What Does HALT Stand For?

12 step programs offer our modern world an enormous gift. Through-out the world, we can find Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Al-anon meetings, Over-eaters Anonymous meetings, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings, Debtors Anonymous meetings, and many other meetings. For many reasons, when Bill W and Dr. Bob founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, something profound began. It was revolutionary in very positive ways. Meetings, books, sponsors, resources, and the 12 steps offer great resources to learn how to consciously live and even thrive with the thought disorder of addiction.

Part of the tradition of 12 step work, includes a great deal of folk wisdom in the form of slogans. This is found in the conference approved literature and can he heard at many meetings.

“One day at a time.”

“Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.”

“Your worth should never depend on another person’s opinion.”

The phrase HALT reminds us to: “Never get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.”

When we take the time to do the simple things to take care of ourselves, we strengthen our individual will. We are more mindful and careful in our choices. When I get 8-10 hours of sleep, my physical brain is healthier. You can see this on a brain scan. When I eat a healthy diet of natural fresh food – including fruits, vegetables, and proteins – I further strengthen my brain. When I get aerobic exercise, I produce endorphins and eliminate adrenaline. My body is calmer and my brain is healthier with exercise. When I take the time to talk with friends who are accepting and empathic, I feel better. These are the practices that support sobriety as well as general mental health.

Psychotherapy can also be a terrific asset for those dedicated to working a 12 step program. It is very helpful to seek out a professional aware of the differences between general psychotherapy and chemical dependency counseling. A counselor, social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist with training in chemical dependency treatment can help the client hold themselves accountable and navigate the world of recovery. Addressing the problems with emotional self-regulation can greatly help with the recovery process. Alcoholism and drug addiction is an attempt to control one’s thoughts and feelings with chemicals. Learning how to calm oneself down without doing anything self-destructive is critical for all of us, if we haven’t learned already.

People who are physically and/or sexually abused in childhood are more likely to abuse drugs. Those who abuse substances use alcohol, nicotine or other drugs to change their emotions that we began regulating poorly due to trauma or adversity in childhood. First, the drug abuser uses the substance to calm overwhelming emotions. Second, the substance enables the person to vicariously re-experience their unresolved emotions from childhood abuse or adversity. Usually, these emotions are associated with memories of traumatic events that are yet to be resolved.

The abuse of alcohol and other drugs interferes with maturation. When a teen drinks regularly from age fourteen to eighteen, he tends to act as if he is fourteen or fifteen many years later; this is called delayed adolescence. When someone smokes marijuana regularly from sixteen to twenty one, she is likely to act as if she is sixteen or seventeen later in life. Taking care of our basic needs of life for sleep, healthy food, social support, and exercise is part of being a mature adult. We take over care of these basic needs from our parents as we grow up, if we are healthy.

Addiction is also known as the sacred disease. Carl Jung wrote that “perhaps it was no accident that we traditionally referred to alcoholic drinks as spirits, and that alcoholics were people who had a greater thirst for spirit than others, and that perhaps alcoholism was a spiritual disorder, or better yet, a spiritual condition”.

People who become slaves to alcohol and other drugs long to go back to paradise, reach Heaven, reach home – more than most. Addicts desperately yearn to regain that lost warm, fuzzy sense of oneness. There are two ways of looking at this longing to go home. One is yearning to return to infancy, not only to go back to paradise but to crawl back into the womb.

M. Scott Peck writes: “The other way to look at it is as a potentially progressive kind of phenomenon; that in this yearning to go home, addicts are people who have a more powerful calling than most to the spirit, to God, but they simply have the directions of the journey mixed up. Many contemporary men and women are cut off from their own life source. . . (They) are undermined by the loss of connection to their own energy in their own body. . . . In infancy, ‘I desire” is indistinguishable from ‘I need.’ As adults, they look at other people who seem to love life and wonder why they themselves do not. They pretend, even as children, to be reaching out from their own desire. Their place of desire is false; their desiring is not coming from natural instincts; therefore, those instincts cannot be satisfied. Because their bodies are not expressing desires that come from natural desires, they fall into unnatural desires, driven desires that overwhelm them with stupor and manifest as addictions. They crave food that brings them no nurturance, drink that brings them no spirit, sex that brings them no union. Because their culture worships matter and minimizes soul, they concretize metaphor and minimize life. Their hunger is for food – Soul food; they are starving for sweetness – Mother Food that will reconnect them to who whey were born to be. Their thirst is for spirit; their longing is for union. They yearn for connection to their own ‘I desire'”.

