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How Teens In Recovery Can Have a Sober Halloween

Written by: Melissa Lyon

Edited by: Melissa Carmona

Halloween can often remind a teen in recovery of past alcohol or drug use. Even during a pandemic, help your teen reframe the spooky season with these sober activities.

picture of pumpkin mug filled with candy corn on a table

When you’re a teen in recovery, you already face so many challenges. When a holiday or event rolls around, those challenges can feel amplified. Halloween, for example, is known for partying. As a teen in recovery, your idea of partying may differ from some of the people you know. Halloween is a good time to reframe the idea that drinking or drug use equates to “fun.” There are plenty of fun things to do during the spooky season without substances.

During the pandemic, it may feel like Halloween is canceled, but this isn’t the case. Following CDC guidelines for Halloween plans can help you enjoy a safe and sober holiday.

1. Visit a Haunted House or Attraction With Friends

Haunted houses are a great way for teens to enjoy Halloween. These attractions often go above and beyond to make them heart-pounding and truly terrifying. For sober teens, it’s an adrenaline rush without substances. Many haunted houses require you to be at least 13 years old to attend, so older teens don’t have to worry about being at an event they find too kid-centric.

In light of the COVID situation, many haunted houses are moving entirely outdoors, or they’re doing drive-thru options. There are also haunted fields and mazes. The CDC generally recommends these over indoor haunted houses.

2. Watch Scary Movies

Horror movies remain one of the best ways to celebrate Halloween. Some particularly creepy options include Get Out, The Exorcist or The Ring. Many newer horror movies are also geared toward teen audiences. If your family feels it’s safe and you can maintain social distancing, let your teen invite sober friends over for a scary movie marathon. You can also find relatively inexpensive projectors and screens online to set up an outdoor theater-style experience in the backyard.

3. Host a Costume Party

Sometimes the concept of a party can seem triggering for a teen in recovery, but that doesn’t have to be the case. This can be an opportunity to help your teen rethink what parties can be like. Encourage your teen to host a sober costume party and make it a bit of friendly competition. The CDC recommends social distancing and masks at outdoor events.

If you don’t think that’s the right idea for your family, your teen can also host a virtual costume party or fashion show over Zoom. Again, add an element of competition for the best costume.

4. Be in Charge of Handing Out Candy

Teens in recovery often must rebuild an understanding of responsibility. A fun, lighthearted way to get on that path is having your teen hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. This can help teens get into the mindset that they are in charge and responsible for certain things. It can help them focus on something else other than staying sober. Handing out candy can also bring them back to their childhood a bit as they see the trick-or-treaters in costumes and think about their own memories of Halloween when they were younger. The CDC has recommendations for safer trick-or-treating strategies.

5. Do Your Own Thing

Sometimes it’s important to realize that it’s okay to do what your family is comfortable with. If your teen is sincerely worried about maintaining their sobriety, that may mean not celebrating Halloween at all. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no need, especially when you’re in recovery, to push yourself into something you don’t feel is in your best interest.

If your teen is struggling with alcohol or drug use, help is available. Contact our team at Next Generation Village to learn more about addiction treatment services designed specifically for teens and their families.


Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. “Holiday Celebrations.” September 21, 2020. Accessed October 9, 2020.

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