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Diffusing the A in HALT or How to Stop Drinking AT people
My sober momentum has been saved on many occasions by remembering that HALT – or the sensations of feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired, are my biggest triggers to slip and drink.
Hungry – Angry – Lonely – Tired
if you are hungry – eat – don’t drink
if you are angry – breath – don’t drink
if you are lonely– reach out – don’t drink
if you are tired – rest – don’t drink
As long as I stay aware, stay tuned in to how I’m feeling, and act in a positive way before the craving for a drink is overpowering, those triggers are pretty easy for me to turn off. Except for anger. Sometimes I am so viscerally angry that simply breathing through the feeling is impotent.
Anger is a ferocious trigger for me to beat.
But today I WON!
I am sitting comfortably in my recliner. This is the site of MANY a drunken weekend, yet today, I am drinking sparkling cider from a crystal champagne glass.
I am celebrating a victory.
I came THISCLOSE to kicking the fuckit bucket this afternoon. Why?
I got angry. Like, really angry. It doesn’t matter why. What matters is that while I was processing my emotion, “Fuck it, I’m just gonna get drunk,” was playing on a loop in my head. Over and over and over again. Louder and louder each time it passed by.
The A in HALT was threatening to smash my precious new sober momentum like a wrecking ball.
I started making a plan. I started figuring out how I would sneak the booze in, when, and where I would drink it. I was working it out.
Here’s what stopped me:
1. The thought that I am sober FOR MYSELF and no one can change that.
2. The thought of my son and how happy he is that I am sober. I could see all the tears he’s cried when he would catch me drinking. I have a deep and abiding feeling of never wanting to cause those tears again.
3. The guy walking down the aisle in front of me at the grocery store wearing a red and black checked flannel shirt with the slogan, “Assholes never die!” emblazoned across the back. No sir, they certainly don’t. I had to laugh.
That chuckle broke the spell.
Because assholes never DO die. They’re always gonna be around, and they’re always gonna make you mad one way or another. But no asshole is worth my sobriety. That belongs to me, and I’m not about to let anyone or anything flip the trigger of that “A” in HALT and take my sober momentum away.
I realized that I most DEFINITELY drank “AT” people before going sober. Quite often, in fact.
I sat with that realization for most of last night and a good portion of today, and then I sat down with my journal and I made a list. I wrote down the name of every person I can remember drinking at. It was a fairly long list, and it was really easy.
The reason it was so easy is that I still think about all of those people. I am still carrying around baggage related to each and every one of them, despite the fact that almost none of them are part of my life anymore. Former co-workers, old bosses, exes, friends who dropped me, a relative or two…I’d be willing to wager that most of them haven’t thought about me in a long time, and yet here I am still licking old wounds, still holding on to ancient slights, both real and perceived.
I have made a pledge to myself to take the time to write down the reasons I drank at those people. To put down on paper whatever it was that made me feel like drinking poison myself was somehow going to…what? Hurt them? Cause them to change? Have any effect on them whatsoever? I honestly don’t know.
It’s the parable about the two Buddhist monks crossing the river. They’ve made a vow never to touch a woman, yet, when a woman needs help crossing, one of them carries her to the other side. As they continue on their journey, one asks the other, “Why did you carry that woman across the river?” The other says, “Brother, I sat her down miles ago. Why are you still carrying her?”
Drinking in anger, letting that A in HALT trip me up and stop my sober momentum, doesn’t punish anyone but me. It’s a silly thing, to carry the past around with you. All it does is slow you down. It’s time for me to let that stuff go. I think I’ve finally figured out how to do it.
If you are plagued by the A in HALT you can try some deep breathing of put on your boxing gloves and hit a punching bag. You can try to blast out the anger with music that’s louder than it.
You can say a little bit of that famous serenity prayer –
Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Or you can remeber that Assholes Never Die ( at least it feels that way) and you’re trying to drink them away isn’t gonna do a damn bit of harm to them – but it just might do a lotta harm to you.
Related reading on how to diffuse the A in HALT:
Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys The downfalls of trying to control what is not ours to control.
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