Which is scarier: Warlocks and werewolves or going to a Halloween party sober?
If you’re like me, this will be your first Halloween sober — and if you’re also like me, you might be having mixed emotions about what to expect come October 31st. As we grow from kids to adults, this holiday evolves from pint-sized costumes and knocking on neighbors’ doors into one of the top drinking holidays of the year. Not only is All Hallows Eve a major party day but the week before has become an extravaganza with people often slipping into something spooky the Saturday before the 31st. There are house parties, costume contests at bars, and mixers in the office, all involving varying amounts of alcohol.
This year, as I approach Halloween with eight months of sobriety under my belt, I’m feeling conflicted. I’m dreading being exposed to a drunk girl in a risqué costume or an obliterated man with beer breath, but also longing to be a part of it. Half of me wishes I was wearing spandex and shooting caramel apple pie shots. But the other half of me is happy that I don’t have to.
To get me through my first sober Halloween and weigh in on some inevitable scenarios, I called on host of the podcast, Recovery Happy Hour, Tricia Lewis.
“If you’re wanting to be the girl dressed up taking shots, you’re wanting to drink. And if you’re wanting to drink, it’s coming from somewhere else. What’s underneath that’s making you want to drink?” questions Tricia when I told her how I was feeling.
For me, wanting to drink is driven by a sense of longing to be accepted or part of what society tells me is supposed to be fun. Alcohol as a means of celebration is rooted in American traditions, with the orange and black holiday being no exception. Alcohol brands have taken note of America’s desire to let loose in disguise and now offer flavored spirits ranging from pumpkin spice to salted caramel in a ploy to win over a piece of the party pie (it’s the same type of thing they do for Pride Month). Mix that with Halloween following on the heels of Oktoberfest and at the start of yet another party season — it means temptations and triggers galore. So, if you don’t feel ready to mingle with mixed drinks, listen to your body.
Mix that with Halloween following on the heels of Oktoberfest and at the start of yet another party season — it means temptations and triggers galore.
“My first Halloween sober, I was 11 months in… my friends and I had planned to go to dinner, a parade, and a costume contest,” says Tricia. “After dinner and the parade, I missed the costume contest because I was just tired. I listened to my body and went home. If I was drinking, I would have been raging and would have ignored what I actually needed.”
This year, I’m guarding my sobriety and sanity by going to a costume party Friday at a sober sister’s house and, on Saturday, I’m attending an Alcoholics-Anonymous-sponsored party in Chicago called Dr. Bob’s Nightmare. I’m not ready to go out to parties and be around alcohol so I’ve set these plans to avoid the wanting and urges. The most important thing you can do going into Halloween sober is to set up guardrails, whether you go to a party or not.
“If you are ready to go to a party, then you need to decide you aren’t drinking when you walk in,” insists Tricia. “It’s a ‘no, thank you’ when offered because if you decide it’s a ‘maybe’ going in, then it’s going to turn into a ‘yes’.”
Tricia’s advice is simple but key as I get further into sobriety and more comfortable being around alcohol. Knowing you aren’t going to drink will put you in the right mindset and better prepare you to say “no.” To help stick to your commitment, confide in an accountability partner. Go to the event with someone you can rely on talking you through the temptations. Bonus points if they aren’t drinking, too.
The most important thing you can do going into Halloween sober is to set up guardrails, whether you go to a party or not.
In addition to laying the foundation that she won’t drink at a party, Tricia also follows a three-trick approach to surviving parties sober.
“Bring your own stuff to make a drink and always have a drink in your hand, have an exit plan, and don’t offer to be a designated driver because you’ll end up getting stuck there.”
As I go into my first Halloween party at work where there will be drinking, I’m taking Tricia’s advice to heart. Since getting sober, I’ve been wary to be in any circumstance with alcohol but, because I am on the party planning committee, I feel obliged to go. In preparation for the event, I’m ensuring there will be a mocktail station for me and the four pregnant women in our office. I’m also going to wear something comfortable but festive and set a goal of staying for an hour.
Going to a Halloween party sober doesn’t mean you can’t dress up, play some of the (non-drinking) games, and it doesn’t mean you automatically have to be the D.D..Going to a Halloween party sober only means you’ll actually remember the costumes and start the new month stronger than your drinking counterparts (without a hangover to boot). When nerves get the best of you, remember: A party is a temporary time period and you can go home at any time.
If you aren’t ready for a party with loud music and intoxicating potions, listen to your needs and plan an equally festive activity. Drinking alcohol in a costume isn’t the only way to celebrate. With dozens of other fall-tivities, you’re guaranteed to get all the “boos” without the booze.
Go to a movie: With families out trick-or-treating and people out partying, the movie theater is likely to be a ghost town. Sneak in your favorite Halloween candy and see a film — you might have the place to yourself!
Have a pumpkin-carving contest: Brew some apple cider or spiced mocktails and have some friends over to see who carves the best gourd.
Throw your own sober party: Want the socializing without the spritzers? Throw your own Halloween party! Tricia’s dream party would include all her friends, dressed up, with a variety of mocktails and a lot of decorations. Hosting your own get-together ensures you’ll like what you’re sipping on and who you’re talking to.
Seek out a fall festival: See if your local A.A. district is hosting a sober gathering or check your city’s newsletter for events in town or at the community center. These activities typically include fun and seasonality, without the spirits.
Stay home and relax: “We stay in and pass out candy for the little ones in the neighborhood… I cook stuffed peppers every Halloween for dinner and carve the bell peppers with pumpkin faces!” says Kaitlyn Norgard, who identifies as sober curious. You can make your home a fall retreat with candles, scary movies, and a pumpkin-centric meal.
If you’re sober and ready to dance ‘til dawn on the day of the dead, dress to impress and have a great time. Remember to go into the event knowing you aren’t drinking alcohol, always have a beverage in hand, and don’t get stuck as the designated driver.
Allow yourself to cut loose and be yourself — the best version of you comes through when you aren’t drinking anyway. Still not ready to get down with the ghouls and goblins without the booze? Create your own tradition with some of our ideas or one of your own. No matter how you decide to celebrate, put your sobriety first and the fun will follow.