Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired: Four States That Can Threaten Sobriety


Sober or not, feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired can sometimes bring out the worst in us. But for those in recovery from substance use disorders, these temporary states of being can lead to danger. 

HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired, is a widely recognized acronym in the recovery community, especially in programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step groups. The concept behind HALT is that these four physical and emotional states can make a person more vulnerable to relapse or making poor decisions. So it’s important to be aware of how these four triggers can derail progress, and how to remedy them to ensure your sobriety’s safety. 


Among the various factors that can threaten sobriety, hunger is surprisingly a big one. I have a sober friend who will figuratively rip your head off when she’s hungry, as she gets extremely hangry

When we are hungry our blood sugar levels drop, leading to symptoms like irritability, anxiety, anger, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can mimic the psychological triggers of craving, making it harder to resist the urge to use substances. Additionally, hunger can cause physical discomfort, which may lead someone in recovery to seek relief through their previous substance of choice. Try to eat regularly and for the love of god, eat something if you are hungry to avoid falling prey to this sneaky sobriety threat. 


Addiction often serves as a coping mechanism for underlying emotional issues, and anger is a common and powerful trigger. During active addiction, substances can be used to numb or escape feelings of anger. In recovery, without the crutch of substances, anger can resurface more intensely. Anger can also impair judgment and impulse control. In moments of intense anger, individuals might act impulsively, increasing the risk of relapse.

The few times I have gotten angry in sobriety, it felt extremely overwhelming and blinding. So it was important that I not make any decisions in those moments and cool myself off with a walk, a call to a supportive loved, one, or a time out. However, my angry outbursts have decreased since having learned healthier coping mechanisms through both therapy and my recovery program. If anger feels overwhelming or unmanageable for you, seek out professional help. With the right support and strategies, it is possible to navigate anger without jeopardizing sobriety.


Loneliness can be a danger to those in recovery because it can be accompanied by feelings of isolation and depression, and can also lead to boredom. Any combination of those feelings can be a killer to one’s progress if they are stewed in for too long. 

Getting out of the lonely headspace is key for overcoming this sobriety threat. Connecting with others, whether through support groups, friends, or family, helps combat loneliness and can help get you out of your head. Also, you can change a thought by moving a muscle. So if you are feeling lonely and isolated (or bored), get out and do something or pick up the phone and call a friend or make a date to do something with a loved one. 


Feeling tired is probably my biggest HALT trigger as when I am exhausted, I typically also feel anxious and irritable. Feeling anxious and irritable led me to a drink more often than any other state of mind. 

When you’re tired, cognitive functions, including those involved in decision-making and problem-solving, are impaired. This can make it harder to resist the urge to use substances and can lead to poor choices that jeopardize sobriety. Tiredness can often result in emotional instability, including irritability, anxiety, and mood swings. These heightened emotional states can trigger a desire to use substances as a way to cope with or numb these hard feelings. So if you can, take a nap or curl up on the couch with a comforting show. If that’s not an option, take it as easy as possible and get into bed as soon as you can. 

Regularly check in with yourself to identify if you are in any HALT states. Early recognition allows you to take proactive steps to address issues before they lead to a craving or relapse.

In the comments, let us know how you remedy HALT when you’re in it!


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