When people think of large music festivals like Coachella, Stagecoach and even Burning Man, they almost instantly think of drugs and alcohol.
Despite the fact that substance use and abuse is prevalent at these events, it’s entirely possible to attend sober and have a fantastic time. Just because you’re in recovery doesn’t mean that you need to give up your love of festival life and stay home this summer.
Logan Rossman is a clinical support specialist at Asana Recovery, which offers detox, residential treatment and an outpatient program in Costa Mesa, California. He regularly attends festivals sober, and has found that he has more fun now in recovery than he did when he was using drugs and alcohol.
“I have been able to enjoy everything more sober without any doubt,” Rossman said.
They key to having fun sober is planning, preparation and communication, he said. Here are his tips for attending festivals sober, and having more fun than ever before.
Consider where you are in your recovery.
Before you consider going to a festival, think about where you are in your recovery journey. If you’ve only recently finished your treatment program, it may be a good idea to wait another year. Going to a festival you will see people using drugs and alcohol, so if that is going to be triggering for you, you should take more time before returning to the festival scene.
“People in sobriety need to make sure they are comfortable to attend types of events like this,” Rossman said.
Adjust your expectations.
Once you decide to go, think about how you will redefine having a great time. You’re no longer going to be focused on getting wasted, but that doesn’t have to take away from your enjoyment of the artists and environment.
“Some of the first thoughts people have when they think about a festival is drugs and alcohol which is a barrier in itself,” Rossman said. “It seems to be seen as a social norm to drink and use drugs at these types of events which sets a negative tone for people in sobriety.”
Instead of engaging with that norm, redefine what the festival will mean for you. Focus on things like food or music acts that you are especially excited to see.
“People think that alcohol and drugs are a necessity to be able to have a good time and enjoy the festival, but it seems that this has made people forget that these events are music festivals not drug festivals,” Rossman said.
Have a safety plan.
Even if you think you will be alright seeing people using or under the influence, you might find that you’re triggered once you are in that environment. That’s why it’s important to have a safety plan in place, and to attend the festival with a trusted friend who can help you enact that safety plan if needed.
“Having these plans and support is a good idea before going to any event in sobriety, especially festivals,” Rossman said.
Remember, your sobriety is of utmost importance, and even if you need to leave the festival early, your recovery is worth protecting at all costs.
Be open about your sobriety.
At festivals, people are usually incredibly open about drug use, so to combat that you need to be open about your sobriety. This allows you to take a clear stand, and also gives other people the chance to offer support.
Rossman was surprised what happened when he began talking openly about his sobriety at festivals.
“I quickly found out that a lot of other people attending were also sober for decades,” he said. “This was motivating and eye opening. Simply speaking up and owning I am sober introduced me to a lot of great people and experiences, things I most likely would have missed out on if I was using drugs or alcohol.”
With more people getting sober or reconsidering their substance use, festivals are embracing sobriety more openly.
“From the staff and musicians, to the attendees, most of the time people will always be supportive,” Rossman said.
If someone questions or challenges your sobriety, move on and find another group who has no problem letting you enjoy the festival in the way that is best for you.
“Of course, not everyone will be as respectful and if they are not it is simple: those are people to not be around,” Rossman said.
Attending festivals sober isn’t something to be endured, but can be even more fulfilling than going to the event and using.
“The positives about being sober and going to festivals is being able to enjoy everything, remember everything, have more money in your pocket, and get support in the last place you would expect,” Rossman said. “Anyone in sobriety can enjoy things like festivals or any other social event for that matter.”
Asana Recovery offers residential and outpatient treatment in Costa Mesa, California. Learn more by calling 949-438-4504.