Statistics show that hospital Emergency Room visits are 5x more likely to occur on Halloween than at any other time. A harrowing statistic to be sure, but what if you’re newly clean and sober? How does one celebrate a holiday with such a high penchant for disaster without locking yourself up in a basement somewhere? The answer is easy: You find a way to be a part of the celebrating without placing yourself in harm’s way!
1. GET SOME SOBER SUPPORT –Halloween parties are a must for some people, whether it be an office party or a neighbor’s get-together or even a holiday Rave ripe with EDM music and brightly colored strobing lights. Your best bet for staying clean and sober in that environment? Don’t Go Alone! Bringing someone along who is on the same path as you is a terrific idea, especially if you’re going to be surrounded by temptation. Someone to talk to who can relate to your unique situation can be a godsend sometimes. And, if worse comes to worst, you’ll have someone ready to leave when you are! There isn’t a law that says you have to stay in a place that doesn’t feel safe to you; if you absolutely HAVE to show up, then do so, do a lap, and graciously leave. It’s not a prison sentence, it’s a Halloween Party – you’re free to come and go as you please!
2. AVOID SLIPPERY PLACES – When someone relapses into their addiction (be it Drugs or Alcohol) it is often times colloquially referred to as a “slip”. Places like Bars, Nightclubs, even Family Gatherings can be slippery for some. Avoid them like the plague. No one is obligated to go to these places and, more often than not, you may find yourself wanting to be at these places because of social pressure or just plain, flat-out loneliness. But your recovery is a valuable asset. You’ve come so far and grown so much; why jeopardize it? Trust us, you are not missing a thing. Why not visit a friend instead or go to a movie or a broadway show or even take advantage of the sparse population and get in a good workout at the gym? Anything is preferable to placing yourself in harm’s way. And even if you’ve somehow managed to minimize the danger, remember this: if you hang out at a barber shop long enough, you’re gonna get a haircut.
3. ATTEND A 12-STEP MEETING – No one knows better than your peers how challenging the holidays can be. If you are susceptible to loneliness or depression, make plans ahead of time to go to a meeting. Knowing which meeting you’ll be attending is half the battle. Even better, some meeting halls and alano clubs even host clean and sober holiday events – and who better to spend Halloween with that others who want nothing more than to see you clean and sober as well? Besides (and you can take this one to the bank) you probably dance better sober than you ever did while drinking and using!
4. DON’T EVER PUT YOUR NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINK DOWN – In crowded parties or venues, it is often pretty easy to lose track of your drink and accidentally pick up an alcoholic drink. Don’t let this happen to you! Sometimes even a sip of an alcoholic drink is enough to make you want to throw your recovery away or , even worse, some ne’er-do-well might take it upon themselves to “tighten you up” and spike your drink, all the while believing that they are doing you a favor. Protect your drink the way you would your sobriety, and keep it close to your chest.
5. BE OF SERVICE – Helping those in need isn’t the purview of Thanksgiving and Christmas only! You can always find a way to volunteer your time to help those less fortunate. If you’ve a mind to do so, there are functions at old-folks’ homes and organizations for impoverished children who could always use a hand! How about spending your time making someone else’s life better instead of fighting for your recovery alone? Wanna go out and be really whacky? Put on a costume and visit the pediatrics ward at your local hospital and bring some joy to children who can’t go door to door looking for treats! Someone somewhere needs you, and this is the perfect time to find out who those people are!
6. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING – Not everyone is as put-together as you are. Maybe you have a friend with co-occurring disorders for whom the holidays are a nightmare. Should this person be alone? Reach out to peers or your sponsor and motivate your friends to circle the wagons around someone who really needs it. Sometimes just taking someone out to a group dinner at a local diner is all anyone needs to have a vital change of perception. And, who knows? The life you save may be your own!
7. SHAKE AND BAKE – Starting your own traditions is always a good look when it comes to staying clean and sober for the holidays. Invite friends over to bake cakes and cookies – and decorate them! – before relaxing in front of the television with your favorite scary movies! Recovery has always been about connection, and what better way to connect than a fun night full of screams and laughter? You’d be surprised how many wonderful memories start out this way!
8. LEAP OUT OF YOUR SKIN – Every neighborhood hosts haunted houses or haunted hayrides, and those that don’t usually have theme parks nearby with special Halloween events! Treat yourself to a fright or two and go! You’d be surprised how many strangers shout with delight – together – whenever a clown with a chainsaw appears from the shadows and shouts, “Happy Halloween!” It’s all in good fun, of course (there’s no saw on the chainsaw, it’s just a loud motor) but it’s fun as heck to experience it. And sometimes, it’s a lot like sporting events; screaming at the top of your lungs can be therapeutic!
9. SAFETY FIRST; TRUST YOUR FEELINGS – If you’re female, you’ve got to remember that, even though you yourself are clean and sober, everyone else may not be. Travel in a pack or, barring that, carry a can of mace or a loud whistle. Drinking and drugging lowers inhibitions, and someone who would not normally mistreat you may have other ideas once drunk or high. Protect yourself. Practice good judgement. Trust yourself and know that your feelings aren’t imaginary. If you think a place is unsafe, Leave. If you think someone is unsafe, Avoid Them. This is your New Life you’re living, and it is worth taking seriously, especially on a night like Halloween Night where people put on masks to be someone else. Be Yourself. Trust Your Feelings.
10. SWEETS FOR THE SWEET – Everyone remembers what it was like to dress up in elaborate costumes as Ghosts or Witches or Monsters or Superheroes and go door-to-door exclaiming, “TRICK OR TREAT!” – and everyone remembers how wonderful it felt to hold out your bag to receive candy! Well, now, you’re the grown-up! Stock up on candy and stay home for the night and make a child’s memory that much better! Because now it’s your turn to stay at home and give out candy! Participating in the holiday is more than just laughing and socializing with friends; sometimes it’s the competition of being the coolest house on the block or the most loved door in the apartment complex – this is your time to shine and be a part of your community in a way that you never were when you were drinking and using! Make it count!