Any festive time, such as Halloween, can seem daunting, particularly we’re first sober. Worries about drinking, triggers and social anxiety can all overwhelm the occasion, making what is supposed to be fun, no fun at all.
Do not despair! And do not give up! If you are newly sober, you have already done the hard bit. You have stopped drinking which is an achievement and act of self-love of epic proportions. The rest is just practice and resetting habits and neural pathways, hard at first but much easier as you go on (see Am I an alcoholic? and How to stop alcohol cravings for more on this)
If you haven’t yet, and you want to or you’re just reassessing your relationship with alcohol then have a look at some of my other blog posts such as
But I promise you the more you practice celebrations, the easier they becomes. And sober celebrations really will be fun again!
So, what will Halloween 2019 hold for you? Going out with friends? Staying in with family? Either way can be sober and awesome.
If you are heading out to town or a party, usually alcohol will abound at these types of events. You are forewarned, so now let’s make sure you are forearmed! Here are 7 tips for a fab sober Halloween.
(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)
Halloween tip 1 – If you do not want to go, do not go!
Do you want to go out? Now this may seem silly as you’ve probably already decided that you are going, but just check with yourself. Do a little breathing exercise. Breathe in for 5 and out for 5. Concentrate only on the feeling of your breath going in and out. Breathe as slowly as is comfortable.
When you are feeling relaxed, thing about your Halloween activity. In this quiet space, your real feelings about this activity will surface. Do you feel a knot of anxiety in your stomach or a clutch of fear in your chest? Do you feel an excited buzz? Is it a mixture of both? Once you have established your feeling towards your activity, you need to break it down a bit more. It is unlikely that there will be no worries, so try to dig a bit deeper and find out which part is worrying you most.
Here are examples of some worries
- Will I drink?
- What will I say when someone asks me why I’m not drinking?
- What will I say when someone offers me a drink?
- I feel silly dressing up
- I won’t know anyone
- I don’t like dancing
If you can find out which part is worrying you most, you can do some work prior to heading out to tackle those worries. More on this in the following Halloween tips
The upshot is, if you prospect of your Halloween activity is filling you with all out dread, or even filling you with anxiety for every aspect you have analysed, then don’t go. What on earth says that you have to go anywhere that makes you feel that way? If people think it’s strange, so what? Why does their opinion matter? If their opinion does matter to you, or you think they might be upset, then be honest with them. If it’s too early for honesty with this person or you think they won’t understand, this might be the time to have an honest look at this relationship and what is holding you back. This is you looking after you, which, in your early sobriety, is THE most important thing to do.
You are vulnerable at this point and putting yourself in a position that causes you stress and anxiety will increase your vulnerability and increase the likelihood that you will drink.
Halloween tip 2 – To drink or not to drink?
Like I have said, this is vulnerable time for you, and going out, surrounded by alcohol, can make you feel so much more vulnerable.
The question of will you drink boils down to a number of factors, which I am looking to address in this blog. A large part though, is that you have to not want to drink. Like the tip above, if you’re feeling that you shouldn’t drink, but actually you want to, maybe avoid the occasion all together. Don’t risk your sobriety when you have done so well. Maybe accept sitting this one out and try again next year when your sobriety is more secure.
So many people get totally freaked out by the idea that they may have to justify why they are not drinking. Unfortunately, this is often the case. I love the quote by Jolene Park, author or the website greyareadrinkers.com.
“Alcohol is the only drug in the world that you have to justify not taking”
Because, although it is madness, it’s true! The justification opens up a huge can of worms and all the hushed ‘are you an alcoholic?’ questions or the ‘you’re not that bad’ comments. Completely no one elses business, but unfortunately most drinkers don’t see it that way!
So, if someone offers you a drink, have a plan. Know beforehand what drink you are going to ask for, don’t even give yourself the option. If you are more comfortable drinking alcohol free alternatives, then drink those. I drank these a lot in the beginning and bars are getting a much wider selection – do your research before you go! If you’re at a party bring your own supplies. These are my favourites and they are 0%. I don’t like to even try the 0.05% or 0.5% but that’s just me (these links earn me a little commission – sorry to my friends across the pond but couldn’t seem to find US links that weren’t extortionate so you you’ll have to go to see what your local supermarket has).
- Budweiser Prohibition
- Heineken 0.0
- Birra Moretti alcohol free – no link I’m afraid
- Non alcoholic spumante wine
Personally find the gin alternatives revolting but lots of people swear by it, the link is below.
Alternatively, Sainsburys and Tesco have a good choice. Sorry if you are not UK based, I’m not sure about supermarkets abroad, although I know Carrefour in Italy sells 0% Birra Moretti!
Also, prepare a set answer for the ‘Why aren’t you drinking’ question. Could you drive to the event? Perfect get out of jail free card right there and a warm, easy ride home! If not, ‘I’m not antibiotics’ is an option. If you are more comfortable to be open, you can use the sober curious reason or I’m doing Sober October or I’m training for a marathon! Loads of reasons, just pick one for the night so you are not sidelined by the question.
I’m quite open if asked now. I say alcohol gave me anxiety, it doesn’t agree with my stomach and it is incompatible with raising 3 children and working. All completely true and although I get some odd looks, my choice is rarely questioned.
Halloween tip 3 – Go with support
It is so much easier to feel stronger and braver when you have someone at your side. Find someone who knows about your choice and is happy to come along and back you up in your decision. Parties can be scary, especially if there are lots of people you don’t know. One of the reasons most often given for drinking is social anxiety, (see Why do people drink?) so why put yourself in a position that made you want to drink in the first place!
