Music festival season is upon us – our social media feeds are inundated with stylized flyers, jam-packed with the music world’s heavy hitters, photos of our friends dawning funky getups and gallons of glitter, and videos of our favorite artists performing on larger-than-life stages with seas of crowds. Many of us travel cross-country to see our favorite bands all performing in one place at these fests, enjoying multiple days of concerts, dance pits, and merch tents. Music festivals get a bad rep though, commonly known as places for people to consume massive amounts of drugs and alcohol due to the many substance-related injuries, fatalities, and arrests reported at festivals each year. For many of us, this was a reality of ours, attending fests with drugs hidden in creative ways and the intention of partying the weekend away, but this no longer needs to be the case – we can enjoy ourselves without the use of drugs and alcohol at fests, we just have to learn how. Here are some helpful hints for staying sober and having fun during this year’s festival season:
First and foremost, before purchasing our tickets and planning our outfits, we have to look within ourselves as well as talk to our support network about whether we’re ready to attend a festival and be able to stay clean and sober while there. If we have a history of going to music festivals for the sole purpose of using drugs, we might want to give ourselves some time in recovery before going. If we feel that the multiple alcohol booths and rumored drug use could be a major trigger for us, we could go with a group of friends who are in recovery and can hold us accountable. If we’re on the fence we can buy a one-day ticket to a local festival and stay aware of how we’re feeling; if we become overwhelmed and feel that we might relapse, we can always just go home. On the other hand, if things are going really well we can always buy tickets for the remaining days of the festival and enjoy!
Utilize the Recovery Tents
Major music festivals such as Bonaroo in Manchester, TN or Governor’s Ball in NYC have tents on the main grounds dedicated specifically to those of us in recovery. These tents are areas where like-minded people who want to stay sober and enjoy the festival can hang out and attend mutual support group meetings throughout the day. Recovery tents offer us a safe haven; if we find ourselves feeling tempted to drink or use we can head over to these booths and party with clean and sober friends instead of getting intoxicated. Oftentimes, there are experienced festival-goers who run the recovery tents who can offer us experience and advice about fun activities at that specific fest.
Explore the Booths and Activities
Music festivals attract an array of food vendors. Some fests have food truck expos or even whole fairways of restaurant booths as far as the eye can see. Many of the vendors who serve food at music fests bring their A game, showing out with their most creative and delicious plates in hopes of gaining new fans and social media acclaim. Checking out the dining options and trying new and exciting foods while listening to our favorite artists can be an unforgettable experience.
Taking home a souvenir (or two, or three… who are we kidding?) is always a great way of attaching our memories from the fest to a tangible item. Music festival merch booths can span from festival and band regalia to hand-made leather coin purses, there are many hidden gems awaiting us. Merchandise vendors are trying to sell us their products and services so many of them will host interactive demos and giveaways and who doesn’t like free stuff?
Outside of the music acts, a lot of fests offer entertainment and amusement such as comedy shows, art galleries, carnival rides, dance parties, crafting events, and so much more. The festival’s website and map can go in to further detail and provide a schedule of events for these activities. In-between bands performing, we can head over to the Ferris wheel and observe the festival grounds from the sky or step in to the comedy tent and have a laugh.
Listen to the Music
We’re attending a music festival, after all, so we should take in as much music as possible while there! Lots of festivals offer interactive schedule-builders that allow us to make an agenda of the acts we want to see for each day of the festival. Figuring out the logistics ahead of time of which artist will be performing where can provide us with some structure and help us stay clean and sober by making sure we are where we’re supposed to be at the right time. We can also check out bands we’ve never heard of – maybe we’ll find our new favorite band!
Depending on the layout of the fest, we might have a few options for how we can enjoy the show. For instance, we could jump right up to the front of the crowd and get thrown around a bit or maybe there’s a lawn section in the back where we can lay out a blanket and relax. It’s all about enjoying ourselves and soaking in the moment.
In recovery, we gain the tools to stay clean and sober in any situation. Staying mindful of our thoughts, behaviors, and actions can keep us on the right track to not only avoid relapse but also enjoy ourselves while attending a fest. So go ahead, look fierce, dance hard, and rock on with your sober self!