You’ve tried to give up drinking dozens of times only to somehow end up back in that same drinking rut within a few days. I feel your frustration because I’ve been there – and so have the majority of other alcoholics. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA), 30% of alcoholics will make a full recovery. That means 70% will quit sobriety and go back to bad old habits.
Why do alcoholics return to drinking?
Impulse drinking is a common reason for alcoholics to fall off the wagon. They’re driving back from work and spot a favourite drinking spot and, as if on auto pilot, drift in there and just start drinking. Next thing they know it’s the next morning and they’re left hungover and gripped with anxiety and guilt.
It doesn’t need to be this way. Once I discovered the HALT method my impulse drinking was cut off at the knees.
What is HALT?
HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. These four feelings are a major influencer on our desire to drink. If we have high levels of any one of them in early sobriety, we drastically increase our chance of failure.
Understanding our body and the concept of HALT is a huge help when trying to give up alcohol. We can be proactive. By thinking ahead we can kick HALT to the side of the road and reduce our cravings. Let’s break down HALT to see how it can help you:
There’s no reason to feel hungry. You simply need to think ahead and plan your meals. Lots of smaller meals full of nutritional goodness and fibre. Be sure to eat close to finishing work so that you aren’t driving home feeling hungry and vulnerable to a drinking session.
If you’ve had a bad day at work or an argument with your partner it’s tempting to hit the drink. You’re never going to avoid anger completely but you can try to manage it. Techniques like meditation can help elevate your mood and learning to discuss issues with your partner before they get too heated can help. If you’re feeling angry, consider exercising. I never feel angry after a long run.
This feeling can be significantly reduced by planning ahead. Don’t allow yourself to be at home alone on nights when you’re prone to drinking. Volunteering for a cause you believe in will make you feel good and keep you busy. Organise to meet family or attend a seminar. Start taking night classes. Join a sports club. There’s so much you can do around other people that will kill any feelings of loneliness.
Get loads of sleep. This is important for a recovering alcoholic. Your body is having to deal with repairing damaged cells as well as compensating for chemical imbalances in your brain due to the absence of alcohol. It’s hard work in those early months so sleep is a must. If you’re feeling tired taking a nap or, go the other extreme, and get some exercise. Either option will be likely to kick that feeling of tiredness.
By using the HALT method you will increase your chance of kicking the alcohol habit. For me, it was a huge help. Every time I had a strong urge to drink, I simply thought about HALT and EVERY time, it was because I was hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Personally, the hunger factor was a big for me so with some simple meal preparation, I reduced my cravings.
The good news is, that over time you’ll need to use HALT less because the cravings to drink get less and less. That voice in your head that fantasizes about a cool beer will gradually weaken. As I approach the two year mark I rarely think about alcohol, even when I’m surrounded by friends who are having a wild time drinking.
The allure of alcohol has faded. My mind is focused on bigger and better things now like cooking amazing food, spending more quality time with family and smashing out the exercise. I hope you can get to this place with me because it’s pretty good. Not perfect, but a whole lot better than the old life.