our recovery.

After we have answered the first seven questions we proceed to answer the questions for Steps One, Two and Three – one per day, for the next thirty days. Through this process we develop an understanding and acceptance of the first Three Steps. Daily calls with our sponsor, outreach calls to other S.L.A.A. members, the questions, meetings and trust in our Higher Power surround us with the strength and the tools we need to keep the addictive patterns out of our lives, one day at a time. And so recovery begins.

The H.O.W. Tools 

  1. We work with a sponsor to identify our personal Bottom Lines. We become sober by abstaining from these Bottom-Line behaviors on a daily basis. Our definition of sobriety is a minimum of 30 days sobriety against our Bottom Lines as agreed with our S.L.A.A. H.O.W. sponsor. 

  2. We use S.L.A.A. and A.A. literature, the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as tools of examination and release from the compulsion over which we are powerless.

  3. We recommend attendance at a minimum of three meetings per week. These can be regular S.L.A.A. meetings or meetings using the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach. Meetings are dedicated to the concept of remaining honest, open-minded and willing to listen. This is the H.O.W. of the program. 

  4. We make four phone calls a day during the first thirty-seven days – one to our sponsor and three outreach calls to other S.L.A.A. members. The phone is like a lifeline. We need the contact. It can be like a mini-meeting. Although it is not a requirement but a suggestion to make three outreach calls a day during the first seven day Bottom-Line identification questions, the H.O.W. concept does require us to make at least three outreach calls to other S.L.A.A. members during the following 30-day period. 

  5. We practice daily prayer and meditation to develop a relationship with a power greater than ourselves that can guide and sustain us in recovery, being forever aware that Higher Power is doing for us what we have never been able to do for ourselves.

  6. Service is freedom from the bondage of self, giving back what we have freely and lovingly received. It is helping out at meetings, setting up chairs, making coffee and welcoming newcomers. Sobriety is service to ourselves and the group.

  7. An S.L.A.A. H.O.W. sponsor is a sex and love addict who, by the grace of God, has 30 days of continuous sobriety working the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. concept and has taken the first three Steps. Discretion, common sense and our Higher Power guide us in our selection.

In summary, the way we work the Twelve Steps using the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach during Steps One to Three is as follows: 

  • We attend at least three meetings per week. These can be regular S.L.A.A. meetings or meetings using the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach.

  • We make four calls a day: three outreach calls to fellow members in S.L.A.A. and one call to our sponsor.

  • We work the Steps answering a question a day with a sponsor.

  • We maintain our Bottom-Line sobriety.

After the first three Steps the requirements set out above become suggestions. Some sponsors and sponsees continue with this exact same approach, others reduce the frequency of required meetings or the number of calls to be made. Some establish new approaches to answering and reading out questions – for example by calling in once or twice a week, or meeting face-to-face to read through all the answers for that Step.

Finding a Sponsor

To start working the Twelve Steps we need to find a sponsor who has already reached at least Step Three using the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach. We find the best way to do this is to attend as many meetings as possible. These can be meetings that use the H.O.W. approach or not, as long as the sponsor chosen has been sponsored in the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. way. We find many meetings online if we are not able to attend face-to-face meetings, or if meetings using the H.O.W. approach are not available in our country or city. We keep asking until we find a suitable sponsor. We want a sponsor who has worked through the Steps the H.O.W. way, understands it, and can share their experience, strength and hope. 

Once we have found a sponsor, we need a copy of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, S.L.A.A.’s basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A.’s Big Book and, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

S.L.A.A. H.O.W. Sponsor and Requirements 

The S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach to working the Twelve Steps requires that a sponsor only sponsor up to the level they have completed in their own program and have at least 30 days of back-to-back sobriety.

We define a sponsor as someone who provides support and guidance in working through the Twelve Step program with another member of the Fellowship. We define an S.L.A.A. H.O.W. sponsor as someone who has worked or is working the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach and who can guide fellow sex and love addicts through that way of working the program.

There are various Step sponsors in S.L.A.A. H.O.W. A Step Three sponsor can sponsor other fellow members up to Step Three, once they have completed Step Three. A Step Five sponsor can sponsor up to Step Five, once they have completed Step Five. A Step sponsor can sponsor any Step between Steps Six to Twelve, up until the last Step they have completed. A Maintenance sponsor is someone who can sponsor those who have completed the Twelve Steps in S.L.A.A. H.O.W. To qualify as a H.O.W. Maintenance sponsor, the fellow member must be a Step sponsor, have completed all Twelve Steps in S.L.A.A. H.O.W., in addition to the sixty H.O.W. Maintenance Questions and have ninety days of back-to-back sobriety. 

