March 4, 2021

Long Timers of 12 Stepping | John H & Judy H

Long Timers of 12 Stepping | John H & Judy H

12 Steppers, John H and Judith H, share the wisdom, strength and hope learnt on their conscious journey from discovery to recovery. John is 37 years sober and still enjoying the honeymoon with his beautiful wife. How does this dynamic couple navigate addiction and good daily action from on their journey of discovery to recovery.


12 Steppers, John H and Judith H, share the wisdom, strength and hope learnt on their conscious journey from discovery to recovery. John is 37 years sober and still enjoying the honeymoon with his beautiful wife.  How does this dynamic couple navigate addiction and good daily action from on their journey of discovery to recovery.

Bullet Points

  • Where to start when you are faced with an addiction
  • Where to start if a family member or friend’s addiction is affecting your life
  • Where to find a blueprint for your life. - John Howells [14:38]

Knowledge Bomb

The latest bare facts and figures from the World Health Organization:

  • The harmful use of alcohol results in 3.3 million deaths annually.
  • Some 31 million persons who have a drug use disorder
  • Almost 11 million persons inject drugs
  • It's estimated that 350 million gamblers and gamers evidence problematic behavior patterns
  • Internet users are closing in on 5 billion people.  Excessive forms of media or entertainment use, such as video gaming, and social networking use of social networking sites is causing an impact. The World Health Organization decided to include the addictive use of digital games and gaming disorder as a diagnosis in the International Classification of disease. 

About the Guest
Long timers of 12 Stepping, John H. is an active member of a fellowship and Judith H. is an active member of her program.  They both sponsor, speak and inspire on the topic of the impact of alcoholism and the pathway to serenity and sobriety. The benefits of ALAnon and ALAteen to family life, and serenity.

AA website
ALAnon
ALAteen 

Meditation Apps
Calm
My Life 

Podcasts
Busy Living Sober
Ten Percent Happier

About the Show

Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey with Michelle St Jane

A podcast for Global and Re-Emerging Leadership creating community/tribe, a circle of influence, transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world and wider universe. A unique destination for learning about Leadership + Conscious Stewardship + Legacy.

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Transcript

Intro  0:07  

You're listening to Life and Leadership, a conscious journey.  The podcast that shares wisdom and strength. Join your host, Dr. Michelle St Jane weekly conversation on how to have a positive impact for people planet and the wider world. If you want to live a life with intention, be proactive with your time and bring your vision for the future to life one day at a time, you are in the right place at the right time. Let's get started.

Michelle St Jane  0:37  

John, thank you so much for being here today. I really value your courage and wisdom around recovery. Can you share your story from discovery to recovery?

John Howells  0:50  

Thanks, Michelle for asking me to come on board. My story actually started back in England. I started drinking in pubs and clubs, just like a regular 18-year-old, efficiently. It sort of like got out of hand. Later on in life. It wasn't till I came to be in Bermuda and work.  Then eventually met this lovely young lady called Judy who is now my wife today.

1:20  

Where did my recovery first start? I got into a lot of difficulties with drinking, and my life was going down in a very quick spiral. And it wasn't until I was introduced to a gentleman called Reggie, a member of a fellowship that sort of brought me under their fold. I am eternally grateful to that man and all the people that were there in my days, who showed me that there was a better way to live, rather than drinking my life down the toilet. 

1:57  

What I did is eventually they introduced me to the AA program. And I've been a proud member ever since. And tomorrow [4 Feb 2021] I will celebrate 37 years of continuous sobriety. 

2:11  

I believe, for myself, as an alcoholic, I learned very early in the beginning that what I was given was a gift. And it was called sobriety. That gift is not to be used or abused. And for me to keep it, I have to pass it on to someone else. And I've been trying to do that in my life in a lot of different areas. The one thing I will say is that it's a one day at a time program. Because if I tried to live beyond that, I get into a lot of difficulties. And that's where my life has sort of gone downhill. 

2:47  

I've met some fabulous people in the program and they've enriched my life, whenever they come on board. You know, I learned that if I wanted to stop drinking, I would have to put the drink down. And then they introduced me to a 12-step program, where it may be that if I worked hard, did all the right things that they told me to do. I could stay sober one day at a time.   

3:16  

The 12 steps have given me principles and values back in my life, which for some reason I had drank away. And now with those type of principles and values in my life, I'm able to make it not only in the program, but also in social life outside of the meeting rooms. 

