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Category Archives: HALT

Does Being Tired Really Affect My Recovery?

tiredEverybody gets tired to varying extents. Being tired can take a significant toll on your body, mind and spirit. It can also often contribute to feelings of depression. We all need to relax as well as make sure we are getting the right amount of sleep, especially in recovery.  We have all heard the expression “you will never die from lack of sleep. Well truth be said, lack of sleep may not be fatal, but insomnia, for the person in recovery, can lead to relapse which can be fatal or at minimum lead to a negative outcome which could have been prevented.

Insomnia is all too common among so many of us today. It is a double edged sword for both the person in active addiction as well as the person in early recovery.

 It is a specific problem for those in an addiction whose sleep is constantly being disrupted by the brain altering effects of the chemicals being ingested. Our sleep habits are governed by what are called circadian rhythms. These are cyclical patterns in the brain that regulate our neurological activity during the nighttime hours allowing us to sleep. Drugs and alcohol impact every natural process in our bodies including these circadian rhythms.

Though sleep is one of the first things to come back into place in early recovery as the brain repairs, typically within 60 to 90 days, this time can be especially difficult. Similarly, in early recovery, it is not uncommon to still be disconnected from our feelings. Oftentimes we may feel uncomfortable but may not recognize the origin of that feeling. We may ignore tiredness at times or be so disconnected from our feelings that we misinterpret fatigue for fear or irritability or sadness or a multitude of other emotions. The first important step is to not ignore or even to recognize that we are tired.

During these first 3 months as a person moves to a restoration of more positive sleep functioning it is very easy to look to the use of sedatives and hypnotics to “fix” the insomnia.  Knowledge, patience through mindfulness and awareness, and life skills play an important role in riding the wave through this period of insomnia and conquering this trigger.

So, let’s take some time to review some of the facts we have identified above about why being tired REALLY does effect recovery.

  • During active addiction your body’s natural sleep rhythms are disturbed.
  • Sleep disturbances are common in early recovery and are part of the post- acute withdrawal process.
  • Your sleep requirements may change in transition from addiction to recovery.
  • Your body must re-establish regular sleep cycles in the absence of drugs and alcohol and this may take several weeks to months
  • Most sleep problems resolve themselves without medical treatment
  • You should avoid any temptation to self- medicate with prescribed or over the counter sleep aids unless it is supervised by a physician trained in addiction medicine

Some key tips for dealing with tiredness in early recovery are:

  • Set a consistent time for going to bed
  • Create a good sleeping environment
  • Avoid daytime naps
  • Get exercise early in the day and not before bedtime
  • Eliminate or reduce the intake of caffeine
  • Avoid large late meals
  • Minimize activities other than sleeping in your bed such as watching TV. eating, reading etc.
  • Learn and utilize relaxation techniques, visualization, relaxation, mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises.

At PRO-ACT’s Recovery Centers, we offer many programs which will support the development of healthy practices of meditation, mindfulness, stress reduction and yoga, all of which will help you with the issue of insomnia and/or being tired in early recovery.

The Philadelphia Recovery Community Center is offering a 9 week class on Stress Reduction and Relaxation on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3:30 –November 4-30

The Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center has Yoga on Monday evenings at 6:30 two times per month and a quarterly four week series on Wholistic Recovery which includes mindfulness meditation. Tuesday mornings at 10:30 there is also a Stress Management group.

The Central Bucks Recovery Resource Center has a Health and Wellness group which meets every Monday evening form 7:30- 8:30 which also addresses meditation, yoga and stress management.

All of the above listed programs are great opportunities for you to learn ways to ride the wave of insomnia and feeling tired in early recovery (or at any time) and develop new practices for healthy living. For more information on any of these programs contact our PRO-ACT volunteer coordinators: In Philadelphia John Carlson at 215-923-1661 and She-Ria Bethea at 215-223-7700 x102; in Southern Bucks call Karen Burke at 215-788-3738 x100 and in Central Bucks contact Rick Petrolawicz at 215-345-6644 x3151

Bucks County Coordinator of Recovery Support Services
The Council of Southeast PA, Inc.