Slip Questions and Sobriety 

An important concept in the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach is that, while working the first Three Steps and answering the first thirty questions, we maintain 30 days of continuous sobriety as defined by our Bottom or Top Lines and as agreed with our sponsor. Top Lines are often not defined as strict sobriety requirements for anorexics but they can be if this is felt appropriate or useful.

If we slip against our stipulated Bottom or Top Lines, we need to regain or achieve this thirty-day sobriety. We find this to be a time of pause to reconnect with our Higher Power and our true selves. We do this to ensure that our Step work isn’t tainted by our addiction and that we have a solid foundation in Steps One, Two and Three. 

If we break a Bottom-Line behavior during this time, we regain our sobriety through daily contact with our sponsor and by answering questions from, “Further Thoughts on Sobriety – The Slip Questions” for the same number of days that we have been working the Steps. For example, if we are on day 21 of the 30 questions when we break a Bottom Line, we answer 21 “Further Thoughts on Sobriety” questions and read our answers to our sponsor each day, and then resume the 30-day questions from where we left off. In this case, from day 21. This is to support us in becoming sober again before continuing our Step work — the measure being 30 days of abstinence from Bottom-Line behaviors. 

The objective is not punitive but to give us the support and connection we need to help us through this period and to support our recovery. 

Slips that take place after Step Three are discussed with our sponsor. There are no hard and fast rules about the return to sobriety but typically this is a process of reflection, review and discussion of Bottom or Top Lines and agreed action to take. Each sponsor passes on the learning that is handed over to them. Some assign 30 days of slip questions, regardless. Others consider the nature of the slip and assign a varying number of slip questions depending on the context. Some agree on a period of checking in with them and writing on the slip.

Stepping Up the Sponsee at a Meeting  

After the Step Three Ceremony, some of us are stepped up by our sponsor at an S.L.A.A. H.O.W. meeting on completion of Steps Three (as well as steps Five and Twelve). The purpose of these ceremonies is so the group can join us in celebrating another example of the miracles that abound in S.L.A.A. Our sponsor is asked to introduce a newcomer who has 30 days of continuous back-to-back abstinence, has taken the first Three Steps and is ready to become a sponsor. At the meeting, we share for two minutes each.

Common Misconceptions About H.O.W.

1. Myth: If you slip three times your sponsor has to let you go.           

This is not true. A sponsor may have this policy but it is not a requirement of S.L.A.A. H.O.W.

2. Myth: If a sponsee is late with daily calls they are dropped as a sponsee.

This is not true. Learning about boundaries however is an important part of recovery and sponsor and sponsee will need to set acceptable boundaries and consequences between themselves.        

3. Myth: No dating until Step Nine or that after Step Nine you have to start dating.

This is not true. It is for the sponsor and sponsee to work together to decide what action is required at what point and whether dating is appropriate taking into account whether addiction or anorexia is being tackled.               

The purpose of abstaining from relationships for a period of time, whether addiction or anorexia is present, is to allow the sponsee time to develop a relationship with him or herself and God, to have this vital spiritual experience which is essential for recovery. This spiritual awakening is promised after Step Nine and reaffirmed in Step Twelve.       

Rather than set a timeframe on dating, it might be more appropriate to ask if the sponsee feels they have had this vital spiritual experience and that the S.L.A.A. promises are coming true in their lives; if they feel a sense of personal wholeness from which they can relate to others. More about the dating decision is set out in the Relationship Top Lines section of this Guide.        

4. Myth: You can’t go on to Step Ten until all your amends from Step Nine are completed. 

This is not true. How and when Step Nine amends are completed is for agreement between sponsor and sponsee.                   

5. Myth: Those working the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. concept can’t attend or share at a non-H.O.W. meeting, or non-H.O.W. fellows can’t share at an S.L.A.A. H.O.W. meeting.   

Again, this is not true.

6. Myth: A sponsee must wait until Step Eleven to start the daily practice of prayer and meditation.

This is not true. In fact in the H.O.W approach the sponsee is encouraged to begin this practice as soon as they commence the first “30 Questions.”

7. Myth: A sponsee can’t outreach to an old sponsor for a set period of time.

This is not true.

8. Myth: You must complete these Steps as set out in this document before working the Steps in Anorexia.

This is not true. Should you identify strongly as anorexic it is possible that it may be more useful to work the Anorexia Steps first. You should discuss this with your sponsor.