The transition away from a life of impulse and feeding unhealthy desires, into a lifestyle of self discipline and thoughtful action is not an impossible journey but it is a most difficult one. To make such a journey we need support and we need tools, tools that help raise our self awareness and give us confidence in times of weakness. There is an old acronym familiar to those in recovery which serves as a helpful reminder that, when we find ourselves vulnerable and battling temptations, we are often ignoring some very basic human needs.
Each of these letters represents a very natural human condition and a high-risk situation which can lead to us inviting a harmful thing back into our lives.
Hungry: When we are hungry our bodies are trying to communicate a vital need that requires attention, “nourish me”, it says. Hunger is not be confused with feeling like having a snack, it is the deeper, more persistent, voice that craves good healthy foods and water. Our brains and body can only function using the nutrients found in the food and drink that we put in. For example, when we eat too much sugar and not enough proteins, vitamins, and minerals, our ability to focus and to think clearly soon suffers. Many drugs and alcohol are appetite suppressants and when we stop our hunger returns. Without enough hydration our energy level will sink and we can begin to resort to our quick fixes or pick me ups, in order to quiet the unsatisfied voice of hunger.
Angry: Anger is a very natural and healthy emotion and plays an important role in emotional maturity. However, when dealing with anger we can quickly lose the ability use good judgement, to the point that we can become “blinded” by anger. Anger will incline a person to make impulsive decisions because anger seeks a release and creates too great amount of internal pressure to be ignored. Hurt and confusion are commonly wrapped up in anger and we seek to change this feeling quickly, often by choosing to escape and relax with our substance or behavior of choice.
Lonely: Loneliness is more than just solitude. Loneliness is an internal isolation, it is the feeling that you are not understood, cared for, or valued. We can be by ourselves or we can just as easily be surrounded by family and friends, or in the middle of a crowd, and still feel alone. To feel alone in these circumstances indicates a need to better engage our environment rather than to withdraw into ourselves and into feelings of inadequacy. To be lonely and alone sets a dangerous stage for using without anyone’s intervention.
Tired: When our body is in need of rest and recovery it tells us by slowing down our natural rhythm. It causes our muscles to tighten, strains our vision, and makes us irritable. We begin to lose our coordination, our train of thought, and our ability to make snap judgements. Nothing will truly help our brain and body recuperate other than rest. When we go without quality rest we miss out on the benefits of good sleep, which then perpetuates a feeling of always being tired. Tiredness is a high risk situation because our decision making is impaired and a person may use in order to fight these feelings and to get “up”, or conversely to help bring on sleep.
If we are to successfully use H.A.L.T. as a tool we must first heed the whole message and then examine its parts. Thinking about using or engaging in that harmful behavior? Stop, halt, go no further, freeze in your tracks and ask yourself about each aspect.
Is it hunger? When was the last time you drank a glass of water? What was your last real meal (fast food doesn’t count). Eat something healthy.
Are you angry? What has made you angry at this moment? How can you exercise this anger and then move on with your day? Do some pushups, chop wood, rip paper, run in place and then follow with a relaxing activity like a bath, a book, a nap, or meditation. Find and then refine your process.
Do you feel lonely? Recovery is not made to be done alone and support exists for those willing to accept it. Join a 12-step group, volunteer in your local community, designate an accountability partner you can call or chat with online, join a softball or bowling league, play chess in the park. When you form a schedule and begin to fill your time with hobbies, recreation, work, and loved ones you can learn to cherish the times you have left for you. Then, loneliness may transform into peaceful solitude and self contentment.
Constantly tired? When we remove negative behaviors or substances from our lives we have to learn to regain energy for the things we used to love. Finding new ways to energize will take time and at the end of the day our cravings are typically greatest. Establishing a good sleep pattern will set the tone for each day and remaining active will ensure your body is eager for rest again each night. Don’t forget the rejuvenating effects water has upon our energy level and our ability to rest, drink a lot of it.
By working to improve one of these high-risk states you automatically help improve the others, they all work together in our physical and emotional well being. Remember that there is not one tool for this job. Recovery is one giant life changing event made possible by implementing numerous small changes everyday. Consider this one of many tools you need to rebuild.