Whether you go to an intimate nightclub or are surrounded by 70,000 of your closest friends, the energy and excitement of a concert is hard to match. No matter the style of music or setting, the electric atmosphere of concerts often are the high points of people’s social calendars. For those who are in recovery from substance abuse, however, these highly communal events can often provide the perfect storm of temptations and triggers that can lead to relapse.
Your recovery is first and foremost, but being able to enjoy your favorite music live and in person and other social events is equally important. Chances are pretty good that you are asking yourself the following questions:
Can I enjoy going to concerts without drinking or drugging?
Can I enjoy music totally sober?
While it may seem weird, with some solid planning and common sense, not only will you be able to stay sober at any concert you decide to attend, you will have a more enjoyable concert experience. Consider the following tips and suggestions regarding not drinking at concerts and maintaining your recovery.
1 – Start Small
When you are ready to start checking out music again, it is not wise to make your maiden voyage a multi-day festival a few hours away or a blowout at the closest Enormodome. Instead, start small with an open-mic night at the local coffee shop or an early show at a small club. These local shows are low risk and can be a great way to gauge your comfort level, and you can leave at anytime you wish.
2 – Have Support
Arguably the best insurance policy you can have when it comes to not drinking at concerts is having supportive friends, family or those in recovery go with you to the show. As with any social function, these people provide support and encouragement when you may feel uneasy. While having this type of support can provide a great deal of safety, there are a few tips to keep in mind.
For example, if you are meeting friends at the venue, meet outside the venue. Being alone inside arena, club or festival where drugs and alcohol can be plentiful can provide you with a white-knuckle ride you may not be able to deal with on your own. It is also helpful to find a place to watch the show where you are away from “the action”, preferably near an exit so you can quickly leave if things get hairy. Additionally, another great tip to not drink at concerts is get your own non-alcoholic beverage and ALWAYS KEEP IT WITH YOU. Unless you are with people in recovery, no one should get a drink for you.
3 – Bookend Your Concert With Recovery Activities
Another excellent tip to not drinking at concerts is to bookend those events with meetings or other recovery-based activities. While we often think of cravings and thoughts of using has being felt in an immediate sense. In reality, these feelings can be very subtle and can sneak up on us days after an event and can happen at times we don’t expect them to occur. Plan on attending an extra meeting before and/or after a concert, and if you are working with a sponsor be sure to follow up with them right after the event if possible.
4 – Sober Fan Groups
There may be a possibility that your favorite band may have a fan club which has members who are clean and sober. Interestingly enough, this idea began in the 1980’s with the Wharf Rats who were fans of the legendary jam band The Grateful Dead. In the years since their formation, other bands such as Widespread Panic, the String Cheese Incident and moe. have followed suit.
While most of these sober fan clubs center around groups in the jam band scene, you may find that your favorite group may have sober meetups for upcoming shows listed on their message boards or forums. Additionally, large music festivals such as Lollapalooza, Coachella and Bonnaroo have sizable fan groups that are recovery-based and can provide a safe and encouraging environment for you to avoid drinking during music festivals.
5 – Most Importantly…
Whether you are new in recovery or have years of sobriety under your belt, the best rule of thumb in staying sober during concerts is simply not going if you are uncomfortable. While you want to get back in the social swing of things and want to go to the big rock show, one bad decision can undermine the hard work and determination you put into getting clean and sober. If you are truly ready to rock sober, keep these suggestions in mind and plan ahead.