Boo! It’s almost Halloween! Time for costume parties, hayrides, bonfires, plenty of sweet treats and an extra dose of temptation. Holidays can present a particular set of challenges for those in sobriety.
According to Psychology Today, there are plenty of reasons the holidays are emotionally charged: “While they may bring joy and celebration, they can also be like putting Miracle Grow on family dysfunction and unhealthy dynamics. Therefore, if drinking alcohol was the way in which an alcoholic coped emotionally with holidays in past years, it can be a difficult transition when they get sober.”
Don’t panic. There are things you can do to stay safe, stay sober and still have fun. Following these tips to create a plan to help you successfully maintain your sobriety without fear of relapse—all while having a ghoulishly good time.
Many times, support groups—like Double Trouble in Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous—plan extra meetings around the holidays. Attending meetings regularly will have plenty of benefits in your recovery plan, but will be especially beneficial during triggering times like Halloween.
Heading to a party? Take a sober friend. It’s always helpful to have support from someone who not only knows about your recovery, but shares in the pride of your sobriety. Remember, though, sometimes your loved ones might need help to support you with your recovery, so share your ideas with them.
As tempting as it might be to visit a friend who’s still in the depths of their addiction, don’t do it. Likewise, if a trip to your parent’s house is overly stressful or a visit to your aunt’s house means a house full of raucous, drinking party-goers, don’t go. Don’t jeopardize your sobriety to relive an old memory or to “do what you’ve always done.” Make new, healthy habits and traditions.
Having your favorite thirst quencher at parties or get-togethers can help you avoid unnecessary temptation. Be sure to keep the drink in your hand—this will make others less likely to offer you their favorites.
If you’ve chosen not to share your sobriety plan, prepare a response for unsolicited drink offers. You can even write a script in advance and practice it, to make it sound as smooth as possible.
Despite even perfect planning, sometimes things arise that you didn’t expect. Make sure you’re being mindful for any clue that leads you to want to jeopardize your recovery. Take the time to recognize that feeling and address it before it’s a problem. If you can’t, get out of there. So you don’t get stuck in a sticky situation, take your own car or have pre-planned transportation.
If you don’t have any plans, consider celebrating Halloween a little different this year—in the spirit of making new, healthy habits and traditions. Dress in your favorite costume and stop by a local shelter to hand out candy or visit a nursing home and help the elderly remember the fun of the season.
Remember, you can do this. You don’t need to isolate yourself to avoid temptation. And you don’t need to use or drink to have a good time. Having a strong plan will ensure a Happy Halloween!
Caleb Anderson co-created RecoveryHope to help people with substance abuse disorders and their families.
We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.
Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.
Find Your Local NAMI