3:35  

I will say though, if it hadn't been for the love and dedication of my family, Judy and my two girls, that maybe I wouldn't be here today talking to you. But I would like to say that it's an ongoing continuous sort of occurrence where I still go to meetings today. Because I believe there may be someone who may walk in that door who has lost all hope in their world. And suddenly, I'm there to just hold the hand of a as I was hopeless once like you, but if you come in here you sit and listen, we will give you some form of hope that maybe you can turn this around. And I've been grateful for that forever since you know, carrying the message of hope. I always use that for me. And my philosophy is because the anagram of Hope is hearing other people's experiences and it's other people's experiences that have kept me sober in this longevity that I enjoy today.

4:43  

 I will talk about my family because they are very important to me. Not here overseas and that you know, but the fact is, when I met Judy, and she had two beautiful little girls, I realized that there was a treasure did not want to discard. If I kept on drinking, I kind of lost all of that very easily. So I would say to anybody that is, you know, encouraged by be talking to him today that they have a drinking problem, there's help for them, they don't need to go it alone. And the help in Bermuda, where I come from is that you can go to our hotline, aa.bm on the website.  You will find there all types of information that will assist you. 

5:31  

The other thing is that I always sign off on some of my emails, peace and serenity, because before I stopped drinking, there was no peace in my life, just sheer turmoil. But today, having gone through the program of the 12 steps, my life has got a good vision, I have a focus to where I'm going. And I have a dedication to the people around me. So thank you for letting me share.

Michelle St Jane  6:01  

John, you have an amazing place in the world. And I appreciate you sharing your wisdom. 

6:10 

Judy, I would love to hear from you as well. Thank you for being present today.

Judith Howells  6:15  

Hey, Michelle, good to talk to you. You know, I've been living with an alcoholic since the day I was born. My dad was an alcoholic. He drank alcohol till I was 14. And when I was 14, he got really, really sick. And these two guys came to the house and everything was whispering and quiet. I'm like, What the heck is going on? Anyway, we're driving, he's taking me that day. He's driving me to the girl guides. And he says to me in the car going out to drive me "you don't think I'm an alcoholic? Do you?" and I said "Yes, Daddy, I do." And I couldn't believe that I actually said that because I thought my dad was like the most wonderful man in the world. This is relevant to the rest of my story with John. I can show you as time goes by. 

6:50

John arrives on the island coming from Cornwall in England. He's here 10 days. My girlfriend says to me "you never go anywhere. You always just have to take care the kids go into work. Come with me for the evening." And I said “Nah, I'm not going to do that. You know, I'm a mommy now. I stay with my baby." She said, "Come on and have some fun. We can go to a hotel staff club." 

7:30

We had to buy tickets to buy drinks. So I don't drink I have like one drink and  that's it for me. I’d bought $10 worth of tickets so I had some extra tickets left as we were leaving. So walking up to the bar to give the tickets to my girlfriend, I bumped into John, chest to chest.  Never seen before in my life. And I said "Oh, I'm so sorry." He said "Don't be sorry, darling. That was lovely." 

7:30

Oh, I'm in trouble. We just kept bumping into each other. As far as I'm concerned. God put this man in my life. It was just meant to be. I've heard of love at first sight. I did not believe it. I thought it was a storybook romance nonsense. It's true. Believe me. It's true. It happened 38 years ago.  Since we’ve been married it's still true.  It's still a honeymoon all by himself. I keep telling him. 

7:52

But anyway, he drank not so much around me at first, but I could hear stories about him passing out here and there, whatever. When he drank, he passed cold. It just would be like you'd be sitting on the barstool and just fall off it down to the floor, and someone would you get home. That was his life I think, the merchant navy and for all his time in England. 

8:12

So, it was okay until we got married. Now I said “we got two kids to think about.” The last experience, he was found by the police who then call me.  They were so sweet, its the middle of the night. It was 9:30 at night and I was expecting him home for dinner. They said “listen, we don't want you to worry. He's here. We're gonna keep him here until he sobers up, and we'll call you then and come take him home. You can come get him.” I said, "Okay." At 12:30am he calls me. John calls me and says, "Come get me." And I said "you better tell somebody else come get you because I'm done."  

8:40

And I was done. Then he was seeing father Pat, who was a Roman Catholic priest, who was giving him some counseling while he was drinking. The priest said to me, “would you come to counseling with me and John?” And I thought, “well, I don't know. All right. We're married. I'll try.” 

