We have a lot of goofy terms and saying in recovery, “First Things First” or “Do the Next Indicated Thing” the list is pretty long. When I was newly sober, I was absolutely insane, my thinking wasn’t the best that’s for damn sure. I would say to myself, “Yeah, the next indicated thing for me is a twelve pack of beer and a couple of 8 Balls.” My sponsor would laugh and tell me, “You can’t fix a broken brain with a broken brain!” What in the hell does that mean!!??
What that kind gentleman meant was my thinking is from another planet and it’s best I follow guys with some sober time under their belts and allow them help make decisions for me. He had a full head of hair when I met him, and I kid you not his hairline was receding by the time he fired me as his sponsee! He had to let me go as I was a major pain in the ass, and I don’t blame him. I found another sponsor in Laguna Beach who I’ve been with for more than 16 years, a wonderful human being I must add.
Back to the sayings and how they make little sense when you’re newly sober. I was introduced to HALT while I was in treatment, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. These are all things that can trigger the recovering alcoholic and put them into awful rabbit holes. Having one of them is fairly easy to address, or even two of them. If you hit the jackpot and have all four Halts rockin’ and rollin’ at the same time it is a perfect storm of insanity and emotional twists that makes you think you’re almost hallucinating.
I have had all four of the HALT’s three times in my almost 17 years of continuous sobriety. There’s one that stands out above all: I was barely two years sober and wanted to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day. She lives outside of Las Vegas and is super routine oriented so I figured I would fly out from Orange County to Vegas, get a cab and give mom a big surprise hug and take her to the movies.
God’s sense of humor, if God even has one, was dished out in spades on this day. Everything was going great, the flight was on time, I got a cab and had him stop by a place for some fresh white roses (mom’s favorite), then I had the cabbie take me to her place. She lives in a gated community, and I realized I had forgotten the gate opener I keep in my car. So, I loitered around until a car came through, allowing me to access her complex.
I am home free and going to see mom and she has no clue I am coming; this is gonna be great! I got to her front door and knocked, no answer, I knocked again and no answer. This was around 10 am and the heat was coming on pretty strong. She wasn’t there, which surprised me as she always gets errands done early in the morning. I am starting to sweat, flowers in hand, backpack in tow, and made my
way to the community pool. No one was there but me, it’s about 90 degrees, the flowers are getting ruined, I am officially starving, loneliness started to set in, and a strong sense of tiredness. I would go back and forth for almost two hours as I had officially hit the HALT motherload.
It sounds funny now, but for those couple of hours I was like a nuclear bomb and started to crave alcohol. I really wanted a bunch of cold beers, anything to take the edge off. My cell phone was giving me fits as the temperature disallowed me from making some calls until it finally cooled off. The first indicated thing to me was to drink, which I did not do, I ultimately called some other sober men and told them what was going on.
They all talked me off the ledge and calmed me down, not an easy thing to do at that stage of my recovery. My mom arrived home, and I was sweating through my clothes with dead white roses in hand. She was so surprised and happy to see me it made all of my bullshit; self-induced misery go away in an instant. The phone is such a powerful tool for all of us in recovery, I have been on the receiving end countless times where a man is in dire straits and is thinking about doing the wrong thing, and we do what we learn to do: we talk it through, we walk through it all together and more often than not we end up laughing about the situation at the end of the call.
Years later, these “goofy terms” in recovery make all the sense in the world to me. Whenever I work with a guy I sponsor or privately counsel the HALT is a topic addressed regularly. When going through some emotional upheaval we often need to ask ourselves, “Are we hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?” If hungry, well you eat. If tired, take a nap if you can. If you’re angry that needs to be processed with someone who can help walk you through it or pray a hell of a lot. And if you’re lonely, get un-lonely and get to a meeting, help someone else, or hang out with some friends or family.
Getting physically sober is the first step for sure, the sober tools we learn to acquire to help keep us sober comes at a later time. If anyone you know of someone in need of an intervention or interested in private counseling feel free to contact us anytime: email@example.com