We all suffer from addictions, in a sense. It is human to struggle with self-destructive patterns. Ultimately, alcoholism is a blessing because it is a disease that visibly breaks people. Those who are alcoholic are no more broken than normal drinkers. We all experience terror and shame. One may not be aware of their pain, but they certainly experience it. We are all broken people, but because of their struggle with drinking alcoholics cannot hide their brokenness. The rest of us normal drinkers can hide behind our masks of composure. Yet we do not have the gift of talking with each other about the things that are most important to us. The disease of alcoholism put one into an obvious crisis. Out of the crisis of alcoholism, the alcoholic has the unique privilege of experiencing the profoundly healing community of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Please watch this video by Elizabeth Schindler on HALT:

Blog 42:

Why is Primary Food so Important?

“Food is the most powerful drug you will ever take,” writes Barry Sears.

We are effected greatly by the food we eat. I think there are many variations in how each person’s body metabolizes food. Learning which foods specifically work well with your body is essential. Every cell in your body makes themselves new every 5 months, including your brain cells. When we eat a healthful food, our body is able to function better. What we eat makes a big difference in how we feel.

Our cells are not determined by their genes, because genes are only a blueprint. What directs the cellular development are the signals sent to our cells with what we drink, eat, think, and feel. The science of Epigenetics researches how our genes are influenced by our choices.

Anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, poor attention, and worry can be effected by food. Many people who are depressed overeat or eat too little. Skipping breakfast can lead to low energy in the morning. Eating a big meal can make one tired, ready for a nap.

Sugar can give one a temporary high with an increase in blood sugar, but then can lead to a drop in blood sugar. This crash in blood sugar can leave one feeling tired. Research indicates that foods high in sugar have the same effects as addictive drugs, like cocaine or heroin.

Inflammation is a physical condition that can lead to heart disease and complications from aging. Foods high in sugar, refined flour, processed foods, trans fats and saturated fats can lead to inflammation. “To treat depression, we must learn how to get rid of causes of inflammation and restore the normal immune balance through our food and nutrients, as well as our exercise, sleep, and stress management habits,” writes Dr. Hyman.

Do you know that you have a gut-brain with more neurotransmitters and serotonin than in the brain located in your head? “Over the years I have seen emotional, psychiatric, and behavioral symptoms triggered by problems in the gut,” writes Dr. Mark Hyman. Our gut-brain is the enteric nervous system (ENS). The bugs who live in your gut are more important in determining your health than your DNA fingerprint, writes Dr. David Relman. Foods low in fiber, high in sugar, processed, and lacking nutrients as well as a high calorie diet cause all the wrong bacteria to grow in our gut. Resolving these issues can have a profound effect on your mental and physical health.

Many of us suffer quietly with anxiety and depression. These mental health problems touch many of our family or friends. Dr. Mark Hyman writes, “Our broken brains cause many problems – anxiety, depression, bipolar disease, personality disorders, eating disorders, addictions, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, (autistic disorders) … learning difficulties, and dyslexia. Many psychiatrists and neurologists wouldn’t qualify these problems as treatable diseases.”

Daniel Amen writes that “a therapist told us this story at a recent lecture:

‘I’m glad you mentioned sugar. I used to be a very angry person; sometimes I would even scare my family. It made me feel terrible. I took anger management classes, but they didn’t even seem to help. When I eliminated sugar from my diet, I noticed an almost immediate reduction in outbursts, plus I had better energy, lost weight, and was much more focused.’”

