Using H.A.L.T. to Avoid Triggers in Addiction Recovery
One of the most important ways I have learned to deal with triggers in addiction recovery is using the H.A.L.T. acronym. If you have been to treatment for addiction, then you likely know what I am talking about. H.A.L.T. stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired and it refers to the things that you should pay attention to when you are feeling restless, irritable or discontent. What I have learned is that when I am feeling that way, it’s probably that I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired, and that if I address the underlying feeling, then I feel better. Using H.A.L.T. in addiction recovery is a simple way to avoid triggers and get to the heart of what’s really bothering you.
How to Use H.A.L.T. in Addiction Recovery
Many times, people in addiction recovery have negative feelings that aren’t always easy to identify. They may just have a general restlessness or disgruntled feeling, but not really know why. I know that when I have an overall feeling of grumpiness that doesn’t seem to be related to any specific thing that has happened, it’s time for me to figure out if I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired. It’s simply a matter of running through the four conditions in my head and seeing if one fits and then doing what I need to take care of it. Let’s look at each one a little closer.
I don’t know about you, but when I allow myself to get too hungry, my mood can get very ugly, very fast. Feeling hungry serves a purpose – it lets us know, in a physical way, that we need to eat to stay alive and well. Ignoring or not identifying the feeling will only last so long before your body and mind begin trying to tell you that you need to eat. For me, that means my stomach growls and I get grumpy. The answer, of course, is to eat and see if you feel better. To prevent it from happening in the first place, try to eat healthy meals or snacks at regular intervals so that you don’t get too hungry between them.
Sometimes anger bubbles up unexpectedly and can be hard to deal with, especially in early addiction recovery. With healthy coping skills, feelings of anger can be dealt with constructively rather than taking it out on ourselves or others. First, you have to identify what it is that is making you angry. Then you diffuse it. Exactly how you do that is something that you have to figure out because what works for one person may not work for someone else. For some, going out and getting some exercise helps. For others, it may be meditation or yoga. You may find that you need to talk to someone and vent your feelings. I like to write about my feelings. When I journal about what is making me angry, I almost always feel better just having put it down on paper.
Loneliness was a huge trigger for me when I was drinking, and it didn’t always mean that I was alone, it was the feeling of being an outcast or apart from others. Loneliness can lead to feelings of boredom, stress, anxiety and depression, all of which can quickly make you feel triggered. When I determine that I am feeling lonely, the first thing that I do is reach out to someone. It may be a phone call, an email or a get-together with a friend (even making plans to do something later is helpful to me because I can look forward to it). The important thing to remember when you’re feeling lonely is that you are not alone – reach out to someone in your support network and talk about it.
Being tired can make you feel depressed, overwhelmed, stressed and angry -- all things that can make you feel triggered. The good news is, like feeling hungry, feeling tired is something that you can usually address pretty easily. Trying to make sure that you get enough sleep at night is a quick fix. I also try to take a nap when I am overtired if I can. If you are someone who has difficulty sleeping, then it’s worth talking to your doctor about it. There are things besides sleep medications that your doctor can suggest if you are in addiction recovery and not able to take sleeping pills.
H.A.L.T. Alleviates Triggers in Addiction Recovery
Avoiding or resolving feelings of hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness can be tremendously helpful for those of us in addiction recovery. Learn to identify these feelings and understand what is going on behind them and you will be able to reduce and relieve triggers that pop up. The key is to pay attention and not ignore them.