When we stop using drugs and alcohol, we become familiar with the acronym H.A.L.T. We learn that it stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired and knowing this can be a great strategy to help us recognize when we are about to enter any of these ‘danger zones’.
Being hungry for positive emotional reinforcement in the form of love and understanding takes time and is different from physical hunger, which is what the H stands for. In our using, hunger was something, which was ignored or hardly felt. Instead of eating, we drank and used, which suppressed any feelings of hunger. Our bodies need nutrition to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We should remember to ask ourselves when we last ate, if we feel hungry and if so try to make healthy food choices. Our bodies need the protein and minerals to maintain strength and then in turn our state of mind will feel more stable.
Anger is a very difficult emotion to handle at the best of times and in early recovery we have few coping skills in this area. This is a time when we can feel anger very intensely. It is not necessarily a negative emotion, but it can feel incredibly overwhelming. Ideally we can look at our life, see where the anger is coming from and then address it. This can be achieved over time by talking to a friend, a support group or professional therapist. Many people find that regular exercise can help stave off anger by replacing it with a feeling of wellbeing. The release of endorphins attained through exercise often results in a pleasurable feeling, which can help to balance out our anger. Similarly, engaging in some form of creative activity, or practicing yoga or meditation has proven to be an invaluable source of peace and calm for the troubles of the mind. Feelings of anger are a constant threat to those with a history of substance abuse, so it is advisable to find an outlet of some kind as a way of dealing with it.
Loneliness in recovery can lead to a very dark place. Feeling isolated amongst others and unable to reach out can lead to depression, and overwhelming feelings of anxiety. When felt this way in our using days we would just continue to use drugs or alcohol. In recovery there are ways to unmask this same feeling that most addicts and alcoholics experienced when using. People have different opinions on how to handle this emotion, but the best suggestion; however insurmountable it may seem is to find your support group and to let people know how you feel. Another strategy to pull oneself up out of the mire is to find a distraction of some kind. Possibly taking a walk or paying attention to some necessary task can often just be enough to get out of our heads and back in the real world feeling that we are part of something important.
The last of the H.A.L.T. acronyms is tired. It is easy to become tired and overwhelmed as an addict or alcoholic in this increasingly busy and incessantly demanding culture. We are expected to accomplish more than ever. Not only is it important to be sure to get enough sleep at night, but also it is important to take a break. Take a whole day just for yourself. It is surprising how stepping back from everything can recharge your body and shift our outlook from negative to positive.
Staying clean and sober is saving our lives and freeing us from the disease of addiction. Make it a daily routine to ask throughout the day; am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired?