Music festivals and sobriety don’t necessarily have to be two ideas that don’t go together. It’s possible to go to one of these events and have a good time without drinking or taking drugs. Before taking part in this type of activity, you will want to think about your choice carefully and prepare for your trip so that you consider different scenarios so that you have a plan in place before you arrive.
Music Festival Facts and Figures
According to billboard.com, 32 million people attend at least one music festival in the United States annually.
Summer Camp, billed as the largest music festival in the Midwest, takes place over Memorial Day. More than 20,000 fans converge in Chillicothe, IL to see 100 bands on seven stages over three days. The local county sheriff’s office reported that 43 arrests on drug charges were made after the 2016 festival. The sheriff commented that arresting festival-goers for drug possession was not their focus. Law enforcement was arresting people who were trying to sell marijuana, mushrooms, LSD and cocaine to undercover police officers.
In 2014, two festival attendees at VELD in Toronto died and more than 12 others required transport to a local hospital.
People bought over 30,000 tickets for Florida’s 2016 Okeechobee Music Festival. Police arrested about 70 people on drug possession charges, seizing quantities of methamphetamines, heroin, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine and flakka. Organizers stated that between 1-2 percent of attendees visited the medical tent for “possible drug-related issue.”
When to Consider Attending Music Festivals After Rehab
In the early days after completing a drug or alcohol treatment program, former clients are encouraged to keep their days full. It’s important to keep up a regular routine that includes eating well, getting regular exercise, enjoying hobbies and going out in the community. Staying busy is one of the keys to help stave off cravings as well as thoughts of “the good times” when a person was using.
It’s possible for someone who is exhausted, frustrated, bored, lonely, etc., to start thinking that the time when they were using wasn’t so bad after all. Through the lens of hindsight, they may only remember that drinking or using drugs was a way to escape those negative feelings, especially in the early days of recovery.
For this reason, spending time with people who are still using alcohol or drugs is actively discouraged. Watching other people engage their habits is too tempting for someone who only recently stopped using themselves. They are only starting to learn the tools necessary to resist the temptation to start using again. There is no sense in deliberately putting one’s self in a situation where there will be alcohol use and more, such as a music festival, until sobriety is well established.
The time this takes will vary from person to person. Some people feel comfortable attending a music festival after being sober for 12 months. Another may not feel “right” about going until later on in their journey. There isn’t a set time when someone can return to music festivals, nor is there an expiration date after which it’s too late to start. For those who want to quicken the process, here are some ways to make it more comfortable.
How to Enjoy a Music Festival Sober
Once you make the decision to go to a music festival, you need to make a plan so that you can go, enjoy the music and the atmosphere while keeping your sobriety intact.
With music festivals being so popular, start your search by looking for one close to where you live. You can check listings in your local newspaper, community newsletters or bulletin boards, or go online to find out about events near you.
Why start local? If you haven’t been to a music festival before (or the last one you attended was during the time when you were still using alcohol or drugs), you’ll want to keep it simple and as stress free as possible.
Do your Homework Before you Go
Check out the music festival’s website well in advance before you go so that you can get plenty of details about the festival in advance. Read the FAQs and bookmark the site to check for updates closer to the date of the festival. This is where you will find the latest information about the locations of restrooms, medtents and other necessities.
Consider Buying a One-day Pass
If you are planning to attend a music festival within a comfortable driving distance of your home, consider attending for a single day instead of the entire festival. The longer you’re exposed to an environment where there will be alcohol and drug use, the more opportunities there will be for you to slip in your sobriety. Some people can have a slip and then recover, but others, a slip starts the process toward a slide into a complete relapse.
Avoid Attending the Thursday Pre-party Day
Some music festivals allow guests to arrive the day before the main events to get the best camping and RV spots and “start the party early.” If snagging a choice spot is important, have someone else in your group make the arrangements. You can meet your friends at the festival on the day when it officially starts, and avoid exposure to the environment for an extra day.
Since you will spend a lot of time outside, be sure to take sunscreen with you and make a point of reapplying it often. Getting burnt to a crisp on the first day will put a damper on your enjoyment of the festival for the rest of the weekend.
Pack Plenty of Nutritious Food
If you and your friends have decided to camp out at the festival, be sure to have plenty of nutritious food on hand. You’ll want to eat well while you’re away, and it’s less expensive than buying all of your meals from vendors. You’ll have more energy and be less likely to be looking for something to give you a boost.
Be sure to include a variety of foods including fresh fruits, vegetables, granola bars, meal replacement shakes, whole grain crackers and nuts. If you are camping in an RV and have access to electricity, you can prepare foods in advance to bring with you, such as salads and main course dishes to heat up at mealtime.
Stay Well Hydrated
You’ll want to be sure to bring along plenty of water, soda and juice to stay well hydrated. Festival organizers may not allow you to bring your own drinks into the festival area, but after hours, you will be able to point to your own bottle or glass and tell anyone offering you a drink that you have the situation covered. You are not obligated to explain to anyone that you don’t drink, but if you want to divulge that information you don’t have to go any further and share your reasons for sobriety.
Take Hard Candy or Gum with You
To avoid being tempted to take a drink or to swallow pills at the festival, keep a piece of gum or hard candy in your mouth. It will help to stave off the sensation of having a “dry” mouth and will help to keep your jaw busy while you are listening to the music at the festival.
The act of having to do something with the gum or the candy before taking that step to drink or possibly use drugs gives you an extra couple of seconds to think about whether you really want to jeopardize your sobriety before you commit to taking that step. Think of it as an extra safety protocol.
Find out Whether the Festival has a Sober Tent
It’s very common to find beer tents scattered around the grounds at music festivals, and now organizations have cropped up to provide sober tents for people who are in recovery at festivals and other public events. As the name implies, this is a place on the grounds that’s designated as a liquor-free zone.