8:57

We get to the counselor and we're talking to father Pat and father Pat says, "John, I think you're an alcoholic. And I know somebody can really help you. And his name is Reggie." And I knew this guy. And I knew he was wonderful because he was a friend of my dad's. From my dad's AA program. Anyway, we're driving away from the priests. And I'm thinking, Oh, good. This is great. It's gonna get damaged. It's really cool. And he says to me in the car, "you don't think I'm an alcoholic? Do you?" And I thought deja vue? and replied "Yes, you are."

9:26

We called Reggie and his wife, who were so nice. So nice, lovely. He and his wife came together to see us. Reggie said to me on the phone, he said, "You sure he wants me to come?" I said, "Yes, he wants you to come." So they came together. And Reggie's wife said to me, "we're ready." John would talk to Reggie and his wife said to me, "You did not cause it, you cannot control it, and you cannot heal it. It's not your problem. It's his problem. The only way it's gonna work. It's a 12 step program." And I thought, "Okay, I know 12 step program work. I trusted completely," and we just went ahead from there.

9:58

John started going to meetings and everything. He was going really well. After about three years of sobriety, I was ready to get a divorce, I'd had it. I was done, it's like I can't, he was just so wrapped up in his program that I was left out. 

10:10

I was happy that he wasn't drinking, but I just didn't feel like I was part of anything.  All the guys that he kept saying to me, "you know, you really there is a program for you, you know, it's called AL- anon. And it's for the families of the alcoholics, you know, you can go anytime you want.” I kept going to the AA meetings. John was right there saying, “like you do have your own program.” But it was very valuable for me to attend those AA meetings, because I learned a lot about how the alcoholic thinks and whatever. 

10:33

But after, I think it was five years into his recovery, I finally went to an ALAnon meeting. And it was so surreal, because I was like a pilot light of a stove, just like just a little tiny flicker. That was me, I was just little tiny light just surviving, going to work taking care of kids taking care of a home, that was my life. And then worried about him, an alcoholic who when he was drinking, he didn't drink at home. But every once in a while he just not show up and disappear and end up coming home four o'clock in the morning or whatever. 

11:02

I finally went to Al-anon with the guy whose wife I'd met. She took me. And they said, "this is your program, the focus is on you, you have been severely affected by alcoholism."  And I realized since the day I was born, I'd been affected by alcoholism because of my father's situation. 

11:19

The very first things I dealt with was on working on myself.  The situation with my father, because I didn't realize how much pain there was there. It just, you know, I just stuffed everything down and just got on with life. When I started working on myself and dealing with stuff, my flame started to grow. And you can follow tiny pilot light to a real full flame. I started to think of myself and I started taking classes. My first time taking like pottery class. So took a class, it was like six weeks of every Tuesday night and I thought, well, my kids are going to see I go every Tuesday night, they're going to be upset. They're like, "go mom go." And I was like heavens sake, why did I do years ago, you know, so I had the full encouragement of my family. 

11:58

As John said, “the family's been very encouraging.” And we use the program and our family life, we have something in the program was called the group conscience. And that's where everybody in the group decides how the group's gonna run, what reviews are good, what books we’re going to read, whatever, whatever. The money we're going to spend on rent, etc. 

12:11

We have a group conscience in our family. If something is going on that's bothering the family, we get together and we all talk and we sit around we each person could speak independently, without being criticized. And that is amazing. I never had that. My growing up family was like, just be quiet and told. So this is nice. Give everybody a voice. And the youngest one of my family was the most, I don't know, she just got it cut right to the core things we were like, live. And she'd be like, “Yeah, well, how about if we do this, and I was like, that's what we need to do.” So it really was amazing how every single person in the family has something to contribute. And that's what we learned in our programs that everybody has something to contribute. 

12:51

Another thing that I learned that I really valued was that there are other opinions except mine. And they're valid, because I thought what I knew was the only way to do it. And I have learned to the program. There's all kinds of ways to do it and some of them work a lot better than mine. I was like living in a tunnel. Now it's a wide open Vista. It's really amazing. So it's been a fabulous journey. Like John said, 37 years tomorrow [4 Feb 2021] of sobriety is pretty wonderful. So that's it for me. 

Michelle St Jane  13:16  

I can really resonate with what you said, Judy, being in Al-anon myself. The alcoholic in my life, never went to program. And the suggestion was made to go to Al-anon I'm like, 

  • Why me? 
  • I'm doing everything right. 
  • I'm not drinking. 
  • I'm not causing harm. 

