How I have continued to dance my way through sobriety-
Music has always been an outlet for me even when I was at rock bottom shovel in hand, powerless to my disease. For the past five months, I've been on the road, traveling from state to state, event to event. With each new mile I drive, I find myself searching for the next beat that will brighten my day, transform me into a new state of mind, lift me up from my funk.
For years the concept of music came in two forms, what I would listen to on the radio, and the minutes, not hours, my mother forced me to play the piano. For years I dabbled with the idea of diving into the world of live music, a pianist, the piano man of my era, but then puberty got in the way, the middle school girls didn’t dig the piano man, and I had sports to play.
Several years removed from the idea of actually playing the piano the way I could have if I had stuck with it, I found a new group of artists such as GoldFish, Griz, Haywre, Big Gigantic, and Gramatic to fill that void. These artists play their instruments effortlessly, integrating their instrument of choice into the heart and soul of any songs they are remixing on the turntables.
A little more than three years ago, and only 90 days into my program, yes, three months sober was when I decided it was a good idea to attend my first music festival, sober. Ironically, this was my first music festival that I had ever attended, with or without alcohol. A lifelong fan of shows, I figured if I could grab the bull by the horns and attend a festival than continuing to watch live shows would be a cakewalk.
Today I like to think of myself as a grateful sober music lover. No drink, no worries, I just embrace my pitiful dance moves and all of the beautiful people that make up these magical events.
Sadly, what the mainstream media wants to push is that music festivals are just another excuse to load up, party, be wild. I can only speak for myself, but I have found this quite the opposite.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things that you can choose to partake in at a music festival, but I find it less in your face than say your local bar. For me, I have been amongst an entire community of sober music lovers who are there to dance and enjoy the music for the music, not get loaded.
What the mainstream media forgets to push is that over the past several years groups such as (To write love on her arms, Soberoo, The Consciousness Group, and full-blown groups that follow specific artist such as Bassnectar, The Hummingbirds, has come together to embrace the recovery community and their love for music.)
These groups are safe havens for many individuals who are participating in their first music festival sober. What these groups provide goes far beyond a tent at the festival. It gives individuals like myself the confidence that I am not in this fight alone. These groups reconfirm my belief that I am not abnormal. It gives me the confidence to dance the night away and escape into the music, and not feel the need to fall back into my drink or drug of choice.
On September 15th of this year, celebrating my 29th birthday, I attended my 3rd all night rave. The only difference between my first two raves and this one, this was my very first rave that I would be dancing at alone. The event, Nocturnal Wonderland, two days of the best EDM and Bass Artist in the world.
I can admit, even three years removed from my last drink, I was a bit nervous attending this rave alone. Being an east coast boy, I hadn't had the opportunity to connect with the sober rave community of southern California, and my previous raves such as Electric Forest and EDC I did with my friends or at least friends of friends.
As life would have it just a few days before the festival, I met a tight-knit group of friends just outside of L.A. while visiting an A.A. meeting. My safety net, the Consciousness Minded Group, a group of sober music-loving friends who attend every Insomniac event. A group of headbanging, shuffling fools who just loved music. A group of individuals who were sober or in active recovery for various reasons. A group of individuals that have stayed sober together through their love of music.
The Consciousness Minded Group Tent was filled with a bunch of bad ass music loving dancing fools that welcomed me with open arms. A group that held a meeting dead smack in the middle of the festival for the sole purpose to show solidarity. To other ravers who were looking from the outside in, I can only imagine how odd this group may seem, but for us, it felt completely normal.
Groups like this empower one another to dance the night away, sober.
Three years ago, when I attended my first music festival, I was told that fest life is the best life. Three years later, I couldn’t agree with that statement anymore today than I did when I first experience the love and happiness I felt at my first festival, Hangout Fest.
Music offers strangers the unique opportunity to dance and laugh together. Music provides friends the chance to reconnect. Music gives me an escape when I need an escape.
For anyone that has ever struggled with the idea that you can’t attend a music festival because you're in recovery, I highly recommend you to grab a friend, speak with your family or treat your sponsor to an extra ticket and enjoy the magic that is live music.
Since I attended my very first festival, new resources, friends of the program, and more accessibility to these types of groups have been more natural to find. With new movements happening all of over the world, I hope that my foundation's movement, THE MOCKTAIL PROJECT will help to provide a safer, more inclusive outlet, allowing more friends of our community to feel comfortable in retail environments such as music festivals.
For anyone who is currently searching for a plethora of resource before attending a music festival sober, I recommend starting with a few the groups that I have connected with during my fest-life adventures.
Starting with The Consciousness Group who attends every Insomniac event, they primarily offer support on the west coast. The Harmonium Group who attends events like the Roo and Lallapalooza is an excellent resource for the east coast fester. Lastly, don't be afraid to ask around on social media. Groups such as THE HUMMINGBIRDS are popping up all over the world to support one another who follows specific groups, like Bassnectar.
For all of my friends that I have shared a dance with, a conversation in passing to our next artist, or to all of my friends I have exchanged some PLUR and a hug with, I want to thank you for helping to keep a drink out of my hand!
Until my next festival, stay sober, keep dancing, and continue to follow my blog post as I continue to travel 50 states in 50 weeks, sharing some words of hope and inspiration around recovery.