Feeling Stressed and Shaky? It’s Time to Call a HALT

Feeling Stressed and Shaky? It’s Time to Call a HALT

Poor self-care, unchecked emotions, and a lack of healthy human interaction threaten the stability and serenity that keep us growing in recovery. When you get to this point, it is time to call a HALT—to do whatever it takes to reset your emotional and physical equilibrium and preserve your sobriety.

HALT is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. These are the states of mind and body that the recovering addict must guard against. Each presents a genuine threat to recovery.

Dealing with HALT symptoms

It’s easy to say, just never let yourself get hungry, angry, lonely, or tired—but this is unrealistic. We are real people and we’re called to live real, hands-on, in-the-thick-of-it lives. But we are also addicts seeking to live soberly, sanely, and intentionally. We don’t need to cloister ourselves, but we do need to exercise some wisdom in daily living.

Hungry – We underestimate the impact of physical hunger on our personal equilibrium. When we are improperly nourished, or when we fail to take the time for meals, we set ourselves up for a crash. These crashes, when coupled with emotional upsets, can lead one straight back to the bottle.

In recovery you are learning to take care of yourself—emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, but physically as well. We are not fragmented beings with mind disconnected from body; we are one. The whole self needs care. Eat well and regularly. Prioritize your health and proper self-care. This strengthens your sobriety.

Angry – We know that resentment and excesses of emotion are the prime enemies of sobriety and serenity. Does this mean we are to avoid all situations or interactions that might spark a negative feeling? Must we detach ourselves from our feelings entirely so as to ensure that we never experience anger?

Again, this would be unrealistic. If we are to live among people, we will certainly develop resentments. While we endeavor to become more patient, tolerant, loving individuals, some resentment is unavoidable. We must learn how to deal with it efficiently and effectively.

Rather than huffing and puffing, going on a rant, getting drunk, gossiping, or giving the silent treatment, we are learning to deal with our anger in a systematic and grown-up way. All issues of anger or resentment should be submitted to the daily Tenth Step inventory and discussed with a sponsor (immediately if necessary). If the issue persists or there are deeper resentments that must be addressed, it may be appropriate to work all Twelve Steps around the particular situation or person. This helps us to re-channel our emotional energies, examine the real issue (often different from what we initially think we are angry about), and get some clarity around appropriate action steps we might take.

Lonely – Don’t think you need anyone? Think again. Alcohol was our companion and confidant for so many years that many of us have lost touch with what it means to have real relationships with other human beings. There is nothing more normal and healthy than craving the companionship of a friend or the fellowship of a group. We have always had these longings; they were simply masked by our alcohol use.

In recovery, we recognize our need for human companionship. It is time to start forming relationships that will impart to our lives much needed fun, humor, shared interests, and mutual understanding. The members of your recovery group can provide the interaction that you need. Get to know others and let them know you. Facing a dismal, lonely night at home and craving a drink? Pick up the phone and talk with a program friend. Even a few moments of conversation can provide the necessary shift in perspective to keep you sober. Monitor your time spent with others as you would monitor your intake of healthy food or the amount of sleep you get—you need lots of it!

Tired – As in the case of hunger, we cannot deny our physical needs. We may think short tempter, impatience, and irritations are byproducts of our poor emotional or spiritual state, but in reality, the culprit is often a simple lack of sleep. To keep yourself in the best possible shape for approaching each day, get serious about your sleep. You may need a little more than the average person, but that’s okay.

Feeling stressed, shaky, and pushed to the edge? It’s time to call a HALT.

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