People can come by to get some water and hang out in the shade for as long as they choose to, and enjoy the music. The tents have tables and chairs, and may act as a place where those in recovery can find support if they need it. It’s a good place to meet other people who are also in recovery, and you may end up making some new friends who also have similar musical tastes.
Bust a Move
Get into the spirit of the event and express yourself by clapping, tapping, dancing or moving however the music makes you feel. When you’re busy getting your moves on, you don’t have time to think about drinking alcohol or using drugs, and you can focus on having fun.
Get into Some Serious People Watching
When you see big crowds get together, you are going to see some interesting and creative choices in fashions, strategies for beating the heat and dealing with inclement weather. Sit back and watch the people walk by and see who comes out to see the bands. It’ll be a fascinating way to spend part of your time at the festival.
Visit the Vendors
Music festivals aren’t just about the bands playing on stage. They’re also an opportunity for vendors to come and display their wares. These events attract a number of food vendors, which means you will be able to supplement whatever you and your friends have brought from home. Depending on the festival, you could find vendors offering breakfast foods, pizza, sandwiches and more.
Other vendors might be selling items from art to T-shirts, jewelry and more. Some music festivals also feature kids’ activities, musician workshops, outreach from nonprofit organizations and field day activities, where teams compete in a number of games and challenges. There is a lot more going on than just the music, and you are not limited to sitting around the sober tent when you attend.
Noise may be a factor at night when staying at the campground. Buy some earplugs if you are concerned about getting to sleep. They won’t eliminate all sound; you’ll still want to be able to hear in case of an emergency.
Going to a Music Festival Sober: Safety Tips
Safety is important when attending a music festival or any other large gathering. If you want to avoid difficulties as well as continue to maintain your sobriety, you’ll want to keep these safety tips in mind:
Use the Buddy System
When you are on the festival grounds, don’t go anywhere on your own. Anytime you step away from your campsite, take someone with you. Ideally, you shouldn’t leave one person alone at your campsite either. Crimes of opportunity do happen at festivals, and you don’t want to set anyone up to become a victim.
Have a Plan if you Become Separated
The festival grounds may not have WiFi, which means you won’t be able to keep in touch by text message if you become separated. With all the noise from the crowd and the music, it will be next to impossible to hear a call from your friends.
Have a plan for meeting at a designated location at a certain time. Discuss what the next step would be if everyone doesn’t arrive at the meeting place within a reasonable time (and you can decide what that means to you).
Do Not Leave Drinks Unattended
If someone offers to give you a drink of water or soda, watch the person pour it from a container for you or have them give it to you in an unopened container. Otherwise, stick to your own drinks. Don’t get up and leave your drink unattended either. Take it with you or dump it out (unobtrusively if necessary) and get another one.
Never Take any Drugs Being Offered at a Festival
Festival attendees are regularly offered drugs, which they may be told are MDMA (Ecstasy). In reality, they have no idea what they are really ingesting. Some people even pick up pills they find on the ground and take them, despite not knowing what they are or what kinds of effects or side effects they have. Under no circumstances should you or anyone in your party engage in this behavior.
Stay in Areas Where People are Congregated
Even though you may have someone with you, avoid wandering off to explore areas which are isolated, especially late at night. You should stay in areas that have bright lights and plenty of people. This will reduce your likelihood of running into someone who may not be at the festival just to listen to the music.
Always Have an Option to Leave if you Feel Uncomfortable
Make sure that you can make your own way home if you feel your safety or sobriety is at risk. This may mean taking your own car to the festival so that you can go home early. Make sure your friends are aware of this possibility, and that you will let them know if your plans need to change.
Clean and Sober Camping at Music Festivals
When considering which music festivals to attend, check their websites to see whether there is a section for clean and sober camping. Some festivals have a certain number of campsites set aside as being substance free. They are available on a first come, first served basis.
Camp Traction is a group that operates at various music festivals across the United States. It offers fans that would like a clean and sober experience a designated space where they can camp together, as well as meetings twice a day. Camp Traction is not affiliated with either AA or NA, or any other organized recovery organization. Its goal is simply to provide a safe place for clean and sober fans to enjoy festivals.
Check out Sober Music Festivals
Some music festivals are completely substance free. You can make the choice to go to one where there would be no question of alcohol and treat it like a sober activity.
Soberstock, held in Odessa, Florida every spring is open to all AA members and their families. This annual festival includes tent camping, live bands and free food. Support meetings are available throughout the weekend. Available activities include volleyball, soccer, football and fishing.
The Half Moon Sober Festival takes place Memorial Day weekend in New Boston, New Hampshire. RV and tent campers are welcome to camp at the site for the weekend, and day passes are available. This is a family-friendly event featuring live music, scheduled recovery meetings and workshops. Children’s activities are part of the fun, and visitors should look forward to assembling teams to play volleyball, flag football, horseshoes and cribbage.
Sober in the Sun is a sober music festival held Labor Day weekend in Rutland, Maine. The weekend includes activities for children and teens, swimming, boating and fishing. There are 12-step meetings, workshops and plenty of live music, food and a number of vendors. There’s even an exotic animal show on Sunday. RV hookups are available for campers.
It’s possible go to a music festival and have a great time without drinking or using drugs. In recovery, you can decide whether you want to go to a sober music festival that is completely substance-free or camp in a designated substance-free area at a “wet” festival. You can also decide on your own strategy for staying sober, including leaving early if you think you’re at risk.
Do you know someone who needs help for a substance abuse problem? Contact 12 Keys Rehab today. Our trained counselors are available to speak to you 24/7.