HALT for Recovery

What Is HALT in Recovery?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

HALT in recovery is an acronym that stands for physiological and psychological states that are high-risk to make one susceptible to possible relapse behaviors. These states include:

H – Hungry
A – Angry
L – Lonely
T – Tired

The HALT principle has to do with being self-aware and recognizing when these states are manifesting in order to put an early stop to the domino trigger effect and prevent relapse.

Getting Clean

In the world of recovery, getting clean is more profound than simply quitting drugs or alcohol. It is a whole-life transformation. It starts with the decision to make a change and it continues for the rest of your life. It goes deeper than a commitment to abstain from substances. It is a commitment to a whole life of health and recovery. It is getting emotionally clean as well as psychologically and physically. And it goes beyond our time in rehab. It is a continuing and continual process. It is lifelong, and it takes work.

It is a holistic understanding of recovery, and it requires a good deal of self-awareness.

HALT as Tool for Transformation

As addiction could come knocking on your psychological door at any time, for nearly any reason, one of the keys to keeping oneself free from falling back into the chaos is … vigilance.

In most residential treatment centers people with substance use disorder will get training on how to identify and redirect/avert addiction triggers. However, there is an even more basic tool to use to manage lifelong recovery: checking your HALT pulse.

Triggers certainly have an effect on individuals in recovery, sparking cravings, and inviting relapse. But, just as important as recognizing the trigger, is being aware of the state of being a person is in when triggers arise. The HALT states of being are proven to be portals of weakness in all of us. When they are present, our willpower to maintain our recovery is lower.

So … Let’s look at the HALT states and what you can do to adjust your mind in order to deal with the states as they arise.


Let’s start with the less obvious aspect of hunger here. Because it is possibly the most dangerous: emotional hunger. Yes, this falls into the realm of hunger in the HALT principle. When you find yourself needing the affirmation of others—seeking the attention, understanding, affection, of others. When we are hungry for comfort and for peace. When we thirst for the water of being free from a state of need. These are all hungers to be aware of. Oh yes also, physical hunger is part of this too.

How to Handle: Eat good, healthy meals. This goes for the food you put into your system, as well as your soul. Maintain healthy eating and plug into a community.


You can’t really plan for anger. It comes and goes often based on outside influences. The key to anger is remembering that there is nothing wrong with it. Anger is okay and even natural. However, there can be something wrong with how we express anger. Anger evokes actions on our part, and very often those actions are unhealthy.

How to Handle: Deep down gratitude and forgiveness are the only remedies for anger. But those will not always be on hand when you are in the heat of the moment. So first thing to do when you are angry is … halt. Just stop what you are doing. Stop what is happening. Stop it all. Breathe. Get away. Take a minute. Count to 10. Whatever it is, get out of the immediate situation. Try getting out and moving. Try meditation. Try exercise. Try creativity.

Whatever you do, do not give your anger room to fester. This is where resentment comes in and long-lasting toxic energy. If your anger is frequent and intense, you are going to want to tackle this in therapy. Get an understanding of where the anger stems from and begin to take healthy actions to get resolution. 


You can have a myriad of people standing around you and still suffer great loneliness. It’s isolation and the feeling that no one really understands your struggle or even your joys that hits the deepest. When people can’t even begin to relate to our circumstances, we can become lonely. This is very common for people in recovery, so take special note.

How to Handle: This is a second place where the importance of community comes into play. Your treatment plan included an alumni program for a reason. As well, 12-steps or SMART Recovery, groups like these help you remember that you are part of an army of sober brothers and sisters. Please, please make use of them. But also let people in. Don’t create walls between you and your family and good friends. Get vulnerable. Get open. Make real relationships.


Sleep hygiene is a thing. When you are low on energy, when you are overwhelmed, when you are spiritually, physically, and mentally depleted, you are in a high-risk state for possible relapse.

How to Handle: Get your sleep every night. That’s step one. But make sure you actually find rest in your waking hours, as well. This could mean chasing your passions. You might not believe that a 12-mile mountain bike ride would help your state of “being tired,” but for someone who has a passion for mountain biking, this is the best thing the could possibly do.

Remember, your addiction took something very valuable away from you: pleasure in your passions. Now is your time to rediscover them. Find and delve deep into them. Rest in them. Oh, and go to bed at a reasonable hour. That is important, too.

Continual Recovery

Again. Recognition is one thing, and taking action is another. Long-term recovery is a matter of structuring your life that continues in transformation. This is real recovery. When you find yourself in a state of hunger, anger, loneliness, and exhaustion, first stop. Then take action. Have your plan in place before you are vulnerable. Set yourself up early to succeed when the elements of your day seem to be working against you.

Do you or a loved one need to find lasting recovery? The first step to whole-life transformation is finding help. At First Steps Recovery we treat more than substance use. We look at the whole person and offer real strategies and programs that affect change on the deepest levels. For a new chance at life and full recovery, call us today: 844-489-0836.

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