For those in addiction recovery, preventing relapse requires using many different strategies to help deal with potential triggers. Triggers are events, emotions, or behaviors that may cause someone to experience a craving to start using drugs or alcohol again. In early recovery, triggers can be anything from experiencing trauma to hearing a song that sparks a pleasurable reminder of past drug use (also known as “euphoric recall”).
Triggers can vary based on the individual, and some can be quite complex. There are some, however, that can be recognized and eliminated using the HALT method.
What is HALT?
HALT is an acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. These four feelings can put an individual in recovery in a vulnerable state. Part of preventing relapse is using the HALT method to recognize when you’re in that place and to use self-care to get back into a better physical and emotional condition where you will be less likely to relapse.
Here is a breakdown of the components of HALT, and how you can use them in your daily life to help take care of yourself and take steps toward preventing relapse.
H—Hungry: Being hungry can cause anyone to make irrational decisions. Worse still, it can lead to the state of being “hangry,” describing the irritability and anger that comes from not having enough fuel to make good choices. When experiencing hunger, we may find ourselves being more emotional and impulsive. If this happens in a moment of weakness and there are drugs and alcohol present, there is an increased possibility of making a bad snap decision. To combat this, make sure to eat regular, balanced meals, and carry snacks, like a granola bar or an apple with you between meals.
A—Angry: An unhealthy focus on anger or resentment can lead to feeling justified in acting out. When we believe that someone has wronged us, we may make reckless choices, including using drugs or alcohol. To prevent anger from growing out of control and influencing your actions, confront situations that bother you assertively, and talk openly about things that bother you rather than letting them weigh on your mind.
L—Lonely: Loneliness can lead people to turn to anything for comfort. Without sober support and friends nearby, it can be easy to make bad choices because no one is there to hold us accountable. Feeling isolated from people can also be extremely painful and alienating, making a substance seem more appealing and comforting. To deal with loneliness, reach out to sober supports who can lend an ear.
T—Tired: Like hunger, exhaustion can have a negative impact on decision making. Without enough sleep, our judgment can become impaired, emotions feel more intense, and basic functioning is usually much harder. Lack of sleep can also lead to depression and physical problems like high blood pressure. All these factors contribute to feelings of discomfort, even being out of control. This can become a trigger to use drugs or alcohol as a form of comfort or self-medication. Getting eight hours of sleep each night goes a long way toward improving mental health and preventing relapse.
The HALT method is just one tool to include within a comprehensive relapse prevention plan. Recovery is a life-long journey, and the best way to prevent relapse is to seek effective, quality treatment for issues with substance use and build a solid foundation for maintaining your sobriety.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or a substance use disorder, call the New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab.