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I Love Music Festivals, Can I Still Go Now That I’m in Recovery?

I love music festivals, can I still go now that I’m in recovery?
 

Are Music Festivals Safe for Sobriety?

Music festivals like Warped Tour, Electric Forest, Ultra, and EDC have become a staple in today’s pop culture. Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festivals alone generate billions of dollars in global revenue per year. Factor in the mega productions like Coachella, and you’re talking major turnouts and dollars. While festivals are a great place to spend time with friends, check out your favorite bands, and absorb a sense of community and common interest, they’re also known for their drug culture. From beer tents to marijuana to designer drugs, it’s virtually a given that you’ll encounter drugs at music festivals. As a family of addiction treatment facilities, our Banyan rehab center can’t help but ask - are music festivals safe for sobriety?

Music Festival Drugs

Nearly 90% of people who go to music festivals use more than one substance.1 Some of the most commonly used drugs at festivals include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • DMT
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA/Molly/Ecstasy
  • Mushrooms
  • Opioids

Festival and concert drugs may be used for several reasons, such as enhancing one’s senses, increasing empathy to make sharing spaces easier, and because of social pressure. For these reasons – especially the last – it can be difficult for people who are maintaining sobriety to attend music festivals.

However, not only is there an added benefit of sustaining your sobriety and keeping up all of your hard work, but staying sober at music festivals also keeps you from using contaminated or laced drugs. In addition to festival drugs like ecstasy and LSD being associated with health risks like hallucinations and severe dehydration, many of the drugs sold or given away at festivals are laced with contaminants and other chemicals that could lead to a fatal overdose.

Tips to Avoid Drug Use at Music Festivals

Because drugs and music festivals seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly, what does that mean for those who are in addiction recovery? Should you avoid festivals altogether if you’re sober? Are you going to pass on what might be the opportunity of a lifetime and a great weekend vacation because you’re sober and afraid there might be drugs there? Not necessarily.

Although we discourage recovering addicts from flirting with temptation or testing their limits, you can reach a point in your sobriety where you’re comfortable enough to do things you wouldn’t have been able to do in the first few months while remaining abstinent. This includes going to music festivals. If you’re interested in attending an event soon, here are some tips for attending music festivals sober that can keep you in check.

Bring Along Sober Support

You might be saying, “duh,” but there’s more to it than you’d think. It can be hard to maintain sobriety, especially in your early days, if everyone around you is drinking or using drugs. It’s practically a recipe for disaster. Attending a music festival with the same group of old friends you used to party with doesn’t set you up for success.

Instead, go with others that are in recovery. Try to find people that have a solid amount of sober time. Another friend with 90 days sober may not be as strong a companion as someone who’s been sober for several years and who has likely been through this scenario before. These individuals are also more likely to have an even larger group of sober friends who can also attend. There’s a large culture of people who attend music festivals sober.

Find Support at the Festival (Yes, It’s There!)

If you’re going to be away for several days camping out at a festival, it’s important to have a plan. Just as you would attend meetings and focus on your recovery if you were home, the same should go for while you’re away. Most major festivals have “sober zones” where people that are in recovery can come together and find common ground.

Burning Man, for example, has three sober camping grounds on the property. This helps ensure your neighbors won’t be crushing beer cans and offering you hits of molly while you’re trying to enjoy the experience sober.

Bonnaro has “Soberoo,” a huge tented area where AA/NA meetings are held several times a day, so you can still keep up with your program while you’re there. In 2018, Banyan Treatment Centers teamed up with Warped Tour, where we had a table staffed with recovery specialists to provide anyone interested with information and resources about our addiction recovery care. Sober zones are a great place to meet other people in recovery who love the festival culture just as much as you do and form lasting relationships for future events.

Find a Sober Music Festival

While there aren’t any national, sober mega-festivals (yet), many local AA/NA chapters and organizations host their own events. SoberFest, Clean & Sober Music Festival, and Recovery Fest are a few examples. A quick Google search will show you events that are in your area. Or, if you’re looking for a getaway, it can be cool to go to an out-of-town event.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Oftentimes when we’re using, we aren’t aware of the way we present to those around us. While you may think that you’re cool, calm, and collected when you’re under the influence, chances are that isn’t the case. Being sober at an event where many are using offers a unique perspective.

You may realize that people who are partying don’t look as composed as you once thought you were. Or, you may notice that many of them do not appear as intoxicated as you were at these events, giving you the ability to reflect on the seriousness of your use.

Either way, it can be a good thing to see those who are drinking and using drugs in a clear light and realize that you never have to go back to that lifestyle. You’ll also notice how much more present you are in the moment and be able to truly appreciate the performances on stage.

Evaluate Yourself and Your Intentions Before You Go

Before attending a music festival - especially if you used to drink or get high at the events - you need to take an honest and thorough inventory of yourself. Ask, “What are my motives?” Are you going because you truly enjoy the music, or did you used to go for the sole purpose of being in a party environment?

If it’s the latter, it’s probably better to stay away. Also, ask yourself, “How have I been doing with my recovery lately?” If you’ve been off-track, experiencing cravings or thoughts of using, not attending meetings, etc., you should also probably stay away.

If the answers are, “I really enjoy seeing my favorite musicians live,” and “My recovery is strong right now. I’m on track,” then you’re in a good place. Most importantly, if you do end up going, know when it’s time to leave. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, pressured into using, or experience cravings, it’s okay to excuse yourself.

Our Banyan Drug Rehab Can Help

Music festivals are one of the best parts of summer and are even better when you’re sober and able to be present and in the moment. Many people in recovery are apprehensive about returning to an environment where they had previously used drugs, and rightfully so. However, you don’t have to give up your passions. Music festivals are safe for sober people when they follow our tips.

If you or someone you care about needs medical detox or addiction treatment, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763 or send us your contact information for a free and confidential assessment. We have trained specialists available 24/7, so no call goes unanswered.

Source:

  1. NIH - Drug use, harm-reduction practices and attitudes toward the utilization of drug safety testing services in an Irish cohort of festival-goers

Related Reading:

Inspirational Songs About Addiction for the Recovering Addict

Explaining the Link Between Music & Drugs

 
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.