The 4 Letter Tool to Identify Your Early Warning Signs

early warning signs May 19, 2023

For people experiencing substance use and addiction concerns, understanding the early warning signs of a potential relapse is essential. One helpful tool that many people use to identify these warning signs is the acronym HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. However, The TARA Clinic breaks these more broader categories further...

Here's what each of these components means and how they can serve as early warning signs:

H: Hungry / Hydrated / Healthy

When you're hungry, your blood sugar levels can drop, leading to irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can make it more difficult to make more helpful decisions urges and can increase the likelihood of making impulsive decisions. If you find yourself feeling constantly hungry or experiencing intense cravings, it's important to address these issues proactively, such as by seeking out healthy food options and practicing regular meal planning.

Dehydration can impact the brain's ability to function properly and regulate mood, leading to increased distress. These feelings can make it more difficult to manage urges and cope with triggers, leading to a greater likelihood of engaging in unhelpful behaviours. Additionally, dehydration can cause physical symptoms like fatigue and headaches 

Being unwell can disrupt daily routines and social support networks, making it harder to maintain healthy habits and manage triggers. For example, if someone is feeling too unwell to attend support group meetings or participate in regular exercise, they may be more likely to feel isolated and disconnected from their recovery community, increasing the risk of relapse.


A: Angry / Big Emotions

Anger or any big emotion can increase our susceptibility to making unhelpful decisions. If we are making choices based on heightened emotions, rationality is usually ignored. If we are overwhelmed with excitement, incredibly anxious about an upcoming event, experiencing grief or elation during a celebratory occasion, if we do not check in with ourselves it is easy to make impulsive and sometimes unhelpful decisions.

L: Lonely / Boredom

Loneliness and boredom can be a common trigger for individuals experiencing substance use and addiction concerns. When you feel disconnected from others, it can be tempting to turn to substances or unhelpful behaviours as a way of coping. To manage loneliness, it's important to stay connected to others and build a support network of people who understand your journey and can provide you with support and accountability. To manage boredom (as with recovery comes more time, energy and money) sit down and come up with a list of fun, engaging and helpful activities that you find enjoyable. 

T: Tired

Fatigue and lack of sleep can have a significant impact on mental and emotional well-being, and can make it more difficult to manage urges and cope with stress. If you find yourself feeling constantly tired or struggling to get enough sleep, it's important to speak to health care professional firstly and then work on developing healthy sleep routine to help you manage your energy levels and maintain focus on your recovery.

The HALT acronym is a helpful tool for to identify early warning signs and to take proactive steps to manage triggers and maintain recovery. Work through each element and your management technique with your therapist, support group and recovery team as soon as you can to ensure you are best prepared next time an early warning sign sneaks up!