We took a look at H.A.L.T. a few days ago when we introduced learning how to recognize triggers, so let’s take a deep dive of this handy little acronym today. H.A.L.T stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired, and is a helpful little checklist for us when we’re trying to put a name to the discomfort we’re feeling.
When we are better able to identify exactly how we’re feeling in any given moment, we are then better able to attend to our needs in a healthy and productive way. And we know that some of the leading drivers of returning to alcohol use are these four feelings: hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. When we can catch these emotions early, we can figure out how to handle them without the use of alcohol.
High calorie foods enforce a very similar pleasurable reward pathway in our brains to alcohol, and sometimes these wires can get a little crossed. Additionally, low blood sugar can lead to alcohol cravings because your body is well aware that booze can increase this blood sugar temporarily. (And in turn, alcohol use actually contributes to hypoglycemia long-term - this is a vicious cycle.) When a craving strikes, pause and see if it might really be hunger. If so, then address the craving with a nutrient-dense snack or meal, with plenty of healthy fats and proteins. (Nutrition is important - a snack lacking nutrition will not satiate your appetite for long!)
Anger is a difficult emotion to manage in any situation, especially when we’re living alcohol-free. Our natural inclination is to find something that will remedy the fire in our bellies quickly, and it’s likely that alcohol has been our usual coping mechanism for this. Instead of turning to booze, we can try turning to other practices that are known to quickly alter our emotional state, like exercise or meditation. Exercise is a great way to get all of the nervous tension that comes with anger out of our bodies, and meditation helps to calm our central nervous system. Once we have calmed down, we can then better decide how to approach the situation.