STOP! Collaborate and listen… okay, but like, seriously. Not in a bad 90’s rap way. More like a shhh, your body is trying to speak to you way. A HALT check is an acronym-based strategy for self care in recovery programs (including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), and it reminds us that there are four major recurring, subtle, yet serviceable problems that distract us from our recovery.
Trying to shake a substance abuse addiction is an emotionally and physically turbulent stage of one’s life. Especially early on. Feelings and emotions seem to be all over the place. But there is one method that works to control the turbulence: a HALT check.
So What’s a HALT Check?
The HALT acronym stands for Hungry Angry Lonely Tired. When doing a HALT check, you’re essentially taking a step back from welling negativity and asking yourself, “Am I really taking care of myself?” After all, in the midst of our addictions, we often neglect to take care of ourselves in the way our bodies need. Things go unnoticed, and those root disturbances manifest in ways that can be destructive to our recovery efforts.
Am I Hungry?
Food Nourishes Us
We’ve all seen the before and after photos of people in recovery. When we dislike ourselves, we neglect our body’s cries for nourishment. We deprive ourselves. Hunger is our body’s way of crying for attention. Just be careful of hazards in the grocery store!
Am I Angry?
Feelings on the Backburner
People often misdirect their anger without even realizing it. Whether it’s due to dysfunctional family dynamics, bad reactions from friends and other loved ones, or lack of self understanding, bottled up anger creates incredibly toxic environments. Best to deal with anger upfront in group therapy.
Am I Lonely?
Isolation is Dangerous
Socializing takes real effort sometimes, and it creates unwanted complexity. One of the first instincts in early recovery is to isolate. It’s healthy to a certain degree; after all, we are trying to get away from bad influences left over from our days of using. But early recovery is also a time when we need more support than ever. So ask yourself, “Am I feeling this way because I’m lonely?”
Am I Tired?
Life Overwhelms Us
Lack of sleep has a way of changing people’s personalities, and not for the better. We become grumpy, apathetic, irritable, and a host of other unpleasant things. The feeling of tiredness robs us of what little patience, kindness, and civility we have to offer. So next time a long share at an AA meeting really seems annoying, ask yourself, “Am I just tired?”
Feelings to Expect in Early Recovery
Withdrawal is a complicated process that doesn’t look the same for everyone. There are some common threads, though, that can help you prepare for possible parts of your early recovery journey. The pink cloud, for instance, is a disproportionately strong feeling of wellness. “High on life” is a good way to describe it. Although the pink cloud feels good to be in while it lasts, it is fleeting and will always pass.
Once passed, old feelings will often resurface. They’ll overwhelm in different ways: maybe you’ll feel paralyzed by fear and trepidation. Maybe you’ll feel like you’re drowning in grief, or steaming with anger. Our individualized reactions tie in closely to each of our individualized personalities. This is where “angry, lonely, and tired” start to enter the equation.
HALT Check 1
Good Nutrition Keeps Us Going
In early recovery, the body is still adjusting to its new (or rather, original) fuel sources. Rather than waiting on its next hit of your drug of choice, it depends solely on real food and hydration. This shift makes good nutrition more important than ever when satiating hunger.
Having a healthy and balanced diet feels like old news for a reason: it’s parroted by health experts left and right. But this doesn’t have to happen all at once. Small changes like asking for brown rice instead of white at restaurants, taking a half hour walk a few times a week, or getting a FitBit to track your progress are all great steps that make a difference. MyFitnessPal offers great support through informative articles on such small changes. Follow them on Facebook to get the occasional newsfeed reminder about things like meal prep tips.
HALT Check 2
Misdirected Feelings Create New Problems
Anger often manifests in ways we don’t expect or intend. This is usually learned behavior from unhealthy relationship dynamics. When we’re taught to “put on a good face” or “stop acting so grumpy,” repression enters the equation. And when that anger floats around unchecked, misdirected feelings create new complications.
A common such complication is getting a case of the “f*** it”s. This forced apathy results from the weariness that comes with responsibility. Getting newly sober isn’t a cake walk. When stress leads to feeling overwhelmed, it’s easier to just throw up your hands and offer a four-word expletive instead of actually dealing with problems. Anger can increase the intensity of cravings and your sensitivity to triggers.
HALT Check 3
Isolation is Dangerous
Indulging the desire to isolate is definitely one of the top three causes of relapse. It’s comforting to think that you aren’t actually alone when it comes to feeling lonely in early recovery. When trying to get away from bad influences, recovering addicts and alcoholics often experience a social void as they try sorting out their new lives. Staying away from the complexities of relationships offers and easy “out”; however, this solution sabotages your HALT check by encouraging loneliness. Just as anger creates problems of misdirection, loneliness also manifests problems in unexpected areas of our lives.
HALT Check 4
For the *Rest* of Our Sakes
Finally, if hunger, anger, or loneliness are not what’s causing issues, ask yourself, “When was the last time I got a good night’s sleep?”
Sleep is one of those things that seems kind of pointless sometimes, right? It takes up so much of our time, and it prevents us from completing more things while awake. But all too often, the opposite is actually true. Quality sleep rejuvenates the body more than we realize, and it leads to all sorts of health benefits.
Give Yourself Some Slack
By “some slack,” we definitely don’t mean “give yourself license to relapse.” We mean that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed during big periods of change. But doing a HALT check is a great way to make those changes seem less burdensome. Self reflection is a sure path to self discovery. Once HALT checks turn habitual, you’ll notice certain patterns emerge. Maybe 5 hours of sleep a night just won’t cut it. Or maybe breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day for you. Whatever the answers may be, self care skills benefit not only you, but the people around you as well.
If you or a loved one is seeking help, contact our addiction counselors today: 855-737-7363