Oh, boy. Did I have my own set of crazy. There were years where I grew up in an alcoholic family? Yes, my genogram full of women married alcoholics. Yes, there was a lot of family tree roots to untangle to get to my truth and lean into my wisdom and learning because all that pain was either gonna fester or be translated. 

13:58  

John, can we welcome you back in because I'd love for you to share how you and Judy work together. You've talked about how Pam and Reggie did it but you guys sponsor. You're amazing people influencers in the program.  I'm also wondering, Judy, you were friends of Lois W. And John and friends of Bill W. How have they affected impacted your life?

John Howells  14:22  

Okay, for me, knowing that Bill W and Bob Smith, were the ones who put this together in 1935 and then the big book came out in 1939.  Its used as an actual book, like a sort of blueprint for your life. And I use that book in my daily life. And whenever I take on a newcomer or sponsee, as we call him in our program, is that I walk them through that book.  That's what Reggie walked me through. I am now passing on and walking other young men. 

14:58  

For you know, the big book has such a value system to it, that whoever does our program, they are guaranteed to have a better life. It takes hard work to achieve anything these days. But if you're willing to put the time in, and as a sponsor, I will go that extra mile because someone did it for me free of charge. And I would do exactly the same. 

15:23  

One thing I believe, Michelle, is that we want to give back, is we not only want to give back a program, we want to give them that that encouragement and incentives to grow and be their beautiful soul. 

15:38  

We all know, drinking is a depression. So it brings everybody downward. So all the things you wanted to achieve as a young man or a young lady, you have now the opportunity, because of the suddenly you're starting a new life. And I always look at a as a way of life, and it's a brand new life, the past is in the past, you have a chance now to start again. And you would be surprised to see the amount of young men and women I've seen in my time that have gone on to accomplish things they never thought they could achieve. 

16:14  

You know, I believe, as an alcoholic, that we weren't just given a gift, we were given an opportunity and a chance to not only help ourselves, but also to help others achieve their purpose in life. And I think Bob and Bill, rest their souls in their graves today would be so happy how this program has helped not only our program, but gone on to implement in many other types of self-help programs around the world. Thanks, Michelle.

Michelle St Jane  16:49  

This is true. Thank you, John. That's fabulous. 

16:52  

Judy, we've spoken about ALAnon. I don't know if you want to add to what John said, but I'd love for you to also mention one of your other passions ALAteen.

Judith Howells  17:01  

Hell yeah.  That's that was the best experience of my life. I've done a lot of service work in ALA-non. But the best service idea was added to those children who were so real, they just were just so real. And you know, what really amazed me more than anything about them. They thought the drinking and the misbehaving was their fault.  “If I didn’t go out with my friends so much, and I stayed home.  What if I spent more time with my parents.”  You had to keep telling them, "you didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't heal it." And you know, it's amazing how the kids just when they got that, you can see the relief on their faces. But they were also just so excited about life. 

17:39  

In ALAteen we did the topics like one of the topics that say be anger, we talk about anger. And you know, a lot of teens can be quite angry, they just life changing, hormones are raging. And we kind of got to the investigating anger. And we found out that we think, in our particular meeting, a lot of anger may be fear based. So then we got into what are we afraid of, and it was really interesting, it took me back to a lot of stuff that I dealt with in my teens. But it's interesting analogy, because you don't actually sponsor the teens, you sponsor, the group, and the ALAteen sponsor each other, which is really fabulous to watch them help each other. Just you know, it's just such a group thing. I wanted to talk a little bit about service work, because I'm Bermuda. Alanson is connected to another area. So we have an influence and the whole other area that helps us with our growth as well. So I'm really pleased about that.

Michelle St Jane  18:28  

It's true. And it's invaluable, isn't it?

18:32  

Yeah. And, you know, I'm so grateful for ALAteen, because it took till I grew up and by ALA-non, before I could work on some of those issues as well. I like one of the acronyms. FEAR =s False Evidence Appears Real. What's your favorite, Judy?

Judith Howells  18:49  

How important is it? That's the one I like, it's not an acronym, but it's a slogan.  We have slogans in the program. But the one I used to always say is, 'how important is it' because I can make the silliest little thing important and be top priority in my life. 

19:01  

You know, the other one is 'hope.' If you're Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, (HALT) you better just stop and take care of those things before you try to achieve anything. And I find that if we realize someone’s 'hangry,' that’s Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired.  That can be the very time when you just lose it. So I have to stop myself and say, "Okay, what am I feeling here," if I've got a hope and check this out and get myself under control.

