H.A.L.T. has become one of the many important tools in my sobriety tool box. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. I first learned of this acronym in I.O.P (Intensive Out-Patient Treatment) and it has saved me many times.
When I’m hungry, I feel just like this baby bird.
Do you remember the Snickers commercials? They show someone like Betty White surrounded by big burly football players. Then, she eats a Snickers candy bar, and turns into a big burly football player. That is exactly what happens to me when I am hungry. My brain doesn’t work well. I get tired, un-motivated. I don’t want to work or do anything. And honestly, I become a raging bitch sometimes. It’s not something I’m proud of.
But then I eat something. A banana and granola bar at breakfast, or lunch, or supper. Whatever. The point is, I feel better after I eat. Even sitting here right now typing this out, I am hungry, and my brain is not focusing well. But, I know that if I go to the kitchen and eat something, that feeling will go away.
So, when I start to feel like the wicked witch of the West, I know it’s time to eat something. Otherwise I’m going to say something I shouldn’t, and then I’ll have to make amends. I hate having to make amends.
Angry is the first bi-product of being hungry. When my body is searching for the nutrients I haven’t been feeding it I get hungry, and then I become angry. Anger is something I try hard to avoid. Anger for me turns into resentments. And when those resentments fester, I become vulnerable to taking a drink.
Lonely is the second bi-product of being hungry. When I’m hungry, or angry, my brain is not working to its peak capacity. When that happens, I start to feel sorry for myself. I get into self-pity, and start thinking “woe is me”. I also tend to push people away, right when I need them the most.
Something I’ve learned over the course of my sobriety is, I need people. I need other humans in my life. So, when I recognize the fact that I am lonely, I don’t try to hide and take care of the feeling by myself. I reach out to someone. Or, I go to a meeting to get some Fellowship time. This takes some effort because it feels good to wallow in my own self-pity. Sometimes I must force myself to get out of my head. But when I do, the loneliness disappears.
The third bi-product of being hungry is tired. Yes, they are all interconnected. When I’m hungry, my body is working overtime, trying to produce energy from fumes. And when I’m tired, my brain doesn’t work very well.
Take for example today. This piece was written in 2 sessions because I had to stop, eat lunch, and take a nap. Last night I put my pizza on the cardboard, in the oven, and forgot about it.
I was so tired and hungry this morning that I forgot to check the oven before I turned it on. I went outside to smoke, and when I came back in I realized I left the cardboard in the oven when I turned the oven on to heat. Thankfully I realized it before it could set my oven on fire! But this is a scary example of what happens when I am running on fumes. I run the risk of burning my apartment down.
Remembering this acronym today is just as important to my sobriety as it was when I was just a few days sober. In fact, it’s possibly more important today than it was, because today I don’t think about drinking anymore. The thought rarely crosses my mind, and when it does, it’s a fleeting thought.
Because of that though, I have to stay vigilant at all times. Not only do I have to continue my Spiritual practices, and stay in fit Spiritual condition, I also have to watch for H.A.L.T. When I become too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, or a combination of the four, it means my defenses are down. And when my defenses are down, it means I am not spiritually fit.
So you see, it’s not enough to watch for these signs. It’s of vital importance to me and my sobriety that I recognize when these crop up, and do something about them. There are many aspects to staying sober, and this is just one of the many. But it’s not any less important either.
Originally published November 30, 2016 – medium.com