This Saturday will be my sixth Halloween sober, but like nearly everyone else, my first one in a pandemic. That means not as many big, booze-heavy parties—but it doesn’t necessarily mean less alcohol. Halloween has the fifth highest average number of drinks consumed on any US holiday.
This year, people have been cooped up in their homes and may go even harder on outdoor partying. It’s a good idea to prepare so that it doesn’t catch you off guard. What’s scarier than a Halloween relapse?
If you’ll be at any sort of gathering, come prepared with the alcohol-free drink of your choice. When you’re at an event where everyone has a drink in hand, it can feel uncomfortable to stand around empty-handed. It may sound trivial, but I can’t stress enough how much it has helped me to have a drink to hold at parties.
Make sure to check in with yourself before you go anywhere. If you tense up at the thought of going, it might be a sign that you are not ready for a party. Always prioritize your recovery. If you decide to attend, have an escape plan in case you feel tempted to drink. Invite a sober friend—or a friend who supports your sobriety—and let them know you might need extra support.
My first sober Halloween, I was only at three months. It was my first big drinking holiday sober and I was very unsure what I should do. I ended up going to a party, but only after a lot of planning.
I decided to go because it was a close friend’s party; I knew the people there would support my sobriety. If I thought anyone might pressure me—or even ask if I wanted a drink—I might not have gone. I came with as much seltzer as I could hold.
For the first time since I was a kid, I put a lot of effort into my costume (a friend and I were Beavis and Butthead). I was happy to put my energy into the costume instead of drinking.
Halloween is unique because it’s both kid-centric and booze-heavy. Being sober gives us an opportunity to remember the parts of Halloween that were fun as a kid. Don’t be afraid to go hard on the candy (unless you have a health condition that bars you from doing so, of course). Instead of booze-filled hot cider, make a regular hot cider. It’s just as good, and drinking it won’t make you do something you regret.
If you decide not to go out this year, there are plenty of ways to be festive at home. You could do a horror movie night. If, like me, you are not a horror fan, you can watch the Halloween episode of TV shows, or watch a movie like Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s an ongoing debate whether that’s a Halloween or a Christmas movie, but I think it’s both. (The movie’s composer recently said it’s a Halloween film for him).
You could also invite a few people to do an outdoor pumpkin-carving contest. Pumpkin-flavored anything is good and fall festive; you could make a pumpkin dessert or drink.
We may not think about it much, but we’re already used to pivoting how we spend our Halloween. Most of us trick-or-treat as kids, but at a certain point it becomes less socially acceptable to do so. When you reach that age, you find new ways to celebrate—which usually marks the transition to a booze-filled Halloween.
When you become sober, you make another big shift. This year with COVID-19, we’re all learning to celebrate holidays and milestones differently.
This Halloween, remember that alcohol doesn’t equal fun—that there’s a lot of joy in celebrating holidays sober. When it’s all over, you’ll remember everything.
If you are struggling with your alcohol use this fall, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build the skills to enjoy life sober. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.