Have a signal with your support for when you need an escape. It is very likely that at some point you’ll be in a conversation you don’t want to be in – whether because it’s controversial, awkward, dull or the other person is now so drunk they can’t speak – so have a back up plan. Signal your support, get another drink (alcohol free!) or go to the loo. Don’t feel you have to stick it out, they probably won’t remember anyway!
Halloween tip 4 – Don’t do what make you uncomfortable
Feeling uncomfortable makes you more vulnerable, so as well as the tips above, assess what makes you uncomfortable.
There is no earthly reason that you should dress up, dance or join in games. Remember – ‘could not should’! You can do anything but you do not have to do anything.
I often get the feeling that I’m going to go somewhere and be the only person dressed up. It always make me nervous. Not very likely at Halloween but if you’re worried, go in normal clothes and bring your dress up stuff with you – simple!
I personally adore dancing and games, but I know it is a no go area for many people without alcohol, so be true to yourself and do what is right for you. Phones are an amazing excuse to avoid many situations you don’t want to be in.
Halloween tip 5 – What do you want?
So much focus can be taken up by avoiding what you don’t want to be involved in, but equally importantly, what do you want to be involved in.
Why are you going in the first place? What do you want to get out of the evening? As I said, I love dancing, so a dance space with good music is pretty much my only reason for going out ever! I also love dressing up and there are just not enough excuses to dress up once you are a mother.
But your reason could be to have fun with friends, or meet some new friends, or meet a new prospective partner. Whatever the reason, surely it is better to have this experience sober so that firstly, it is the real you that people are meeting or having fun with and secondly, that it is an experience you will remember. No hangovers, no guilt, no regrets, no embarrassment and if you’re lucky enough to meet someone – you’ll remember whatever transpires!!
If you’re not sure, use the breathing exercise above to find out what it is that you want to get out of the event. Consider what you used to enjoy at parties when you were a child, there will be some pre-drinking memory somewhere! Once you know, breathe deeply and picture how you want the evening to go. Stick to the positives here because visualisation is an incredibly powerful tool and you can change your experience of the event by using it.
Halloween tip 6 – Exit plan
Plan when and how you are going to arrive, but more importantly, have a plan for how you are going to escape!
You need to ensure that you can leave whenever you are ready to. If you feel stuck, your vulnerability will increase. For this reason, make sure you know how you are getting home (driving is perfect!), and try not to rely on anyone else for transportation, as you will then have to check they are happy to leave too.
Don’t ever feel you have to stay to the bitter end. One of the joys of sobriety is that your body is back in a healthy routine and it knows when it is tired and when it wants to wake up. If we start messing with this natural rhythm, and start getting tired, we make ourselves vulnerable. Most sober people will be looking for bed at 10 or 11pm – so go with what your body tells you not what you ‘should’ do.
So, that’s the end of the how to party sober at Halloween when you are out and about tips. Let’s have a brief look at how to party sober at Halloween at home.
The tips above can all be easily translated to apply to celebrating at home, for example:
- Party? Trick or treating? – Don’t celebrate if you don’t want to
- Don’t invite people you don’t want to be there
- Have a reason that you’re not drinking
- Know that you can escape to your room or the loo if you need a minute
- Give the party a clear end time – maybe an afternoon children’s party?
- Plan the party to do what you want to do and what you are comfortable with
I’m loving Halloween more and more in the last few years, especially since becoming sober. Before that I’d only really celebrated it as a child. This, interestingly, made a few things more obvious, as I hadn’t had that time to grow used to alcohol at Halloween. I had memories of childhood Halloweens and then memories of starting those traditions with my children a few years ago. But alcohol had never been a part of childhood Halloween so I couldn’t understand why our celebrations didn’t feel quite right – almost like I was quaffing back the prosecco with any excuse – which of course I was.
It is way more comfortable sober, because ultimately, I am doing it for the children. We decorate the house, do fancy dress, paint faces, carve pumpkins, make Halloween themed food and set up Halloween games like apple bobbing and pear hanging. I never went trick or treating as a child, so we don’t either, but we have everything set up for the trick or treaters that come our way – surprise doorbell, silly string and sweets. Where does prosecco fit into that?
If you are celebrating at home, try to enjoy yourself but most of all, try to enjoy other people’s enjoyment.
Halloween tip 7 – Be proud of your achievement
Whatever you do this Halloween, be proud of your achievement. If you went out or had a party and stayed sober – that is phenomenal! So many huge pats on the back for you. Add it to your growing list of things to feel awesomely proud of.
If you decided not to celebrate, that is a brave and courageous act of self-love. In the end it is about you and your sobriety. It is not selfish, it is necessary. There is always the next year or the next celebration, when you can reassess what you can handle.
If you tried and slipped up, don’t beat yourself up. It is all a journey forward. No matter how disappointed you might be that you didn’t stay sober, you still tried and that is incredible. That shows you are on the right path, but just need to do a little more work to get there
See my other posts (links below) for more on this work.
Your journey to being happy celebrating sober, is like everything in your sober journey, one step forward at a time. Each step forward gets you a little closer to your goal.
I’m going to my first sober rave on Friday 1st November in the town centre. I have not been for a night out in town for years, and especially not a sober one. I am going with my husband you there won’t be many people I know – I did ask some friends, but no one seemed that keen when I mentioned the word sober! In my next post I’ll let you know all about it xx