Coping with Lonely Moments in Recovery

LonelyWhen I started my journey of alcohol and other drug addiction recovery, I learned an easy-to-use guide to help steer me away from danger and keep me on my positive path. I was told to NEVER allow myself to get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. These feelings and biological experiences may lead a person to use a substance to help them cope with those uncomfortable feelings. I learned to HALT whenever I had these feelings and stop and think before acting and choose a more positive means to cope. It is an effective tool and twenty-two years later, I am still using it!   

Continuing our HALT series, we are focusing on LONELY (the forgotten middle child of HALT). While it may be relatively easy to identify when you are hungry, angry, or tired because of the observable physiological identifiers, loneliness is trickier. Loneliness can creep up on you and before you realize it, you are sinking in a bog of depression that is hard to escape. Loneliness is difficult to describe, very subjective, and differs from person to person. You may have heard people say that they can feel lonely in a room full of people. We all have felt lonely at times. For me, it takes the form of isolation. 

Let me give you a little bit of my history: I experience social anxiety which means that I prefer to be alone. I am also the youngest of seven kids, married with an 11 month old child, and work in the helping field, which keeps me constantly surrounded by people. In fact, I dream about being alone! Every fiber of my being tells me to get away from what is causing these uncomfortable feelings and in the past, I used alcohol and other drugs to cope. 

We are social beings and like it or not being around people, POSITIVE people, is healthy for us. When we isolate, we tend to get in our heads and get stuck thinking negative and often depressing thoughts. We need to HALT, and make a decision to get out of ourselves. The key to this is to learn what your own personal signs of loneliness are and then do something about it. For some people, myself included, this can be a daunting task. PRO-ACT offers recovery support services that can help a person with loneliness. 

At PRO-ACT’s Philadelphia Recovery Center (PRCC), we have fun alcohol and drug free social activities every Friday. We call it Fun Fridays and  do things like karaoke, line dancing, board games, music and being around fun and positive people. On Friday, October 31st  from 5 – 7:30 pm we are having a Halloween Party with a prize for the best costume! 

The PRCC offers a meditative class called “Being Present” to help you get out of dwelling on your past or worrying about the future. The class is a series held on Wednesdays from 1:45 to 3 pm. If you prefer one-to-one interaction, you can sit down with a Certified Recovery Specialist to create a Recovery Plan which can be your map to your recovery journey. Call us at 215-223-7700 for more information on these programs. 

Volunteering is another great way to get out of yourself and focus on helping others. We have many volunteer activities to choose from. To get involved contact our PRO-ACT Volunteer Coordinators:  In Philadelphia call She-Ria Bethea 215-223-7700 x102 and John Carlson at  215-923-1661; in Southern Bucks call Karen Burke at 215-788-3738 x100; in Central Bucks call Rick Petrolawicz at 215-345-6644.

If you feel that your loneliness is more severe and you are considering professional help, call our Information/Intervention Helpline at 1-800-221-6333 to find resources in your area.

Sean E. Brinda, MSW, CCDP Diplomate
Senior Peer Services Coordinator

Coping with Angry Moments in Recovery

amgerLet’s face it… we all get angry from time to time.  After all, we are human beings, first and foremost.  In dealing with the many elements of recovery from a substance use disorder, we are often overwhelmed with a flood of emotions that have, in the past, been suppressed through the use of drugs or alcohol.  Anger is often a feeling that doesn’t subside when we stop ‘using.’  In fact, sometimes anger becomes predominant. 

Anger Defined:  In the most general sense, anger is a feeling or emotion that ranges from mild irritation to intense fury and/or rage.  This may also lead to hostile and violent behaviors.  Hostility  is seen as a form of emotionally charged, angry behavior.   Many people often confuse anger with aggression.  Aggression is a behavior that is intended to cause harm or injury to another person or damage property.  Hostility, on the other hand, refers to a set of attitudes and judgments that motivate aggressive behaviors. 

