Staying Clean at Concerts & Music Festivals

As the spring season approaches and music festivals like South by Southwest ramp up, many like myself are getting the itch to experience live music. The fact that so many festival and concert goers drink and do drugs make attending such gatherings especially difficult for those of us who’ve struggled with addiction and are in recovery.

Due to live music being something we previously associated with drinking and drugging, attending concerts and music festivals can be challenging experiences that place our sobriety at risk. But for those in recovery who want to enjoy the experience of live music, the question is how to do so safely without putting our sobriety in jeopardy.

In my near 5 years of sobriety, I’ve had the chance of experiencing live music in different surroundings and have come up with a few guidelines on how to do so staying sober while still having fun.

My first and most important suggestion is to go to these events with like-minded friends who are also in recovery. I have found that I have a much better time, feel safer and more relaxed when I’m in the company of friends who are also sober.

There is a feeling of strength in numbers that comes with it. It makes a world of a difference to experience it all with a group who think like you and share a mutual understanding of and respect for sobriety. With this kind of support you are much more likely to not be pressured or coerced into doing something you don’t want to do. If you are going with people who drink or use drugs, you will want to make sure they have an understanding of your sobriety, are discrete about their personal use and are willing to keep it out of your sight.

Something you may want to look into before attending a concert or music festival is if there are any on-site recovery or 12 step meetings. A lot of music festivals unofficially host meetings throughout and just require a little bit of online research prior to find out where and when they meet. Some of the nation’s most popular music festivals are now featuring sober tents that are spots for water, shelter and a venue for recovery meetings. Finding and attending recovery meetings at music festivals provide a source of empowerment for staying clean, an oasis in a party atmosphere and an avenue for meeting like-minded friends.

I’ve come to believe that it’s about staying in the right mindset while enjoying the music.  Recovery meetings during concerts and festivals can give you the boost you may need to stay in the right mindset. If you are having trouble finding meetings at the music event, you can look online for a list of recovery meetings to attend in cities nearby before or after the festival.

My next suggestion would be to keep physical distance from those you see who are visibly under the influence of drugs. I would suggest a 10-foot distance from anyone who is visibly impaired. That buffer will make you feel safer and it’s less likely for those under the influence to invade your personal space or interact with you in an uncomfortable fashion. As a general rule of thumb, daylight hours at concerts and festivals are easier than nights when it comes to avoiding those heavily under the influence.

I’ve found that past midnight, you’ll often become more and more aware of your sobriety and the lack of others’. If you find yourself surrounded by people who under the influence of drugs and you can’t seem to get away from them no matter where you go, you may want to reconsider whether or not it’s time to leave.

Never accept anything to eat or drink that you have not personally purchased as drinks and foods can be laced with a variety of drugs. It’s also important to never leave what you’re eating or drinking out of your sight. It’s never worth risking.

If you do end up feeling uncomfortable or the desire to drink or use is heightened, you’ll want to formulate an exit strategy ahead of time. Whether its finding a safe place on the outskirts of the festival to cool off and call someone for support or deciding to take an Uber ride home, you should create a plan ahead of time, in the event things get overwhelming. When in doubt, leave and find a safe ride home.

Seeing live music is never worth risking your sobriety. Assessing yourself before attending such an event is also necessary. If you are newly sober or are feeling shaky in your sobriety, it is probably best you stay home and not subject yourself to such a scene until you have some time established sober and are free of the desire to drink or use.

Following these suggestions, I have a new found appreciation for seeing and experiencing live music. What I have found is that I still have fun and I actually remember what I experienced. I tend to spend a lot less, not end up in sketchy situations and best of all, when it’s all over, I don’t have a terrible hang over or come-down followed by a deep depression. I get to make it home safely, without risking arrest and I feel great the following days and weeks.

When I first got sober, I thought I would never be able to enjoy the experience of live music again. What I have found is quite the contrary. Experiencing music sober has allowed me to redefine myself and the way I have fun. If you are in recovery from drugs and alcohol and seeing live music is something you are passionate about, you can still partake and have fun, but please keep these suggestions in the forefront of your mind and remember the fun is not over just because you got sober!