In active addiction, we rarely needed an excuse to let loose and party. Certain occasions, however, allowed us to go out and tie one on without fear of social stigma. Halloween was no exception.
We were already accustomed to wearing masks, pretending to be people we were not. Halloween took the metaphor out of these pursuits. It allowed us to go out and party on a night when we were actually encouraged to embrace the darker side of our nature. No matter how much our addiction caused us to suffer most nights of the year, many of us still remember All Hallows’ Eve as a night of fun and freedom. When celebrating our first Halloween in recovery, many of us pine for the old days. Can a sober Halloween possibly deliver the same sense of levity we experienced in our party years?
The short answer is yes. It can, but not without a little bit of effort on our part. Here are just a few ways to enjoy a sober Halloween while still experiencing the sense of release we once associated with our substance use.
#1. Celebrate with Family
For many of us, one of the primary benefits of recovery is the opportunity to improve family relationships. Upcoming holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas offer the chance to do this on a broad scale; however, we may just as easily start this process now by including our loved ones in our sober Halloween. Whatever you choose to do for this year’s night of ghoulish festivities, do it alongside those you love most.
Those of us with children find the opportunity to spend a sober Halloween with family especially meaningful. Prior to our recovery, many of us frequently disappointed the very people who looked up to us the most. This night provides us an opportunity to begin making up for that.
Once upon a time, our children felt they could not invite friends over for fear of embarrassment should the school become flooded with rumors of the parent who was too drunk or high to take the kids trick-or-treating. Now, we can take a more hands-on role in our children’s lives. We can help them make their costumes, go door-to-door for candy, and possibly even host a small get-together for our children and a few classmates. Instead of embracing Halloween as a mere opportunity to party, we can instead enjoy it with a sheer sense of childlike wonder by viewing it through the eyes of our very own children.
#2. Party with Sober Friends
In early recovery, the idea of a “sober party” struck most of us as an oxymoron. But believe it or not, they do exist. And they can actually be a great deal of fun.
Think of everything you used to enjoy about parties aside from drinking. The music, the food, the social atmosphere. Take away the drugs and alcohol, and you’ll find that all of these things still exist. Not only that, but you can enjoy them with a deeper sense of appreciation. You can follow the music more closely, taste the food with unaltered senses, and engage in conversation without needing the false sense of security provided by an altered state of mind. Whether throwing your own shindig or attending one hosted by a friend, a sober Halloween party can allow you to see just how little you relied on drugs and alcohol to enjoy yourself in the first place.
The other benefit of attending a sober Halloween party is that it provides you with an opportunity to expand your support network. We often relate to other sober people whose stories bear similarities to our own. Sometimes we simply like something they shared at a meeting. In the context of a Halloween party, we likely learn more about someone’s personality than about their recovery. Rather than making new friends because we think they’ll benefit our recovery, we make new friends solely because we enjoy being around them. Which, in turn, benefits our recovery. Not everyone in our support network needs to provide constant life lessons. Sometimes we just need people to have fun with.
#3. Make and Share Treat Bags
If you want to spend your sober Halloween around other people yet do not know of any sober Halloween parties, you might simply attend a 12-step meeting. Of course, those who harbor a special love for this particular holiday may find this plan a bit underwhelming. So why not liven it up by bringing a taste of Halloween to the meeting with you? Get some cheap plastic treat bags from the grocery store, or even just some run-of-the-mill sandwich bags. Fill them with Halloween candy, or even homemade treats such as Rice Krispies squares or candied apples. Bring them to the meeting, or anywhere else you might find yourself on Halloween.
Sharing treats with others allows you to invoke the spirit of festivity while also engaging in acts of service work. Not every act of service in recovery must pertain to helping others get sober. Sometimes we simply need to express our inner sense of kindness and compassion toward other humans. This reminds us of our own innate goodness, the person inside of us worth protecting by continuing to maintain our sobriety. It doesn’t matter if you share your treats at a 12-step meeting or simply from the comfort of your own home while handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Putting effort into your treat bags will give you the warm feeling of knowing that you went the extra mile to personalize your gifts of sweetness.
