Breaking free from addictive behavior is not an easy undertaking. Many try repeatedly only to end up right back where they first left off. Some go on to have extended periods of abstinence, and then end up lapsing or relapsing at some point. However, relapse does not have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are tools and techniques available to you that if used effectively, will reduce your likelihood of a slip. The key to a successful recovery is being prepared. It is important to accept that at some point in your addiction recovery journey you will face challenging situations. Life has a way of tossing curve balls at us at lightening speed. Don’t get caught blindsided.
Be prepared and ready to diffuse a situation and handle it with the grace and the calm that you have come to know in sobriety. When you engage in self-care and have body awareness, your mind and body are better prepared to handle these challenges with grace, dignity and calm. Using the acronym HALT gives us a tool to help remind us of what our bodies and minds need to function optimally.
HALT stands for HUNGRY, ANGRY, LONELY and TIRED. Preventing and managing these four natural human conditions will help you go a long way in keeping your addictive behavior at bay.
Hunger can be physical or emotional need. Most of us understand that our bodies thrive and function at an optimal level when we nourish it with healthy, nutrient rich food. Taking the time to prepare for meals and having the mindfulness to snack on healthy goodies is the best way to achieve optimal performance. However, sometimes when we HALT and assess our situation, we can describe a hunger for the less obvious, things such as affection, accomplishment, and understanding. Having a healthy support system in place that fuel your love, understanding and belonging need is essential. Those who care and love you nourish your heart, and ease the emotional hunger that you’re feeling. It is essential to not turn to destructive habits or negative people to fuel this basic need. This will not fill the emotional, or physical hunger in a healthy way and will likely lead you back to the place you have worked so hard to free yourself from.
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion to experience as Viktor Frankl clearly stated in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, where he tells of his personal journey of surviving the concentration camps of World War II. Yes, there are situations when anger is appropriate. However, the important thing is to HALT, and take the time to understand what is causing your anger. Anger is a response to a situation that causes us to take some sort of action. The key is to take the appropriate action that does not lead to destructive consequences. Taking a moment to calm down and breath or even remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes goes a long way to help reset your brain so that you can approach the anger trigger with a calm and rational mind.
Removing yourself from the situation or engaging in a physical activity like running or a brisk walk is helpful. Creative projects such as painting, singing, or writing might be a better way for you to dispel your anger. Meditation or prayer can be other way to calm yourself anywhere and at any time. Regardless of how you expel your anger, make sure you acknowledge it and reflect upon its causes so you can then release it in constructive, not destructive, ways. The most important thing is to not use a substance or addictive behavior to quell the anger. Giving in to that urge is only a short-term solution to the problem that has long-term consequences.
Loneliness can occur when we are by ourselves or when surrounded by many people. At times, many suffering from addiction isolate themselves when they don’t feel like others can understand them, withdrawing into themselves out of fear or doubt. Being alone is a self-imposed situation. If you’re feeling lonely, HALT and ask yourself have you had contact with someone today? Your support system is there for you when you feel depressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, or if you just need someone to talk to for a few minutes. Going to a meeting, texting or calling a friend, or visiting a loved one might be just what you need. You can also simply go out in the world by taking a walk, attending a yoga class or helping a neighbor run an errand. Rather than hiding from everyone and returning to substance abuse, reach out and connect with others who want to see you happy and healthy. Placing yourself in a service position with a bit of responsibility helps one feel accountable and duty bound. This often helps some fill the void of loneliness.
Tiredness takes a toll on our bodies, mind, and spirit. When our days are filled with errands, meetings, and activities it is easy to ignore how tired we become. Often those that struggle with addiction also struggle with a co-occurring condition such as anxiety, depression and or PTSD. When you have these co-occurring disorders, fatigue can easily become an issue. The thinking patterns that are often associated with these disorders can leave one exhausted. Sometimes the medications prescribed can also cause tremendous fatigue of body and mind. Running on low energy compromises our ability to think and our capacity to cope. Taking the time to HALT is particularly important when you’re tired. Satisfying the physical need to sleep, rest, and rejuvenate is critical to keeping healthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. A good night’s sleep or a leisurely nap may be all you need to charge your battery for the day. Be sure to plan your days allowing for time to rest. Recharging your body, mind and spirit will help you get through tough moments and maintain your sobriety.
Whether you are struggling with an addictive disorder or not, HALT can serve as a reminder to all of us just how essential self-care really is. For those recovering from addiction, paying closer attention to your emotions and having body awareness will help you prevent relapse. Take a moment each day to check in with yourself. Ask, “Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?” Doing so will make the everyday stress of life easier to deal with and help you maintain sobriety. Please remember that there are times in life when what seems like the simplest of tasks, like implementing HALT feels overwhelming; especially, if you have lapsed or relapsed. What is most important is there is help available to get you back on track. Don’t give up and don’t beat yourself up. Reach out and get the help you need today.