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HALT: The Cue to Recovery Self-Care


HALT –  this tried and true slogan helps us to stay in touch with our feelings and needs. Sometimes the onset of anxiety or a sudden drop in mood can be traced to our having forgotten to eat so our blood sugar levels are off kilter. Sometimes we may be carrying a resentment, or feeling lonely, or we are just too tired.

What is HALT? Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. I am not sure who come up with this acronym but it’s widely used in the 12 step programs and in recovery circles. A big part of staying sober is taking care of ourselves! When we were using we didn’t care about these things, one because the alcohol masked them, and other, because we were too preoccupied with using anyway. But in sobriety, using this acronym is an easy way to recognize certain signs. I think that Hungry and Tired should lead, they are the most important for me and seem to effect everything else.

HALT can serve as a cue to all of us that we need to take care of our basic needs every day. For those recovering from substance use disorder, paying closer attention to our feelings will help us prevent relapse. Take a moment each day to check in with yourself. Ask, “Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?” Honestly evaluating how you feel takes only a minute. Doing so will make the everyday stress of life easier to deal with and help you preserve sobriety.


HUNGRY: When I was drinking I might have felt hunger but I just blocked that feeling with more drinks. Alcohol was my food. But physical hunger can be quite dangerous if not tended to. Not enough that it can lead you to feel physically drained but also emotionally agitated! I know that I can get pretty grouchy when I am hungry, and I tend to have low blood sugar levels and I start to feel dizzy! So I have to remind myself all the time: Don’t forget to eat!

TIRED: I feel tired often! I feel like sleep has been a luxury for the last few years! And, I also think that I can do it all, and all of the time! Yes!!! I am superwoman! No, not really, not at all.  Unfortunately, being tired can take a toll on the body, mind and soul and can often lead to depression as well as other dark symptoms – like that damn voice creeping in telling me that maybe I can have one! So this is crucial for me, I have to pick and choose what will be done and what can wait. And I have to make sure that I am getting the right amount of sleep. Most importantly, although not often enough, I have to take time for me! You may be surprised at how taking a break from everything and recharging your body can work wonders!

ANGRY: This is a tough feeling, especially in early recovery with little knowledge of any coping skills. Some even say that anger is a form of depression. For me, if I get enough sleep and eat properly, anger usually takes care of itself. But I do have to manage anger when it appears, because I have had moments when I get angry and the fuck its sneak in and I am ready to throw in the towel and get drunk! So, I have to learn how to diffuse the anger. There are multiple ways to do that. Some people need to get the aggression out on activities such as exercising, punching a pillow, screaming, listening to loud music, and even cleaning! Yes, cleaning, I tell ya it works wonders for me! If you ever see me frantically scrubbing the toilet, you know what I am feeling! LOL! Another method maybe to start a creative project, something to turn anger into calmness. If my anger persists, I definitely call someone and talk it out with them to get out all the emotions. Anger can be dangerous in recovery and can lead me to want to pick up that drink.


LONELY: Yes, I can feel lonely in a house full of people – loneliness can be a very dark state of mind. It can also lead to depression, feeling overwhelmed and having anxiety. The way most people would handle this in active addiction would be to continue to drink! There are many different opinions on how to handle this emotion, but the best thing for me is to reach out and help someone else! Being of service to others is my best medicine! When I am not able to do that right away I call or email someone – chances are that others have experienced this emotion and will be able to give me support. Other options for dealing with being lonely include running errands and even taking a walk to clear my and going to a 12-step meeting. No matter what it is important to do something instead of wallowing in the feelings and letting them fester.

HALT  is an important part of recovery process as well as being healthy.

Being too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, are conditions that leave us more vulnerable to the temptations that lead us away from recovery. Part of recovery is learning to pay attention to these inner signals and practice fitting ways to meet our needs and resolve issues in a manner that will increase our serenity.

Taking a little time out from our busy day to ask ourselves if we are feeling too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, gets us in touch with our feelings. When we know what we are feeling we can make choices and take the appropriate action to get our needs for food, companionship, or rest, met.

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with alcohol addiction, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles.  You may also find some great inspiration, support and resources at the bottom of this page.

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