#4. Have a Scary Movie Marathon
Believe it or not, we need the occasional bout of stress. It gets our adrenaline pumping, improves the circulation of white blood cells and even burns calories. The right kind of stress can even improve our overall happiness by—as paradoxical as this may sound—decreasing our anxiety levels. That’s why studies show that a good scare can actually be good for us. A marathon of spooky movies produces hormones that boost our sense of well-being. And since the body just survived the ordeal that activated its fight-or-flight response, we even feel a bit content with ourselves by the time the credits roll.
Note, however, that thrills and chills will only enhance your sober Halloween if you can handle them. Anyone who truly feels anxious and afraid during a scary movie will only worsen their stress. So if you know that jump scares don’t work for you, maybe stick with something lighter like Hocus Pocus or a good old-fashioned Charlie Brown special. But if you’re at your happiest when scared half out of your wits, pop a movie on the TV or catch a flick on the big screen with some friends. Not only is it a quintessential tradition for this time of year, but the possible mood boost might be just what you need to get through your sober Halloween without fighting cravings.
#5. Find a Good Haunted House
If you get a thrill from scary movies, you might enhance your experience even further by encountering some frights in person. Here in Florida, many people flock to Universal Studios for Halloween Horror Nights. But no matter where you are, you’ll likely be able to find a haunted attraction in your area. Appreciating the work that goes into creating a haunted maze experience will prove stimulating for right-brained individuals, and you’ll get to share in a few laughs with friends as you scream the night away in fun-filled terror.
You might try thinking outside the box, as well. For instance, you might wish to learn more about the history of your area by finding a haunted walking tour. Some can be cheesy, but they can also be quite informative and thought-provoking when based on historical events that you may not know much about. Or, if you prefer more immersive experiences, you might set aside the haunted house and spend your sober Halloween with a few friends in an escape room. These interactive puzzle rooms have been gaining popularity over the years, and are often considered great team-building exercises. What better way to enhance your sense of fellowship than by solving a complicated puzzle with your sober friends? And these rooms are usually themed, so anyone lucky enough to have an escape room in their area shouldn’t have much trouble finding one perfectly suited for your sober Halloween adventure.
However you decide to spend your sober Halloween, try to choose an activity that you can pursue with other people. And if you do decide to go out alone, keep a back-up plan handy. Don’t get stuck somewhere like a theme park that serves alcohol without knowing who you can call if you need moral support to keep from drinking.
#6. A Quiet Night of Remembrance
Halloween might seem today as if it’s largely about the tricks and treats, but many older traditions saw it as something more. Believing that the veil between our world and that of the dead was at its thinnest, many would gather to honor lost loved ones. They would light candles, speak some words of prayer, and even hold feasts consisting of foods that their dearly departed most enjoyed.
Even if you do not engage in these specific activities, you may wish to take some time tonight to embrace this more solemn aspect of Halloween. We have all lost people, sometimes even after entering recovery. And while we never truly need a special occasion to remember those we’ve loved, engaging in the practice of remembrance tonight may deepen the meaning of our sober Halloween. We may reflect on what our sobriety would mean to these individuals, were they around to witness it.
We may also think back on what these loved ones taught us through the way they lived, and how we may apply these lessons to our own life in recovery. As long as we have our memories, no one is ever truly lost. Their spirit lives on, echoed in the deeds of everyone who was touched by them. It never hurts to take a moment or two out of our day to remind ourselves of this.
Your sober Halloween may be one of rollicking festivities, quiet reverence, or a mixture of the two. However you choose to celebrate, make it personal to you. Just because we celebrate in costume doesn’t mean we can’t be true to ourselves. Every day in recovery is an opportunity for self-discovery. Apply this to your sober Halloween, and you’re sure to have a good one.