What does HALT mean?

Whether you’re new to recovery or not, you may have heard the acronym HALT and wondered what it meant. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry (or Anxious), Lonely, and Tired. People in recovery often use this acronym as a quick and easy reminder of things to check for when they have an alcohol craving. By assessing yourself using HALT when you feel like drinking, you can take action to deal with a specific emotional or physical trigger.

So imagine for a minute that you’re going about your day and you suddenly get the urge to drink. What do you do? Here’s an illustration of how you might apply HALT in that sort of situation…

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Ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Think about when you ate last and whether or not your stomach is growling. If you’re hungry, eat a meal or at least a snack. I always try to keep a granola bar or some almonds in my purse for a quick snack on the go. Also, consider if you’re thirsty and drink a glass of water if you are. Thirst can be a trigger for some people, too!

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Consider if you’re feeling angry or anxious. Has something happened recently that upset you? Are you dealing with a stressful situation or difficult person? Have you been thinking about something that stresses you out? If so, give yourself at least a few minutes to close your eyes and breathe, or better yet, take a walk, a shower, or do something else that you find relaxing. I find making a cup of tea relaxing and it also distracts me from whatever is upsetting me. By the time I sit down to drink it, I usually feel loads better!

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Next, determine if you’re feeling lonely. When was the last time you talk with a friend or family member? When was the last time you were face-to-face with people? A lack of social interaction can be a major trigger for me to drink, so I try to plan regular activities with friends and family. Right now, I’m only able to gather with my friends virtually, but I do this twice per week and that makes a big difference in my mood. Try calling up a friend if you feel lonely, or join an online recovery meeting, such as an AA or SMART recovery meeting. To avoid this trigger in the future, make regular plans where you see or talk with other people.

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Think about whether you might be tired. Your body is much less resilient when you’re tired, so you’re more likely to get triggered to drink. If you’re feeling tired in the middle of the day, try taking a 20-30 minute nap to recharge your batteries. You might also consider going to bed earlier to ensure that you get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Less than this and you may find yourself dragging and feeling on edge. Make sure that your bedroom is a relaxing place that will support restful sleep as well.

So that’s how to use HALT in a nutshell! It’s an easy way to quickly assess yourself and attend to your needs. As time goes on and you begin to identify more of your triggers, you may want to add additional items to your self-care checklist.

Do you have another acronym that helps you? What other tools do you use to help you when you get an urge to drink?

I used this acronym in a recent post and someone asked what it meant, so I thought I should do a post to explain it a little better. I hope my explanation was helpful! Thanks for reading! 🙂

“Whether you’re new to recovery or not, you may have heard the acronym HALT and wondered what it meant.”

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