HALT: Advice From Recovering Heroin Addicts
There are four things recovering heroin addicts watch out for to prevent them from feeling so bad that they decide to shoot up heroin again. To successfully beat the habit of using heroin they must train themselves to ask one question when they are at a point of crisis: Am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? HALT. If they are going to beat the drug they must learn to stop and become aware of what is going on right now in their life before they make a really bad choice.
If you are spiraling down into deep depression you can ask yourself the same question. Before you use some unhealthy way of managing your hurt, make sure that you haven't ignored basic self-care. Life is overwhelming and time can easily slip away. Forgetting to eat, not getting enough rest, not connecting with friends, or dealing with your unwanted emotions in a unhealthy way can make you vulnerable for a major crash. Just take a moment and see if you might be dealing with one of the HALT symptoms.
Food for me can be quite a dilemma. I obviously need to take in nutrients but I take much joy in food and a lot of comfort in eating. When depressed I make very poor choices. Being a guy I tend to ignore my irritation and sadness and I disconnect from my body's needs. After I stress eat (damn you pizza and chocolate), I feel tons of guilt. So I then skip the next meal to make up for all those calories I ate earlier. Now, not only am I full of carbohydrates and junk, but I am also purposely refusing to feed myself nutritious food. Later I become really hungry and reach for the easiest thing around, which is usually snacky food with sugar in it. And the crazy loop continues.
WARNING: Eating sugary food erratically throughout the day, without any protein or exercise to soften the blow, causes massive spikes in blood sugar levels and your mood gets tossed around. Put down the sugar snack and caffeine and look for some fruit or nuts.
Crisis Prevention - Keep healthy snacks and finger foods available at home and work. Be careful of "healthy" nutritional bars, most are just one step above a candy bar. Check the ingredients label to see if sugar or high fructose corn syrup is at the top of the list. If it is find something else.
Fruit is always a great idea. Nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, peanut butter, yogurt, a can of beans for protein. Go to your local health food store and look around for easy-to-make snacks and meals. When you are cooking, make enough for two or three meals and freeze the extras.
Dehydration can disguise itself as hunger. You need to drink lots of water every day. Soda doesn't count, and though coffee is mostly water, the caffeine doesn't do you much good as it actually restricts blood flow to the brain. Try drinking a glass or two of water before you eat to see if that helps your food cravings at all. If you're feeling thirsty you are already getting dehydrated.
Anger can do a lot of damage to your body and to your relationships with others if you let it sit and fester. Usually the person you're angry with doesn't even know or care about your feelings and your anger does nothing to them. As the old saying goes: Anger is like drinking rat poison and expecting the other person to die.
Anger is considered one of the "bad" emotions, but I believe there is a place for it. It's a great brain signal that some issue needs major attention. The problem come when you hang onto it. As a society, though, we are not allowed to express anger appropriately, so many of us bury our anger until it explodes inappropriately. With depression, since you tend to blame yourself for everything going wrong in your life, anger tends to turn inward. It can evolve into self-hate and build up until you're a mess of physical ailments and mental anguish.
The stuck emotion of anger needs to be released. It needs to get out of the body. Often people like to hold onto anger and other emotions so that they can analyze them and figure out a solution, or at least find the reason why they are so angry. But the emotion, and the intensity that surrounds it, blocks any intelligent reasoning and your ability to find a way out.
If you bury your anger you will need to start practicing becoming aware of your physical state and your emotions. If you are feeling disjointed, irritable, hateful, annoyed, antagonistic, exasperated, impatient, or feel the need to be violent, you need to determine whether you're holding onto anger.
Crisis Prevention - Here are some ideas for discharging the emotional energy of anger: use the CBT exercises in chapter 12; release your anger physically but safely by going to the batting cages or golf driving range, kick a soccer ball, punch a pillow, run as fast as you can; drive in your car and yell, curse, or scream; scream into a pillow; write it down (just let it flow without regard to spelling, grammar, or punctuation); draw your anger; play drums or other instrument and express your emotions musically.
When the emotional intensity is gone then the source of the anger can be looked at. If the anger is resentment based, maybe it will be gone and you won't need to do any soul searching. But if you are constantly getting angry at the "little" things in life, or raging at your loved ones, then there is probably some deep-seated trauma, humiliation, or abuse that is blocked in your memory and body.
Anger comes from feeling resentment and powerlessness to change a situation in your life. If you have long-term anger issues that may have resulted from childhood trauma or abuse you should seek out someone who can help you resolve the memories and emotions. Whether talking with someone, doing cogitative therapy, or hypnotherapy, this is where a coach and your team come into play. They are there to help and support you, just like an athlete needs a coach for maximum physical performance, get someone on your side.
One side effect of depression is isolation, but being around other people, especially people who seem happy and have it together, can feel discouraging and hopeless. You may feel that they have it together and you never will. Isolation may also have been used back in childhood as a defense against emotional or physical abuse at home or bullying at school. If you learned isolation as a way to survive as a child it can be difficult to reach out to other people as an adult.
