It’s an acronym you hear around the recovery community: it means don’t let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. It’s a reminder to take care of oneself physically and mentally, and it names these four conditions as ones to avoid because they make us more vulnerable to temptation.
Good advice, and I see the messages in it. Take care of your body and don’t let yourself get cranky from low blood sugar or stupid from lack of sleep. Tend to your emotional well-being and address sources of frustration and resentment before they get out of control. Keep yourself from getting isolated. Self-maintenance can be a pretty new concept to us when we begin recovery, especially the idea of being proactive and caring for ourselves before we have some sort of crisis to remind us that something is needed.
That being said, this phrase feels inadequate to me today. Today I feel all four of these things, and the idea of being able to arrange not to feel them seems simplistic at best and insulting at worst. Forgive me my weakness and let me tell you the truth of what I feel.
I’m hungry, and I don’t feel as if there is a way out of it. No matter how carefully I manage my food intake, I get times of hunger that I cannot satisfy unless I choose to pay a price in weight gain and the return of the severe health problems that came with it.
I’m angry (or at least frustrated) and while there are ways to deal with it, none of them are instant fixes. Nor do I yet possess the level of serenity needed to avoid any frustration in the first place.
I’m lonely. Damn, am I lonely. The nature of my recovery work lately, the nature of the personal development I am going through and the nature of my personal relationships are bringing out old and new feelings of loneliness at a breathtaking intensity. I’m lonely at meetings, lonely in bed with my husband at night; lonely pretty much anywhere with anyone. And it doesn’t feel like a symptom to address so much as a stage that I may need to go through on the way to something.
I’m tired. My shoulder pain has been waking me at night and otherwise throwing a wrench into my already messed up sleep pattern. Cumulative sleep debt has me feeling hollow and fragile.
So much for my confession. But the H.A.L.T. saying is still useful, even though I might not be able to use it the same way. Though I might not be able to prevent these states, I can use the saying to remind myself to check their presence and intensity. I can remind myself to be extra kind, or extra vigilant, or extra communicative, when I am aware of these states at a high level.
I don’t enjoy feeling weak. But admitting weakness–whether it be by showing up at rehab, visiting a psychiatrist or asking for help in any other way–is vital to living fully in recovery. Admitting we are weak sometimes is even more important when we have started to amass a history of being stronger. Feeling that I have to keep a long streak of strength going is a good way for me to sabotage myself.
So I need to admit that I am weak. I’m a lonely, hungry, emotionally vulnerable person in a drained, fragile and somewhat defective envelope of flesh. I need extra care and kindness to guard my recovery today. I need to remember that although I am lonely, I am not alone. Although I am tired, I am not dangerously so. Although I am hungry, I am not starving. And although I am frustrated, I am not–and need never be–a victim.