Being sober at a festival
I’d forgotten about sniffer dogs. Strolling into Victoria Park last Sunday, my annoyance peaked pretty quickly when a security guard pulled me aside as part of a line-up. And while I knew I didn’t have drugs, I couldn’t help but think…. do I?
It sets the tone, when before you’ve even arrived you’re being asked by a man in a too tight shirt (dude, seriously, what’s with that) to stand apart from your mates – ‘cos you look like the type. The dog didn’t even want to be there, longingly looking at the grass on the other side of the fence. I feel a metaphor coming on.
Anyway, tone. Maybe that should have premeditated what many festivals in London is about: consuming. Dotted along the entire fencing, are tons of food and drink stands, all marked up to rip a new hole in your wallet. I paid one round (of iced coffees) and I couldn’t afford anything else. Ice in hand, we sat in the sunshine, listening to the music, people watching and dancing. I actually didn’t intend to not drink this year. I honestly thought that by the time Patti Smith came on stage, I would definitely be clutching a beer. Because, that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
I know that a few things definitely lead me to be in a comfortable place to not drink, and before heading off on Sunday, I had a look online at other people’s experience of sober festivalising. I’ve done festivals off my nut, I’ve done them totally sober, now I try and moderate. As a social person, when I first stopped drinking I thought my personality would end. Instead, I had to totally review and redesign the way I approached people, spoke to people, got my confidence from, how I perceived myself rather how others perceived me. It was, and continues to be, a long journey of self love. But dancing to Horses, with Patti telling the crowd to just be free, I really didn’t need that beer to be totally in love with the moment, huge grin on my face. Before I knew it, night was setting, and I’d moved through Field Day 2015 without a drink in my hand. I’d thought about it, sure. And when I thought about it more, I realised that it would just change how I felt and I was feeling pretty good as it was. It could have been entirely different, depending on my anxiety, who was around, who was drinking, how I felt about myself that day. That’s something I recognise about this period of my life, changing from day-to-day. But on Sunday, there were a few things that I knew kept me in a happy frame of mind.
1. Having something in your hand.
Studies show that when you’re around people who are drinking, you’re likely to unconsciously match their sipping pattern. If you’re not drinking anything, while others are sipping on beers and you’re trying not to, you’re going to become overly aware of what you’re missing out on. Grab yourself a tasty drink, there are a few fancy non-alcoholic drinks available typically. I had a fresh coconut water and an iced caramel latte.
2. Go Gourmet.
Bathing_Belle, a Club Soda member, recommends exploring the food stalls and savour their delights, “No need to survive on the cheapest dirty burgers for three days, with the saving you’ve made on beer you can tuck into that overpriced posh paella instead. Okay, it’s still a rip off but at least your sense have been tickled by something yummy!”
When I get socially a bit awkward about not drinking, I usually just dance (or run. Both options are not always the most appropriate). Most people assume I’m drunk because I’m as delicate as a dinosaur under strobe lights, but I also can’t hold anything because I’m cutting up some mad shapes and holding anything would involve spilling it all over myself. Messy.
Bathing_Belle adds that using some mindfulness apps (like Headspace) in the build up to the festival really helps to drop into the moment, “Get high on the music and the vibe, really tune into it, and feel the music/sunshine/vibe on a whole new level – and this time it’s a feeling you get to keep as you won’t forget it by the morning – extra festival value!”
5. Surrounding yourself with friends who get it.
I spent most of Sunday with my sister and a friend, both of which don’t drink very much. I don’t think they actively didn’t choose to drink, they just…. didn’t really think about it? (I know, this concept blows my mind too). That attitude rubs off.
6. Seeing an Idol.
There is also the satisfaction of being fully immersed in the moment. Bathing_Belle says, “I’ve seen some real living legends and musical heroes in my time, or at least I have the photos and status updates to say I did, sadly having lost the better part of the experience in the beer haze. The one I’ll remember forever is the band I loved so much I managed to stick to one glass before the gig, for fear of missing the moment (or losing my spot at the front of the stage by needing to go to the ladies!) I can relive that one again and again, ad I’m so glad to have made that choice.”