Using HALT to Prevent Relapse

Two of the most important parts of recovery are knowing your triggers and managing your emotions. Nothing sabotages your recovery like feeling overwhelmed by stress or feeling so depressed that you don’t even care about staying sober. Knowing your triggers and managing your emotions is easier said than done. It might be relatively easy to avoid a bar you used to drink at or minimize contact with someone who makes you feel bad, but when negative feelings come out of nowhere it can leave you feeling helpless. When that happens, remember HALT–hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Think of it as a sort of checklist you can use to figure out why you’re in a terrible mood.

Hungry. Food has a surprisingly big effect on our mood. If you haven’t eaten in a while, your blood sugar may be low. That can cause irritability, confusion, foggy thinking, and depression, all of which can trigger cravings. Recovering alcoholics in particular are likely to have low blood sugar. To avoid the constant cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes that makes you feel constantly hungry and irritable, try to avoid refined sugar and grains. Instead eat whole grains, protein, fruits, and vegetables that keep you full longer and moderate your blood sugar.

Hunger is the easiest of the four to remedy. If you feel grouchy and disoriented, have a healthy snack and see if you feel better.

Angry. Sometimes anger is helpful, as when it inspires us to correct an injustice and sometimes it’s destructive, as when it fuels resentments. If you are feeling angry, you might not even know why. Think about it a little. Was it something that happened recently? Did something remind you of an old resentment? Are you still feeding that anger when it serves no purpose at all?

There are several ways to deal with anger but trying to stifle it usually just makes it worse. Let yourself experience it and ask yourself why you are angry. Are you afraid? Are you hurt? If you are angry at someone else, what does the situation look like from his perspective?

Lonely. Loneliness isn’t always about physical isolation. Sometimes you just don’t feel like you connect with the people around you. There are several dangers rolled into loneliness. First, you might feel depressed about it. Second, you might reach out to people who might tempt you to relapse. Third, you might get bored. All of these are dangerous.

Loneliness is a little harder to deal with, since you need cooperation from others. The surest way to deal with it is to talk to a therapist or go to meetings, either of which almost guarantees a sympathetic ear. You can also reach out to friends and family. Whatever you do, don’t just sit in your room feeling like an exile. Someone will help you if your reach out.

Tired. This is a big one that people often forget about. When you’re tired, everything else is harder. All your demons come out to play. It’s harder to even remember to do the things that keep you healthy.

Fortunately, all you have to do is take a nap or just plan to get more sleep. This is sometimes inconvenient, but if you make more time for sleep, it’s much easier to get everything else done.

HALT is a great way to turn your nebulous agitation and craving into a manageable problem if you only remember to use it.