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HALT: A Simple Equation For Self Care

We come into recovery with a broken mind, body, and spirit. Chris McMullen wrote a great blog about HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, and tired) and how to navigate these feelings in recovery.

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We come into recovery with a broken mind, body, and spirit. We have to come to terms with our past lifestyle versus a new lifestyle. This can be a daunting task. So many times I would be asked: “How do you feel?”

Most of the time I was unable to pinpoint an actual emotion to answer the question.

In 12 step meetings, you will hear the acronym HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) quite often. It’s a helpful checklist to help you determine what you are actually feeling. It helps me determine if I have irrational thinking due to outside circumstances.

Here is a breakdown of HALT and how you can implement it to create better knowledge of one’s self.


We can all agree that food is important. Without proper nutrition, our body will react accordingly. We can become lethargic, irritable, moody, and if you are like me just plain “Haaangry.” Remember we were putting substances in our body that is not intended to be there. We have to fill that void. It is important to have a balanced diet. It was key for myself to have healthy snacks ready when I wanted to impulse eat. I always had fresh veggies, mixed nuts, and microwavable popcorn around. You might notice in early recovery an increased craving for sweets and carbohydrates. This is normal. If you are like me, I put very little, if any nutrition in my body. Don’t be afraid to eat that ice cream; “treat yo’ self.” We also can suffer from emotional hunger: love, acceptance, attention. Finding that can be as simple as reaching out to family, calling an old friend, going to a 12 step meeting. For myself, I was hungry for positive people. Unfortunately, during the day we can run into and have to consistently be around negative minded people. I have created a “go-to” list of people I could reach out to. They put a smile on my face, and my mental headspace in a better place.


I believe anger is the hardest part of HALT. Anger is a secondary emotion. We associate anger with physical fights, screaming, and resentments. Some people even describe anger as “seeing red.” We have to ask ourselves why we get to this point. Some common first emotions we should check for are sadness, fear, hurt, scared, and even shock. If we really think about it, one of the above emotions is more than likely what you truly feel. Anger is sneaky! It can even show up in less obvious ways such as gossiping, speaking with a passive-aggressive tone, and sarcasm. The easiest and most efficient way to not get to “angry mode;” PAUSE. Take a minute, or ten, to breathe, think, and process your feelings. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way? What does this current situation impact? Do I have an accurate perception of this event?” In early recovery, I was unable to do this alone. I would have to run a situation and my personal feelings by a neutral party. It helped me gain a different perspective on my problems. You can also do an activity to change your mindset: Run, meditate, paint, dance, lift weights, cook, garden, sing your favorite song at the top of your lungs. The goal is to break your current anger, with an activity, so you can revisit this situation with a clear and open mind.


We lost our best friend, our love, the one thing that let us be “ourselves.” Think about it, we celebrate: we use, we are sad: we use, we are mad: we use, we wake up in the morning: we use. That is a relationship that is hard to replace. Truthfully this was the hardest heartbreak I had to EVER get though. With  heartbreak of any kind, keeping busy is key. My motto has always been: “make your feet move faster than your brain.” If you sit with the thoughts of using, it can spiral in our brain to the end result of picking up. Personally, I had to make a support group. I found like-minded friends that aligned with the same goals in recovery, as well as in life. I attend 12 step meetings. I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea. Reach out to friends and loved ones, and discuss each other’s goals. Join a club or local sport to meet new people with similar interests. Put your mind to work and learn a new hobby. You can go out to eat, exercise, watch a movie, charity work, meditate. Do activities you would not normally do. You might find you enjoy them with this new sober mindset. Being stuck in my head, I know for myself, is the worst thing I can do. You have to make an effort to seek acceptance, comfort, and understanding of oneself.


In early recovery, sleep was my enemy. I found myself tossing and turning and counting hundreds of sheep. The dreams I had were vivid and off the wall. I had to make some changes. It is a good suggestion to have a bedtime routine. Have a specific time you will be in bed every night. Do a calming activity before like journaling, listening to calm music, read, or do a guided meditation. Our body, physically and mentally, is going through a lot of changes. The depression and anxiety from not using can make your body feel like you have ran a marathon. You have to relearn your body and mind to this lifestyle. It is okay to take a nap, it is okay to not be as productive. In time your body will settle to the new normal.

As you can see, one small acronym can make a huge difference in your recovery. It is an equation to help you learn and reset yourself. Whether you are in recovery or not, HALT is a great reminder of self-care. Have patience with yourself. Most importantly, BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Changing your lifestyle is a huge task to take on. There is no perfect way to do it. The benefits of HALT and recovery will surely put you on a path of success.

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Chris McMullen is an advocate for the LGBT community, sexual assault awareness, and recovery. He uses his own experience, and wisdom as a platform to help others.

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