Michelle St Jane  19:25  

Really good point. When you're in the midst of a crisis and chaos, you don't have time to be Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. I grew up in a household where people were very angry, and it resulted in domestic violence. So, you know, there was so many things to take care of like little brothers and safety and things like that. 

19:43  

John, what's your favorite slogan?

John Howells  19:46  

"The opposite of faith is fear "or vice versa? And we use fear in the fellowship as 'Face Everything And Run. Well that was the way we used to live run from everything. You know, they call it “The alcohol is like a form of escape.  We want to escape all our problems only to find out by the time we come back, we are a bigger problem, you know, and the problem is not in the object, but the problem is in us. And we have to deal with that, it from our inner core. 

20:18  

That's where steps 4-5-6-7 work on our daily lives. Because once we admit we're an alcoholic, we also have to accept it.  Then once you accept that you have to do something about it, you can just leave it there. There's no running away anymore, because you've already admitted that they talk about having a conscience, you know, in our program.

20:42  

But they also talk about the sixth sense. And being aware of when things are starting to go downhill, how one can address that for a step. So we're using the 12 steps in our daily lives on a daily basis. 

20:59  

Like Judy mentioned, there are times when certain things crop up in our lives. Even today, where we have to sit back and say, “Now I need to look at this from a different perspective, because what I'm doing is not working.” And that's where the beautiful 12 steps of the program really enhance your life, you know. 

21:19  

I'd like to also mention is that on Step three, where its asked of us to make a decision to bring God back into our life, it was so important to me as an alcoholic. Because when I started to put drink in front of everything in my life, I lost all sense of value, and anything that was God inspired. 

21:43  

 I'm not a religious person, proximity wise, but I tried to live as spiritual as one can be. And I think that's what our program has given us. It's given us the spiritual journey that we need to travel along, to find ourselves. And that's why I always say, you know, God gave us a gift. And to me as an alcoholic this gift is called sobriety. Not everybody gets it, but we at least tried to help the ones who make it doors, you know, any a first started, they had their trials and tribulations just like us today, when people come into the rooms, and they feel uncomfortable, and they just don't sit well. And it takes a few meetings for him to get to know people. And it isn't until maybe some time down the road, they understand the book bear reading or the books they're reading, just hang around a bit longer, you know, just don't go out the door and say, “This isn't working for me, I'll try something else.” Because we know nine times out of 10, they won't be back. And our heart bleeds. When we see that happen. It really does. Because one thing I have learned in Alcoholics Anonymous, you have compassion for the people that come into our rooms, and then leave because you often wonder where they are, you know. So thanks, once again, Michelle, for allowing us to share our recovery, but to also share our life.

Michelle St Jane  23:09  

Thank you, John. It's incredibly valuable when long timers like yourself and Judy, share your stories and the results.  Your willingness to do service as well. 

23:21  

I too, am very grateful for the presence of alcoholism throughout my family tree because it gave me the chance to evolve past the traumas and the legacies of those gone before. I'm well reminded everyone was doing the best they could with what they had, at the time, they were doing the best that they could.

23:40  

Any last words, Judy?

Judith Howells  23:41  

We have programs that are available. The people there waiting for you to come in.  You can walk into a room, you don't have to say a word, you can just go and listen to either open a meeting or an ALA-non meeting. 

24:21  

I was just so low for so long and it was so nice to have people that understood what I was going through, didn't judge me didn't criticize me. Most of all, allowed me to talk because when I tried to talk to my parents or whatever, they'd say, "Oh, just get rid, get the divorce and get rid of it. You don't need that in your life." There was nobody that actually understood that I love this man. With all my heart from the first day I met him, and I wanted to live with him. And just to tell me to just get rid of him was not acceptable to me. 

 I'm so pleased that I had the people in the program over the years that have encouraged me, and particularly for the teens. I hope that anybody's got our teens that are struggling with us, and they're just acting out need somewhere to go that they know that the program is there for them. And then there is help and don't be alone if you don't have to. And thank you very much for letting us share our story.

Michelle St Jane  24:43  

Thank you, Judy.

Outro  24:51  

Dr. Michelle St Jane is a conscious steward of meaningful leadership in the world and the wider cosmos. Tune in every Thursday for real talk around life, leadership and your conscious journey. Be ready to create and cultivate your dreams and soul hearted at desires. Your support is value. Please subscribe, leave a review and a rating but more importantly share with your connections.