There is hope. We can change a great deal with good information and our willingness to do what it takes to be healthy and whole. Please watch this video with Elizabeth Schindler and learn about Primary Food:

Blog 39

Working Ego

“The ego is the seat of consciousness and if consciousness creates the world, the ego is doing God’s creative work in its effort to realize itself through the way of individuation” Edward Edinger.

The quality of our life is largely dependent on the health of our ego. If our ego is healthy, we will be flexible, strong, compassionate, aware and constructive. Having a healthy ego takes effort; we need to choose to do the work to grow up and mature.

My ego has two basic powers. The first power of the ego is observation, and the second power is choice. These are the two main functions of our minds: to monitor and modify.

What is an ego? When I look out from my eyes and see the world, I am aware of myself and the world. In some ways, it feels no different from when I was 7 years of age. I have a continuity of my sense of identity as an individual. I call this part of myself “I” or “me,” and I am referring to my ego. My ego is the part of me that is aware or conscious.

There are factors which help strengthen the ego: balancing one’s brain, regulating one’s feelings, reclaiming one’s projections, and engaging in self-care. These skills helps one see the world more clearly and make life giving choices. When my brain is balanced, I am able to use both sides of my brain. My left brain is about logic, facts, and time. My right brain is involved with relationships, emotions, and spatial relationships. When the sides of my brain are balanced and connected, I have access to both brain hemispheres when observing the world and making choices.

When I am able to calm myself down, I am able to see more objectively. When I calm myself down, I am not overwhelmed with emotions. As I am able to remain more neutral, my choices are more reflective of the facts of the situation.

A projection is something that interferes with my ability to see clearly. My projections are when I see parts of myself in others. A teenager is having a projection, when he idealizes an athlete or rock star. He is seeing his potential strength and creativity in another person. When he is able to see these projections and reclaim them, he is empowered. He does this by doing the work to develop his skills in music and sports. As he gains mastery in himself, he has more objectivity and confidence. He feels empowered, because he sees himself as he is. He can see his internal power.

When I take care of my needs for sleep, healthful food, exercise, and time with emotionally supportive family and friends, I feel calmer and see more objectively.

When I have a working ego, I am willing to do the work of an adult. I take the steps to keep my ego strong and healthy as an adult. I get 8-10 hours of sleep, eat healthful foods, take time to exercise my body, and talk with empathic friends and family. I also play and have fun. A working ego also implies a willingness to make difficult choices that support the vitality of my life and the lives of others.

An unhealthy ego is an ego that is weak. When an ego is not strong, it attempts to be the only center of the person. When our ego is weak, our energy alternates between thinking we are greater than we are (inflation) and thinking we are less than we are (deflation). It is like a balloon being too full or flat. We are most effective when we see ourselves and the world as we are – no more, no less.

It is possible to wield great power as a president of a company, the leader of a country, or a religious leader, and to still remain quite unconscious. Sadly, this is more often true than not. It is possible to be a leader who manages things and people with great authority and precision and still not be awake. If one does not have the interest or take the time to think introspectively – to examine oneself – then it is impossible to be conscious.

Our ego is formed when we are young. As young baby, our ego begins by being uninformed. We are totally dependent on our parents for survival. We are unable to see ourselves as separate from our mother. Over time, we begin to see that we are separate from our mother and by crying or smiling our mother responds by feeding us, changing us, holding us, or smiling at us. As we gain strength, we become more aware of how we can influence our own life. Our powers of awareness and choice are born in this way.

As we mature in healthy ways, we are able to see that we are not the center of the world. We are aware of the impact of our choices on our family and friends. We are able to consider others and the world as a whole when we make decisions. Some of us consider our Soul and God in our decision making. Possessing a healthy developing ego, we are able to be flexible with others socially. We can choose to love.

Please watch this video by Judith Peterson on the value of a working ego:

Blog 36
Blogs by Daniel Davis, will
Edward Edinger
Judith Peterson, working ego
Daniel Siegel
bonding with mother
consciousness, seat of
ego, healthy
ego, two basic powers
infant development
mind, two main functions
object relationship
projections, reclaiming
regulating emotions
rock star
weak ego
Whole Brain State,
“working ego”


Professional Seal for Daniel Davis