Even if you prefer the company of only yourself, there can be times when you are lonely. Having fun while hanging out with friends will fire all sorts of "feel good" hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. The trick is finding good friends.
If you don't have any good friends you can turn to, you need to start building a network of people who can support you. I know, easier said than done. Try finding people at work or where you live. Find some organizations you care about and volunteer, the food bank, animal shelter, or go outdoors with the Fish and Game Department. Work with an arts organization like your local community theater, symphony, or concert promoter.
Search the website http://www.MeetUp.com which lists all sorts of different, fun social groups in your city like gourmet foodies, dog lovers, music fanatics, film aficionados, every kind of sports, hiking, yoga, meditation, gardening, UFO's, pretty much anything you want. And if you don't find anything you're interested in, start your own http://www.MeetUp.com group. Know that with 7 billion people on the planet, you are not alone.
As Jim Rohn said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." So pick friends who model the person you'd like to be. Pick people who are above you on the Emotional Guidance Scale (see Chapter 2 - The Dark Contract). They will help you reset your emotional set point just by being around them. Make sure they are people who are willing to listen to you and what is going on with you. Be sure and give back to them and listen with an open heart to what's going on in their life.
If you're having trouble making peoplefriends, then how about a pet? Dogs and cats are great at giving unconditional love but any pet, hamsters, fish, or parakeets can be wonderful companions. You also get the extra added bonus of taking care of another living being and giving them love.
Crisis Prevention - Create a list of places you can turn to when loneliness hits. List the friends and family members who will support you in positive ways. Have a directory of some organizations you can volunteer with, such as playing with the dogs at your local animal shelter. If nothing else connect with people on Facebook, Twitter, or online forums in subjects you like, and if that doesn't work find a way to get busy with a project to focus your mind on something else.
Fatigue can grind you down. You can become irritable and self-care ends up going down the drain. However, fatigue doesn't necessarily mean lack of sleep. You may have low blood sugar, be over stressed, lack exercise, or be emotionally overloaded.
Our body is made to get 9 hours of sleep a night. The average most people get is 7, consequently the majority of us are running on a sleep deficit. Add stress to the mix and your body may need extra sleep to help reboot.
Some of us like to push through our tiredness, as if that shows strength of character, bragging about staying up all night like it's a badge of honor. Being tired is not something to ignore. Your body is telling you something important. It needs rest to recharge; otherwise it will start to fall apart.
Crisis Prevention - Take a break and rest. And rest doesn't mean switching to a less busy activity, it means relax and reboot. Read a fun book, nap, do some yoga, or watch a funny movie to recharge. If you miss too many nights of sleep, schedule in an early bedtime to make sure you can have at least 10 hours. If your body doesn't need 10 hours it will wake up when it's good and ready.
Developing A Crisis Plan
Depression can fog the brain with low energy making it difficult to come up with positive ways to reduce your suffering. By creating a plan with ways to deal with a spike in your depression you will be able to literally change the chemistry in your brain.
A Crisis Plan is an organized list of reminders, activities, and friends to help you when you start sliding into deep depression. This is a list of positive things you can to do instead of waiting for the world to change for you, which only leaves you feeling stuck and lethargic.
The plan is made up of things you like to do that will increase the positive feelings in your brain or at the very least divert yourself from dwelling on a negative thought loop. These are activities that will redirect your thoughts towards something fun you like to do. The activities can be simple things or things that takes massive involvement. It doesn't matter.
Your plan doesn't have to be formalized in one sitting. It may take a few days or weeks to come up with the perfect set of actions. Write down fun stuff you like to do, hobbies, creative projects, enjoyable ways you like to get exercise, friends to call, online social web sites to engage in, places you can go, organizations to volunteer with. Nothing is disallowed - as long as it's not illegal or could hurt someone else. Also, leave drugs, alcohol, sex, and smoking off the list. This list is for you and won't look like anyone else's, so be creative with it.
On a piece of paper draw three columns. The first will be for feelings and a list of friends to call. The second column will be for activities you love to do. In the third column you will compile a list of things to do right away when you realize you're slipping into depression.
Make a few of copies of your plan and keep one next to your bed, on your desk, in the glove compartment of your car, and one at work. Shrink one down using a copy machine and put it in your wallet. Continue to change it and update it with new stuff you like to do and new ways you find to deal with your depression.
You might use your Crisis Plan a lot at the beginning but then you'll notice that your favorite things to do and recharge hobbies become automatic. As you become more aware of how you're feeling and the best ways to deal with it, you won't need to look at the list anymore. When you put your plan into action and start using the techniques in this book, you grow in emotional strength. You will then find that you won't fall down as much and you'll get up much faster.
If you feel comfortable doing so, show the plan to a trusted friend, someone on your list. When you call them in need of help they can go through the list with you and help walk you through what you need to do next. If you're seeing a therapist, show the list to him or her. They should be in on your plan of action and they'll help you if you're having trouble with some of the third column/recharge ways of dealing with your depression.
And don't forget to celebrate yourself for taking the time and effort to do something about your depression!