H.A.L.T. is a popular anagram in recovery. Hungry, angry, lonely, tired, are the four horsemen abbreviated in this helpful recovery reminder. Keeping hunger, emotional regulation, connection, and sleep at sustainable levels is conducive toward healthy recovery. If one of these four things gets out of control, it can send the other ones into dangerous levels. When we notice we are becoming suddenly irritable, restless, or discontent, we ask ourselves to “halt” do a check:
- Are we hungry?
- Do we have a resentment?
- Have we been isolating?
- Should we take a nap?
If halt gets into a code red danger zone, we are at risk for not thinking our best thoughts, which could lead to drinking and/or using. That is why learning how to communicate, get good sleep, and feed ourselves regularly are critical learning blocks in the recovery process. By doing actively contributing to our recovery in this way, we stay stable and make good choices.
Hunger is one of the most difficult choices to maintain. Without proper meal planning and paying careful attention to what is or is not eaten throughout the day, hours can go by without a single calorie. Not only does hunger make us irritable, it impairs our ability to get food. Low blood sugar affects the ability to make decisions, especially about what to eat. If we have to make a decision about more than food when we are blind with hunger, we may be in trouble.
The hormone ghrelin is produced in apprehension of meal time by the stomach. This hormone could be described as responsible for the physiological experience of feeling hungry. Ghrelin increases appetite so that the brain recognizes the body needs some food. In the process, however, ghrelin messes with decision making and controlling impulses.
Many people have experienced the wild ride of going to the grocery store when desperately hungry. The cart ends up full of impulsive choices because everything sounds good. An important part of maintaining health in recovery is eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet.
Scientists recently tested the reach of ghrelin’s effect and found that the impulsivity ran deep. Looking forward, they believe that ghrelin injections could become routine medical practices for reducing impulsivity- a promise that could be very interesting for addiction treatment.