One of the most common issues at treatment facilities is the inability to recognize triggers, or what drives an addict to abuse drugs and alcohol. When using becomes second nature, we often don’t think of why we use drugs and alcohol, we just do! While journaling and doing an internal check-in can help, it’s also important to have quick and easy tools at your disposal. One of these tools is the acronym called HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. This acronym covers the basic triggers that can drive us to make poor decisions.
Your body and mind need nutrients to function, and even if you aren’t hungry it’s still important to eat. When the body’s glucose level drops too low, it can trigger irritation and feelings of uneasiness. Unfortunately, addicts tend to mask those feelings of discomfort by drinking or using drugs. Instead of putting nutrient-dense foods into the diet, they turn to their drug of choice to help cure these negative emotions and feelings. This ultimately leads to a vicious cycle and can cause serious health problems due to a lack of vitamins and minerals.
When we become angry, our body is impacted in a variety of negative ways. Not only does it cause systematic problems within the body (in the heart, for example) it also can trigger a binge or relapse. While everyone has their own way of coping with anger, a few highly effective techniques are
- Square breathing
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Counting to ten
What works for one person may not work for another, so it is important to find the techniques that work best for you.
By the time someone reaches a center, they have often lost a lot of friends and have relationships with family that are on the fringe, if not destroyed altogether. Humans are pack animals and highly social creatures, which is why it is important to maintain close connections with friends and family. When an addict has lost these connections, feelings of loneliness can set in and drive them to drink.
A good support system is crucial to avoid these feelings. Depending on the area you are in, there are sober meetup groups and 12-step programs that can put you in contact with other people who strive to stay substance-free.
Anyone who has ever been thoroughly exhausted can attest to the fact that exhaustion can lead to some serious negative emotions. Even if your drug of choice isn’t a stimulant, becoming overly tired can trigger a person to use drugs and alcohol to mitigate these negative feelings.
This issue becomes compounded when we look at the way alcohol and drugs affect sleep patterns. Passing out after a long night of drinking does not allow the brain to go into various sleep cycles that help it to rest and rejuvenate the body. Once a person chooses to get sober, there is often a period of time where they will feel exhausted as the body tries to restore itself and mend the damage that was done to it. For this reason, it is important to plan rest periods during early sobriety, avoid excess caffeine, and eat calorie-dense meals that will provide you the most nutrition possible to fuel your body. This can help decrease feelings of tiredness that can ultimately lead to a relapse.
Whether you are new to sobriety or have a few years under your belt, it is important to keep a close watch on what your body is telling you. When cravings pop up, keep HALT in mind.