Mar 23, 2016 | By Tim Powers

H.A.L.T: Understanding Your Triggers

Recovery Relapse Prevention


The journey to recovery from an addiction to drugs and alcohol can be a very interesting one indeed. If you have considerable clean time under your belt, you fully realize that in between those days where you feel things are firing on all cylinders and going great there are those days where you are hanging on by the slimmest of threads.

During those times where you feel like you are on a white-knuckle ride with your sobriety, the uncertainty and lack of focus on your recovery can largely be attributed to the emergence of triggers in your home environment. In terms of addiction and recovery, a trigger can be a person, place or event that can cause your mind to flashback to those days when you were active in your addiction.

Triggers are the most common obstacles that can snare those working a program in recovery. In order to keep your recovery on solid ground, you have to fully understand the roots of those trigger moments. These moments are perfectly encapsulated in one easy to remember acronym–H.A.L.T.

What is H.A.L.T?: A Quick Review

Early in recovery, you no doubt have heard of H.A.L.T. during numerous therapy and life skills therapy sessions, and there is no doubt you have heard it repeated ad infinitum around the tables of 12-step meetings. While you may be fully aware of the meaning behind H.A.L.T, it is always a good thing to refresh and renew in your mind.

H.A.L.T. stands for hunger, anger, loneliness, and tired. These four powerful states of being are the origins of triggers that can cause people in recovery to backslide into relapse behaviors. The way to minimize the chances of relapse is to become fully aware and conscious of what you are feeling as your mind enters these states. Once you understand what you feel, you can adjust your mind and body to deal with these feelings in a healthy manner so your mind isn’t entertaining thoughts of using.

We will break down each state of being of the H.A.L.T. acronym and describe what you may feel and what you can do to move past these feelings.


The sense of hunger is the result of a collaboration between your mind and body. There are many times when people feel they are truly hungry when in reality there is a deeper feeling of boredom, tiredness or other emotions at work. In order to truly understand hunger, you must learn how your body feels when it is hungry. Learning about your body in a healthy way will help you better manage your recovery.

In order to keep yourself from craving your addiction when you are hungry, keeping healthy and nutritious snacks within easy reach in an absolute must. Having fresh cold-pressed juices or produce such as grapes, bananas or broccoli is highly recommended.  You must train yourself to eat those healthy food choices when you are hungry, so you do not crave drugs and alcohol.


Like hunger, anger is a powerful state of being–and you must be fully aware of how your body and mind feel when you are angry. Anger is an emotion that can create an unbelievable stress in your body. What you learn in recovery is that your body is able to rid itself of the toxicity of anger and other emotions naturally so you don’t have to feel the need to resort to substances. stressful feelings. By utilizing meditation and other similar techniques, you are able to recognize anger for what it is and then move on. In addition to medication, exercise can also be an enormously beneficial anger reliever.


Like many people in recovery, you might feel like the only person with an addiction–and as a result you may feel loneliness. One of the best ways to manage loneliness is to find a group of people who are experiencing something similar. An obvious source of this support are 12-Step groups such as AA and alternative sober support groups such as SMART Recovery. It can also be helpful to have healthy places to go when you are feeling lonely such as the coffee shop, the YMCA or gym, or a favorite bookstore. You also can find an enormous sense of support with family and friends. Take the time to cultivate these relationships in your recovery.


When you feel tired, it is a telltale trigger that can eventually lead to relapse if you don’t address it in a proactive manner. Like many people who are in recovery, you may have turned to drugs and alcohol as a means to fall asleep. Since you cannot turn to those familiar crutches in your recovery, it is a good idea to learn new ways to help fall asleep Again, turning to essential life skills such as meditation, exercise and breathing techniques are invaluable. When you are tired, take a nap or go to sleep for the night.

3 responses to “H.A.L.T: Understanding Your Triggers

  • Greetings. Re-Lapsed with 16 years clean. New clean date, February 6, 2016. I need All healthy suggestion/direction. Thanks peace

    • Jose Rodriguez

      8 years ago

      All I can say is that in the big scheme of things, you only have today. You have today to be sober and to work the program with the tools you have. Yeah…the relapse matters, but it could be what you needed to give your program the importance and the priority it needs.

      Now you have to drop the whole 16 years thing and just focus on what you can do for your sobriety and how you can live the 12 steps TODAY! Nobody else really is judging you by those 16 years…You need to be sober to be the person you need to be today.

      SO…in essence, the years insobriety doesn’t matter I think the key to moving on is to focus on what you have to do TODAY!

  • You probably mean “meditation”, not “medication” in the last sentence of the anger section.

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