When does Anger Become a Problem?:  Anger becomes a problem when it is felt too intensely, felt too frequently, or is expressed inappropriately.   Feeling anger too intensely or frequently places extreme physical strain on the body.  The inappropriate expression of anger initially has apparent payoffs (e.g. releasing tension, controlling people).  In the long-term, however, these payoffs lead to negative consequences.  That is why they are called “apparent” payoffs: the long-term negative consequences far outweigh the short-term gains. 

Myths about Anger:  There are many myths surrounding anger.  I will attempt to dispel four of these beliefs, as follows:

Myth #1: Anger is inherited.  FALSE!  One misconception or myth about anger is that the way people express anger is inherited and cannot be changed.  Evidence from research studies, however, indicates that people are not born with set and specific ways to express anger.  Rather, these studies show that the expression of anger is learned behavior and that more appropriate ways of expressing anger can also be learned.  In other words, “Stinking thinking leads to drinking.” 

Myth #2: Anger Automatically Leads to Aggression.  FALSE!  A related myth involves the misconception that the only effective way to express anger is through aggression.  There are other, more constructive and assertive ways, however, to express anger.  Effective anger management involves controlling the escalation of anger by learning assertiveness skills, changing negative and hostile ‘self-talk,’ challenging irrational beliefs, and empowering a variety of behavioral strategies.  These skills, techniques and strategies are acquired through a learning process, which when developed over time, will replace aggressive behaviors.

Myth #3: You must Be Aggressive to Get What You Want:  Many people confuse assertiveness with aggression.  The goal of aggression is to dominate, intimidate, humiliate, harm, or injure another person—to win at any cost.  Conversely, the goal of assertiveness is to express feelings of anger in a way that is respectful of other people.  Expressing yourself in an assertive manner does not blame or threaten other people and minimizes the chance of emotional harm. 

Myth #4: Venting Anger is Always Desirable.  FALSE!   For many years, there was a popular belief that the aggressive expression of anger, such as screaming into or beating on pillows was therapeutic and a healthy outlet… and in comparison to screaming at or beating another person, this certainly holds true.  Research shows, however, that people who vent their anger aggressively simply get better at being more aggressive.  In other words, venting anger in an aggressive manner reinforces aggressive behavior. 

Anger is a Habit… Time to Break the Habit.  Anger often becomes a routine, familiar and predictable response to a variety of situations.  When anger is displayed frequently and aggressively, it can become a maladaptive habit.  A habit, by definition, means performing behaviors automatically, over and over again, without thinking.  The frequent and aggressive expression of anger can be viewed as a maladaptive behavior because it results in negative consequences.  One of the consequences is that we develop resentments, which result in a repetitive cycle of anger and sometimes hostility.  This behavior, unchecked, can often lead to relapse or ‘picking up’ as a coping mechanism.  Returning to substance use just furthers the dilemma and makes matters much worse.

You can break the anger habit by becoming aware of the events and circumstances that trigger your anger and the negative consequences that are associated with it.  In addition, you need to develop a set of strategies to effectively manage your anger.

Debunking the myths! The good news is that all of these myths can be effectively dispelled through the development of strategies, skills, and techniques that focus on assertiveness, not aggression.   I hope I have given you some ideas and tools you can use in addressing anger issues when confronted with these recurring feelings. The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania has developed an Anger Management Program to assist with this process.  

The program is designed specifically for people with substance use disorders and is presented in multiple week formats, ranging from 6 – 12 sessions.  Successful completion of this program will equip you with the ability to be aware of Events and Cues that trigger situational anger; and how to develop and utilize an Anger Control plan, as part of an overall Recovery Plan.  The Aggression Cycle is exposed and replaced with Assertiveness Training as a means of Conflict Resolution

The program will help you identify relationships in which anger is used to manipulate and control others, including spouse, family, friends and co-workers.  All-in-all, this program will not only help you control and address anger issues, but help you create balance and synergy in many aspects of your daily life.   For more information about The Council’s Anger Management Program, please contact Stephen Osborne at 215-345-6644 x3113 or email

Stephen F. Osborne, CRS
Survey Coordinator for Montgomery County
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania/PRO-ACT

Bailiwick Office Campus Unit 12, 252 West Swamp Rd. Doylestown, PA 18901 | 215.345.6644


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