At some point (apparently?!) it stops being socially acceptable to Trick or Treat, and you have to think of new ideas for Halloween. You might continue the whole dressing up thing because it’s a chance to transform for a night, but you generally swap out the school costume parade for raucous Halloween parties. That often means more drugs and booze than Kit-Kats (or at least, comparable amounts).
My first sober Halloween, I ended up at a party in an abandoned basement. All the walls had been painted neon, there were very bizarre sculptures made out of monster toys, TVs, and broken mirrors; and, as you can imagine, the EDM was very, very loud. To top it off, my boyfriend at the time was rolling, and I was the only person there not in costume. It wasn’t the greatest night.
It’s gotten easier to be at parties or holiday events totally sober, even if I’m the only one there who isn’t drinking. I’ve also had a Halloween or two where I watch Hocus Pocus at home, or I get together with some sober folks so we can do our own thing. But, whatever it is, I usually have a pretty great time.
If you’re looking for something do this Halloween that doesn’t involve pumpkin spice Jell-O shots, here are some suggestions from alcohol-free people who’ve done it before.
1. Make Your Own Traditions with Sober Friends
One of the cool things about being sober is that you get to reimagine the usual ways you spend the holidays. You can make up your own rules and traditions, and you can do it with other rad people who aren’t going to be drinking through the whole experience. You can have a theme party with pumpkin-flavored fruit punch, or go to the movies, or decide that it’s the one night of the year that you’re spending $100 on dinner (I hear restaurants are pretty empty…).
Or throw a sober potluck, like Joel with three years sober.
“Last Halloween I was grateful to have enough sober friends to throw a big potluck costume party,” Joel says. “But I’ve found that so long as I have at least one good sober buddy with me, I can have a blast doing anything on Halloween.”
Even just getting out of the house and doing something you enjoy ensures you’ll make a sober Halloween your own. “Last year I went to a restaurant, ordered guac, and watched the Halloween parade with bae,” Kayla says, who’s been sober for seven years. “It was the best. And I will be doing it again this year.”
You can make up your own rules and traditions, and you can do it with other rad people who aren’t going to be drinking through the whole experience.
2. Hang Out With Kids, Because Kids Are the Best On Halloween
As a sweeping generalization, Halloween is sometimes, perhaps unfairly, thought of as a holiday for children. If you’re sober for the night, you can re-experience a little bit of the original joy with the kiddos, because it’s a lot easier to access your inner Halloween child when you aren’t drunk when it’s time to go door to door.
“Most of the time on Halloween, I just hang out with my friends who have kids,” Kayla adds. “Kids make Halloween fun, so I’ll go trick or treating with them, or give out candy.”
Jennifer, with four years sober, agrees that it’s all about enjoying All Hallow’s childhood style, and then, like, going home to watch horror movies. “Yup, you go trick or treating with your nieces and nephews (any kids you know will do, really) then snag a bunch of candy for yourself and get home by 8.”
3. Go Wild, Without Gettin’ Wasted
You can still party when you get sober.
You really, truly don’t have to be drunk or high to have a good time in places where people are there with the intention of getting hammered. Being sober at a party or wild concert can be liberating and enjoyable. Although that might not be the best idea for your first alcohol-free Halloween, just know that you don’t have to relegate yourself to gatherings that are totally “dry” if you’re not into that.
Elia, who got sober as a teenager, will be celebrating his 21st sober Halloween this year. His plan for this year is to go out with his toddler, who’s pretty new to the costume-and-candy circuit. But since he’s seen it all as Halloween goes, he is just as comfortable kickin’ it at home with a bowl of candy as he is going to wild parties.
He describes one Halloween party a few years back that made him feel particularly happy to be sober. He got to dance the night away and dress up in a funky costume, while still going home totally clear headed. As he walked out, he remembers one drunk party-goer went tumbling down the stairs, just as another one was vomiting over the side of the railing. “It was funny but only because no one got hurt,” he says. But, he adds, nothing beats being hangover-free the morning after a party.
Nothing beats being hangover-free the morning after a party.
4. Dance, Because Trust Me, You Dance Better Sober
Believe it or not—especially if you live in a city—there are most likely going to be sober events. And yes, although that might sound about as cool as a middle school dance, don’t knock it before you try it. Sober parties can be super fun and raucous occasions.
“In early sobriety, I would go to a sober Halloween dance with my friends and dress up,” says Lexie with 14 years. “It was really fun, actually, even though I thought it would be lame.”
But of course, you can sweat your little heart out anywhere—even dark Manhattan nightclubs or bonfire parties—sans booze.
Like, Jen, with one year—she doesn’t just feel the dance beats on Halloween, she makes the beats. As a DJ, this year she is creating the soundtrack to a huge NYC costume ball. Can’t get much cooler than that.
5. Don’t Let Sobriety Make You Costume Shy
As Gandhi said, be the costume you want to see on the internet. And let me tell you, I’ve had some great sober costumes. Not to humblebrag, but this year, my Collette costume is probably going to win some awards. Consider being sober an opportunity to focus on upping your dress-up game.
Erica, with two years, really loves doing the whole sexy costume thing with her friends. She has found she doesn’t need booze to do show some side boob or wear fishnets. Sexy pirate, sexy bunny, sexy nurse, the whole nine (sexy) yards.
“My friends and I choose a theme and have a party. One year we were sexy evil Disney queens, another year super-heroines,” she writes, adding the much-loved wink emoji.
“Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, partly because of all the chocolate,” says Joel, with four years. “But mainly because it allows me to go all out with my costume.” Yup, Joel also likes to get sexy on Halloween. Take a page out of his book. Whip out the fake eyelashes and the platforms.
Nivia with three years adds, “I think the fun part of having a sober Halloween is not knowing what I’ll be then randomly coming up with something last minute and using some stuff around my house. I love a good wig though, so I’ll go to a store for that.”
Whip out the fake eyelashes and the platforms.
6. Remember That You Can Skip Halloween All Together
And maybe most importantly, there’s always the couch. Sometimes on holidays, your couch can be your best friend. A hot bowl of popcorn and a good book will call your name, even as the pumpkins flicker in your neighbor’s windows, and Thriller blasts from the party downstairs.
Although Liam, with seven years, shares that he was once hilariously Fred Durst for Halloween while sober, he says he’s not one to make a big deal of the holiday. “I usually skip Halloween entirely and then stock up on discount candy the next day. It’s very satisfying.”