With Coachella in full swing, sober young people often struggle with making the decision whether or not to attend music festivals in recovery. Many in recovery enjoy live music, but it is no secret that musical festivals have a heavy drug and alcohol presence. Drinking and drug use prevails, with Adderall, Marijuana, and Ecstasy among other drugs, all widely available and heavily consumed at these types of festivals. Individuals in recovery and concerned loved ones often wonder when is it safe for someone in recovery to attend an event with a heavy drug and alcohol presence?
Early Recovery is a Vulnerable Period of Time
Early recovery is a vulnerable period of time. Most relapse takes place within an individual’s first year of sobriety. Because of this, it is very important that individuals in recovery avoid unhealthy environments and temptations. There is a tendency for addicts to want immediate gratification. Waiting and giving something time before acting is not a trait that comes naturally to alcoholics. This can be a quick and easy way to set oneself up for failure however. Making a decision early in recovery to plunge headfirst into an event with a heavy drug and alcohol presence can be a recipe for disaster when the adequate tools and support structures have not been put in place first. Addiction is a cunning and baffling disease. Even for those with the best of intentions, such temptations may lead to devastating consequences. This is not to say that individuals in recovery can never attend such events, but jumping into dangerous situations early on without being emotionally and spiritually equipped to deal with temptations is a bad idea.
Of course not all situations are black and white. While participating in these type of events should not be the main priority early in recovery, there are possible ways to alleviate some of the danger that they present. Working with a sober chaperone, or sober companion is one way for individuals in early recovery to place an additional barrier between themselves and a relapse. Once someone has accumulated some more time sober and chooses to participate in these events, going with a large group of other sober individuals and having clearly defined expectations of everyone in the group to remain sober can also make these events less dangerous. With all of this being said, getting to a place where these kind of events are safe takes some time in recovery – the first year sober should be entirely focused on healthy environments and redefining oneself outside of the realm of drugs and alcohol.
Is Coachella a Good Idea for Me?
While it is up to the individual in recovery to be able to honestly determine when they can safely attend events with a heavy drug and alcohol presence, it is definitely not a good decision in someone’s first year sober. While those in early recovery may be anxious to participate in these types of events, it is important to check motives for doing so and look inward at the allure of such things. The first year should really be spent diving into a sober community and exploring the new identity that comes along with that. It can be more comfortable to lean back on old habits and events from before someone got sober, but this is not a good path to follow when it comes to staying sober. It is up to the individual to be honest with themselves, work with their sponsor, and lean on the wisdom of their recovery community when it comes to making these decisions. In order for an individual in recovery to safely attend such events, they should be aware of the cunning nature of the disease and understand that even people with the strongest foundation in recovery experience triggers from time to time. Many people in recovery want to believe that they can attend events where drinking and drug use occurs. They do not want to believe that their disease hinders their ability to freely attend such events. The truth is, being around others that are intoxicated or using drugs isn’t always as easy as one hopes it will be. Feelings and triggers can manifest quickly, leaving people in recovery at risk for making poor decisions. Ultimately, the confidence and ability to go anywhere does develop, but it is important to take things in strides and not rush into them.
Having a Sober Support is Critical
If someone in recovery is going to attend an event where drug and alcohol use is present, it is absolutely recommended that they attend the event with a sober companion. It is recommended that his or her chosen sober support is another individual in recovery, someone who feels able and willing to attend this type of event. This can be the traditional sober companion or chaperone that is hired, or a group of sober friends that have significant time and experience in recovery. A sober support offers the necessary encouragement and understanding to avoid and deal with any triggers that may arise during the event. Individuals in recovery should establish and agree to an escape strategy ahead of time. That way, if the individual feels overwhelmed they can immediately remove themselves from the situation. It is also suggested that people in recovery arrive early and leave early, this helps to avoid some of the more intoxicated people at such events.
Having Fun in Sobriety, Safely
No one in recovery wants to feel they are different from others. The truth is, people in recovery are in fact different from others who do not suffer from addiction. This isn’t to say that sobriety can’t be fun, it absolutely can be fun- it should just also be safe. In order for one to protect their sobriety, they must make healthy and safe choices. Opting out of attending Coachella, musical festivals, or other events with a heavy drug and alcohol presence, until you feel emotionally ready is the best way to ensure your safety.
In their place, spend the time engaging in other healthy activities that don’t jeopardize recovery. Redefining oneself in recovery is a process that can feel uncomfortable at times, but without trying new things and giving a different lifestyle a shot, it is not something that will ever happen. Do you have any experience in recovery attending music festivals or making a decision to hold off on them?