Posted by: innerpilgrimage | February 13, 2017

Looking Forward to Practicing HALT Again Today

Okay, so for those who are still trying to get into the acronyms and initialisms of program, HALT is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. It’s a powerful tool in the 12-Step arsenal. When I feel triggered to act in compulsion (no matter the compulsion), I can stop and consider:

  • Am I hungry?
  • Am I angry?
  • Am I lonely?
  • Am I tired?

If I say yes to any of them, I know it’s a day which needs more attention to keep me from breaking abstinence.

I’ve found in practice that it’s also an opportunity to use program tools, particularly reaching out to others (Telephone, Sponsorship) and getting in print the thoughts and memories and resentments which burble up (Writing). I’ve also learned that when in the HALT zone, limiting myself to venting is safer than trying to work a resentment that comes up unexpectedly.

When I’m in the HALT zone, I don’t push too hard to work in that moment whatever comes up. Dealing with the HALT zone itself is enough of a challenge. There’s enough traction there both to gain insight and to relapse.

With hunger, I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s not actually hunger but thirst. I’ve also learned that it’s not that unusual for people to mistake hunger for dehydration. So a glass of water is always a good idea to start with, I think, no matter which HALT trigger I’m facing.

So, what if I’m hungry? Well, I have an abstinence plan set up that lets me eat. I measure it out (as I have a problem with portion creep if I don’t), mark it on the abstinence plan sheet, and go on. Usually, I can get by with a half-serving of anything, just to cut the hunger sensations. People with other plans may not be able to do this, so drinking water until the hunger subsides is probably the best choice to get to a meal or snack.

If I’m angry? That’s a red flag warning me that I’m ready to throw out abstinence altogether. Anger, as I’ve learned, is a call to action. The emotional friction is traction, and that energy (if channeled) means I can use the OA tools productively–especially Writing and the Action Plan. It’s been shown in studies that exercise can quell an angry mood. So anger means I can get Action Plan time in and work program despite being mad.

Loneliness is also dangerous. Isolation is easy in and out of program. When I’m lonely, I need human connection. Program has both helped and harmed here, since I’ve been in meetings which make me feel worse walking out than walking in. I often feel both lonely and angry then. But a strong meeting tears apart that sense of loneliness and often gives me treasured gems of insight. It doesn’t matter if the person sharing is there for the first time or has been continuously abstinent for 50 years. Program wisdom comes from anywhere at any time. I leave those meetings with hope and strength and inspiration.

Today, I am tired. I’ve been suffering allergies for about a week, so I’m walking about in a daze, and I feel sluggish. Add to it that thunder woke me up this morning just before 3 A.M., and I’m pretty worn out. Being tired means that I want comfort, and I’ll graze on comfort foods all day to emotionally feel better. Even in recent non-abstinent months, I would choose certain trigger foods which I had faith would comfort me. They only made my stomach rebel and burn. That discomfort compounded by exhaustion made me try to fix it with more food. It never worked. It just left me with a third problem–feeling the discomfort of being overstuffed. Well, and feeling irritable and snippy if I overdid the sugar.

So I guess the best tools to use for me in a HALT situation are as follows:

Hunger: Meeting, Abstinence Plan (drinking water), Action Plan, Service. Sitting still to work issues only makes me obsess over how hungry I am. Getting out and away can help, especially when I know that my stomach will shrink if I don’t obey each little complaint. Less food will fill it in time; I won’t be hungry as often. So letting myself be mildly hungry isn’t bad for me, and choosing to hydrate is always good for me.

Anger: Writing, Action Plan. Getting my anger out in writing can uncover painful truths behind the comforting lies I’ve told myself for years. I can work what I uncover when I’m not in the HALT zone, but being aware of what’s really happening is powerful. Also, moving my body–especially outdoors–does wonders. I don’t want to go to a meeting or phone my sponsor or anyone else in program. Venting raw anger doesn’t help as a share, and I’ve seen meetings go from relaxed to uncomfortable when someone just vents. When anger subsides into frustration or calm, I can share about the anger and keep the fellowship safe. Meeting and Telephone can really help me work program after the anger has released its grip on me.

Loneliness: Meeting, Telephone, Sponsor. I don’t think tools which are meditative/contemplative more than social (Literature, Writing) help when I feel lonely. It’s clear I need the fellowship’s strength and the sense that others understand–especially my feelings. The empathy I get from the fellowship is what I need right then.

Tiredness: Abstinence Plan.This isn’t really the weariness of being alone or the frustration of being blocked or triggered by anger. This is mental, physical, and emotional weariness. When I am tired, I’m going to find trigger foods very attractive. Writing can help if loneliness and anger show up to the party, but it’s most often all I can do to stay mindful that I am susceptible to autopilot eating and binges. Awareness of being tired means that I can turn to program knowledge and work it diligently (though slowly). I can also rest if the day has time for me to rest, for self-care isn’t the same as selfishness. HAL- might also show up, so I just have to keep it slow-and-steady on a T-day–since I’m traveling that 24 hours in a mental fog. If I can rest, I can get some Literature or Writing time in before I sleep or nap.

Despite walking the edge of relapse, experiencing  HALT can be a blessing. This is a time when I can really practice program, especially mindful that I am vulnerable. Trigger foods and triggered behaviors I wasn’t aware of before can manifest, and I can record them. Emotionally charged memories can surface, and I can banish them to paper. After I’ve had time to recover from the influence of HALT, I can work these revelations with the program tools and the 12 Steps.

Having something to work in program is a gift, since “It works if you work it, so work it because you’re worth it.”

And I am worth the miracle of a sane, sober, and serene life.

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