Spooky season is here! Although Halloween is October 31st, many people begin decorating and celebrating long before the actual holiday. This wonderful time is full of festivals, fairs, and treats. However, Halloween can also be a rowdier holiday for adults, full of parties and substance use. If you are in recovery, this may be a challenging holiday. You might wonder if having fun while staying sober is even possible. The good news is this: yes, you can! It just takes a little planning and creativity.
A Brief Haunted History of Halloween
Today, when we think of Halloween, trick or treating and costumes come to mind. However, Halloween’s origins can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sah-wen), celebrating the harvest. People also believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was the thinnest during this time; the spirits of the dead could walk among the living. Trick or treating evolved from the practice of leaving offerings to appease the spirits, and people would wear costumes to ward off ghosts.
Halloween and Increased Alcohol Consumption
The media’s promotion of alcohol to celebrate Halloween has transformed from a Celtic harvest festival to one of the top five holidays for heavy drinking. According to an article in Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, specific events like Halloween, where heavy drinking is promoted, contribute to increased binge drinking among college students.
Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., in his Psychology Today article “Behind the Mask: Drunk on Halloween,” proposes that when people dress in Halloween costumes, fantasy and anonymity can lead to lowered inhibitions. This influences people to drink more than usual or even try substances they would not otherwise consider using. He states, “In the mixing of fantasy with alcohol and anonymity, there is a lot of release and little accountability. Even responsible adults forget that their alter-ego isn’t real and get carried away.”
Planning for a Sober Halloween Even if You are Attending a Party or Event
Staying sober during Halloween can be a colossal challenge. However, your chances of successfully preventing a possible relapse start with having a solid plan before heading out to an event.
A great way to begin planning is to visualize yourself attending the event and staying sober. This technique has been researched in sports, and a study in Basic and Applied Social Psychology has shown that visualizing does improve outcomes. Try to make your visualization as realistic as possible. Include as many details as possible, including seeing yourself declining a substance and feeling good about it. Visualize, in detail, walking away from the bar or past people using other substances.
Another effective planning strategy is to put that visualization into action by practicing what you will say and do if someone offers you alcohol or other substances. You can do this alone or with a supportive friend or family member. Do not worry if it feels silly. Maintaining sobriety is worth feeling a little ridiculous. Also, remember that practicing often will help these responses and actions feel more natural when confronted with the actual situation.
Being hungry, angry, thirsty, or tired can trigger you to want to use. Make sure you practice essential self-care in the days leading up to the event. Get plenty of rest the night before you go to the party or event. You will feel refreshed and much less irritable. Make sure you are well-hydrated and plan on enjoying some food when you arrive. These simple steps can go a long way in helping you stay sober.
Alternative Ways to Celebrate Halloween
If you are not feeling comfortable with trying to attend parties and events where there will be alcohol or other substances, there are other ways to enjoy the holiday. Some fun alternatives are:
- Get challenged by a corn maze
- Gather some friends for a pumpkin carving contest
- Get scared at a haunted house
- Throw your own bash complete with costumes, games, delicious snacks, and a scary movie marathon (or tell scary stories instead)
- Try attending a fall festival that is more family-friendly
- Plan a Halloween/harvest-themed romantic night-in with your significant other—light fall-scented candles, cuddle under a cozy blanket while watching scary movies, and have dinner delivered and feed each other Halloween treats
- If you have been in treatment in a program that has an alumni program, look into whether they have any events to celebrate
Do Not Overlook the Importance of Support
During Halloween or any time that poses a challenge to your sobriety, rally your sober supports:
- If you are in a 12-step program, go to more meetings and reach out to your sponsor
- Utilize the support of staff and peers if you are in partial hospitalization or an intensive outpatient program
- Talk to your therapist
- Ask friends and family for support, including accompanying you to events
Remember, substance use does not have to be a part of your Halloween celebrations, and it is unnecessary to have fun. Planning, creativity, and support make it possible to have a happy and sober Halloween. The bonus of avoiding substance use on this holiday is that you will start November feeling amazing.
Halloween is such a fun time with festivals and parties. Unfortunately for people in recovery, alcohol and other substances are often served at these parties and celebrations. With the proper support, you can enjoy Halloween and every other holiday while maintaining sobriety.
At Sober Life, you can receive substance use treatment without going to the hospital. We offer partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and outpatient treatment. These treatment options allow you to remain in the community and experience recovery in real life. You’ll attend events and learn how to enjoy your new substance-free life. You will receive an individualized treatment plan to address your unique needs at each level of care. After you complete treatment, you can stay connected with continued support through our alumni program. To learn more about how we can help, call Sober Life at (619) 542-9542 today.