The holidays can be a stressful time for those in recovery. Caleb Anderson of has some advice:

As with any holiday when you’re sober, Halloween can be difficult to get through. It’s one of those times of year where everyone feels the need to have fun even if they aren’t necessarily up to it or are too tired. For parents or caregivers, that compulsion to get into the spirit of Halloween can be even stronger. Little ones love Halloween and all that comes with it, so it can be hard when their excitement doesn’t rub off on you. You may feel guilty that going trick-or-treating feels like a chore.

And that’s okay.  

Being sober means that sometimes you have to face harsh truths about your own feelings, and that’s a good thing because it means you aren’t using substances to numb them.

Even if you’re excited for Halloween and are ready to celebrate with friends and family, it’s important to have a game plan in mind so you’ll be prepared to say no when offered a drink, or exit early if you feel uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to get ready for the night so that you’ll feel in control. Here are a few of the best.

 1.Have an escape plan. 

It’s a good idea to have an escape plan in place before you arrive at your destination. If things get too rowdy and you’re uncomfortable, you want to have an elegant, well-thought-out exit strategy designed to get you out with minimal effort. It might help to have a friend along who can help you leave when you’re ready.

For help with preparing, read this helpful guide on staying sober during a social holiday.

2. Don’t pressure yourself. 

You might feel pressure to have fun, to dress up and hand out candy, to attend parties. But if you’re just not feeling any of those things, that’s okay. Find something fun that you enjoy, such as curling up with a good scary movie or baking cookies with the kids. When you start feeling pressure to enjoy yourself, you may find the temptation to abuse substances, so think of other ways to have a good time.

3. Bring your own drink. 

If you’re going to a party and there’s a good chance there will be alcohol available, consider bringing your own bottled water or soda. Keep it in your hand so that a well-meaning partygoer won’t try to push a beverage onto you or ask uncomfortable questions about why you aren’t drinking.

4. Put yourself first. 

If being at home when a gaggle of kids in masks demanding candy will make you anxious, make plans to stay elsewhere for the evening, or treat yourself to a hotel stay. Or simply turn off the lights and ask a friend to come over and hang out for a low-key evening at home. It’s completely okay to put yourself first, and if your mental health is at risk, it’s more than acceptable to shut the door on the festivities.

5. Reach out.

If you’re feeling tempted to use, or if you’re just feeling low and need to talk, reach out to a counselor, trusted friend, or 12-step meeting. You can even look online for meetings if you don’t feel up to going in person. Having someone there to listen who understands what you’re going through can be extremely helpful.

Remember that living with sobriety can play tricks on your self esteem. You may think that you can’t have fun without substances, or that your friends are leaving you out if you don’t party with them. Keep in mind that you are making the decision that’s best for you, and that you are in control of the situation. This will help you stay positive about your choices for the evening.

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