How to stay sober at a festival

Festival season is well and truly underway, and the month of August sees popular annual favourites from the up-tempo Reading and Leeds festivals to the more utopian-esk Shambala. It’s not just the good weather that makes us excited to pitch up tents, don funky outfits, and sing along to our favourite songs; after two years of intermittent lockdowns, being part of the festival crowd gives us all a sense of liberation – which is long overdue. However, the festival season can be challenging for those in recovery as almost every festival poses triggers for substance use and alcohol abuse. If you’re in recovery and are apprehensive about attending a festival, we’ve got some valuable tips you can employ before you go so that you can experience the time of your life without any setbacks.


Seven helpful tips for enjoying a festival when sober

Perhaps you feel discouraged by the idea of going to a festival swarmed with drunk people, or maybe you are nervous that triggers and temptations may suddenly come up. We understand your apprehension, so we’ve compiled seven valuable tips for you to consider so you can enjoy the festival atmosphere without being disheartened.


First things first: Give yourself time

Before booking your ticket, ensure you have been in stable recovery for at least a year before attending a mainstream festival. The last thing you want to do is jump straight into a festival within weeks of recovery. This is because you will need time to put your therapies into practice. Throughout a year, temptations and triggers will inevitably pop up, so if you have successfully managed to overcome them, you will likely be ready for a weekend stay at a mainstream festival.

For those of you who aren’t quite ready for traditional festivals but you still want to have some fun, there are various drug and alcohol-free festivals like the epic Sober Fest UK, which you can attend through fellowship groups such as CA (cocaine anonymous), NA (narcotics anonymous), and AA (alcoholics anonymous). This is a great way to ease yourself back into socialising and meet other like-minded sober people.


Sober campsites are the place to be!

This brings us to our next point; some of the most popular UK festivals offer a camping site dedicated to those staying sober. So, if you’re under the impression that sober camping means lights out at ten, followed by the sounds of crickets, think again; expect to enjoy the festival vibes amongst other festival-loving people well into the night.



Choose your festival squad carefully

Unless you are fiercely secure in your recovery, it may not be a great idea to go with your cousin who loves binge drinking or your friend who often takes illicit drugs. That’s not to say you must avoid them altogether, but if you’re staying sober at a festival, you must be in the right company. Make sure the people you’re with genuinely understand that you’re in recovery and talk to them about any concerns you have so they can support you. Moreover, ensure you’re with loving and trusting people who encourage your healing. Better still, if you can, try to go to a festival with other people who will remain sober. This way, you’re all in the same boat and can bring your unique fun together.


Choose your festival niche

Go to festivals that offer activities and interests you are passionate about, such as art festivals, music festivals, car festivals, food festivals, sports festivals, etc. This will stimulate the feel-good chemicals in your brain and set you on a natural “high”. Moreover, you’ll get to meet and socialise with people with similar interests to you, making lively conversations flow without the prop up of alcohol or drugs. If you’re going to a music festival, many activities are put on, such as kayaking, boating, yoga classes, art classes, comedy, motivational and poetry stalls. Try to immerse yourself in various activities that don’t just promote partying under the influence.


Ground yourself at a festival

A festival is fantastic because it offers a break from our everyday routine. For a few days, we all wear elaborate clothes, sleep in a field, eat what we want, and befriend total strangers, but this can cause everyone to feel a little off-balanced at times, so finding a few moments each day to ground yourself is essential. We all have different coping mechanisms unique to us; some people like to meditate or practice yoga, and others want to do their daily crossword puzzles, draw, sew or a variety of other tactics that keep us grounded when we feel overwhelmed. Festivals can be overwhelming with or without addiction recovery on top, so ensure you have all your methods of grounding available to you and take the necessary time out of your day to stay connected to your innermost self.




Get prepared by chatting with your support group or therapist

Speaking with your support network and therapist before going is always a good idea. You can reaffirm your reasons for sobriety (if you wish to) and put into practice some valuable tips for coping with triggers or temptations. We highly recommend this. Even if you feel confident in your sobriety, talking it through with those who understand and listening to their advice can strengthen your resolve even further.


Think about the pros of being in the sober club!

Waking up fresh as a daisy and ready to seize a new festival day is something many festival drinkers don’t get to experience. Furthermore, we know hangovers can eradicate the enjoyment of the next day’s activities so enjoy the benefit of waking up with vitality. While other campers may be sleeping late and waking up with a pounding headache, you’ll be able to soak up the energetic atmosphere to the maximum. So when you arise from your tent, you can take your fresh eyes, a clear mind, and bountiful energy with you throughout the day. As an extra tip, being sober gives you the beneficial advantage of being wise about selecting the right time to use the amenities – without waiting in long queues!




One last thing: Enjoy and empower yourself

We know festivals seep in triggers and temptations, and we know that there may be a few moments when you could experience intrusive thoughts regarding substance use. It’s normal. But remember why you started your sobriety and consider how your life has changed since recovering. Take a deep breath and consider how powerful you are, then get your wellies on and dive headfirst into all the festival fun you deserve to experience. Not only will you come out full of great memories, but you’ll likely leave feeling even more empowered on your journey to lifelong recovery.

Hopefully, this article has given you some advice on enjoying a festival whilst in recovery and eased any apprehensions. If you need any more advice or have any questions, feel free to contact us, and a member of our recovery community will be happy to chat with you further.