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How to Plan a Sober Halloween

Halloween is a fun holiday, but for many in recovery, most ghoulish good times in recent memory are drowned in booze and sprinkled with other substances. Like all holidays where partying is the main focus for adults, it may not be easy to stay sober on October 31 especially in early recovery, but putting your energy into planning a safe and sober Halloween may be the best way to avoid relapse.

Here some ideas for ways to spend your sober Halloween this year:

Connect with the Sober Community

If you are looking for a good way to spend Halloween that will minimize your exposure to alcohol and drugs but still allow you to hang out with people who are into dressing up and having a good time, talk to people in your sober community. Raise your hand at your 12-Step meetings, talk to your support groups, and even put it out there to your therapist or any other substance abuse treatment professionals you work with. You never know who has a line on a sober event – either publicly held for the community or privately held by another sober person who is a friend of a friend – and an invite to send your way.

Throw Your Own Shindig

If you cannot locate a sober Halloween party (or one you want to attend), why not throw one of your own? You can choose any theme, hold it at home or at another location, invite a ton of people or just a few, and set your own parameters for the event. Just remember to:

  • Make it clear to invitees that it is a sober event. Note it on invitations and remind people in person as well.
  • Be prepared to ask people to leave who show up under the influence.
  • Provide things to do: games, movies, a costume contest, or pumpkin carving – anything that sounds like fun.
  • Offer snacks and nonalcoholic beverages and/or ask guests to bring some for the group.

Create a New Tradition

If you like Halloween but are not interested in seeking out a party, much less going to the effort of throwing one yourself, come up with some new traditions for the day. Some ideas include:

  • Going to a Halloween-themed 5K or half marathon
  • Watching a Halloween movie marathon or binge watching the Halloween episodes of your favorite shows
  • Making a huge Halloween-themed feast at home with friends
  • Passing out candy to neighborhood kids or holding a haunted house
  • Volunteering at a community center

Hit the Highway

Not sure if you can deal with staying in town for Halloween? Hit the road and head out of town into the wilderness where there is no sign of the holiday. It may be perfect weather for a last big camping trip before winter temperatures kick in, and you can be sure to minimize, if not eliminate, the risk of running into revelers in costume.

Keep It Simple

Nowhere is it written that you must take part in any and every holiday that comes up during the year, especially if it is a threat to your recovery for any reason. If it makes it easier, simply don’t celebrate Halloween this year. Stay home and watch a rom-com or an action adventure flick. Reorganize your closet. Wash your dog. Do whatever you want to stay sober.

Thinking of Drinking?

If holidays like Halloween trigger your cravings for drugs or alcohol, you are not alone. Not only is Halloween a party holiday, it jumpstarts the whole holiday season that culminates in the biggest party day of the year, New Year’s Eve. For many, this is a tough time emotionally, and tough emotional times often lead to an urge to escape difficult feelings by drinking and getting high.

If you are feeling uncomfortable in sobriety, do not ignore the problem, especially if it is related to the holiday season as a whole. Halloween is just the beginning, and it’s a good idea to connect with your support resources in order to come up with a plan.

You can:

  • Talk to your sponsor and your personal therapist. Get specific about what you are feeling, what you are facing in terms of specific events that may be worrisome, and ask for help. Get some ideas about how to manage upcoming issues. Ask if you can call them in the event you are struggling deeply and at risk of immediate relapse.
  • Have a plan and a back-up plan. If you need someone to lean on, do not have just one person in mind. People get busy, they don’t hear their phone, or they are otherwise distracted in your moment of need even if they have the best of intentions of supporting you. Have a couple of people you can call.
  • Set yourself up for success. If you know that being out in a crowd is going to make you feel uncomfortable, choose an activity that you know you will enjoy. If you know that being alone will increase your chances of relapse, then get together with friends and stay with someone you trust.
  • Be prepared to manage whatever comes. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, and if it happens that you do relapse, you have the ability to cut it short and get back on track right away rather than allowing things to spiral out of control. Do not beat yourself up about it. Instead, focus on how you can improve your recovery and immediately begin working on that.

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