Author: Carolyn Rennie, Foothills Centre for Change

Self-care is critical recovery from drugs and alcohol and when self-care slips it could mean disaster. One way that you can be on guard is to be mindful of HALT. HALT means to stop and reevaluate because you may be in danger of relapse. HALT stands for Hungry Angry Lonely Tired. When you’re experiencing any of these, irritability, anxiety, depression or stress can ensue. The main ingredients for self-care include eating healthy, sleeping enough, having a support system and balancing emotions. So what should you be aware of?


Hunger can be both the physical need for food as well as an emotional emptiness. Turning to positive behaviours will be more helpful then impulsively turning to destructive behaviours or unhealthy choices. HALT. Do you get too busy to eat? Do you use unsatisfying junk food that leaves you feeling empty? It’s important to plan your meals and snacks. Follow a nutritional plan if this is a struggle for you. To deal with the emotional need, having a support system is important. Those who will give you food for your heart and help ease the emotional hunger you are feeling. Try not to turn to destructive habits and negative people. The solution to physical hunger is nutritional food and the solution to emotional hunger is community.


Anger is a normal, natural and healthy emotion we all experience but it’s important to recognize what is causing the anger and be able to express it in a healthy way. If you’re angry, talk don’t act. Take a time out. Breathe. Anger causes us to act rashly and irrationally. This is where HALT is very important. Stop and take time to think about what is causing the anger. It could be a situation, a person or maybe yourself. If you’re not ready to confront the issue try expressing it in other ways. Exercising is a great way to relieve anger including boxing or yoga. Some people clean or get creative like painting and singing. You can also use meditation and prayer to calm yourself down or you can talk to someone outside of the situation.


Loneliness can crop up when we least expect it. Humans are social beings but sometimes when we are stressed, depressed or anxious we isolate. Addiction breeds in isolation so we need to get out of the loneliness quick. When you are feeling lonely HALT and ask yourself if you’ve reached out to anyone lately. There are tons of things you can do to get out of loneliness: call a friend, go meet up with a friend, join a support group, volunteer, join an exercise group, do something kind for another person, run some errands, go for a walk, or get some coffee. 


Being tired is something that we can tend to ignore; we get so busy with the day to day of life we can often forget to rest. Fatigue can make us grumpy, restless and irritable. Running on low energy compromises our ability to think and our capacity to cope. Taking time to HALT is important when you are tired. The solution in this case may seem easy, napping or getting more sleep, but it can be hard to put into practice. Another form of tiredness can come from being overloaded or overwhelmed. The solution can be cut back from taking on so much, taking more breaks including breathing breaks, or take a vacation.

Being aware of what you can do when you come across the symptoms of HALT can help you keep your recovery front and centre.

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