How I Plan to Festival Sober

I’m getting pretty excited for Up Here; and I’m excited to be going sober.

I don’t drink because losing control makes me anxious—a dilemma that seems to be the opposite of most people’s experience with alcohol—but there are a lot of reasons folks don’t drink, and don’t need to drink, at a festival. Maybe you don’t like it, maybe you’ve experienced addiction, maybe it doesn’t mix with your medication, or maybe you just want to experience a music festival sober. 

I was that skeptic who felt like nightlife and festivals were a space for others who drank and had fun. But like most people, I want to dance, listen to great music, see art, and be with my friends (and maybe make a few new ones along the way!)

With all that in mind, here is how I plan to festival sober, in case you’re interested in trying it too:

I’m going to treat myself while I’m out at the venues. 

People buy craft beers and cocktails for $7 plus a drink, so why not have something interesting while I’m out? The Laughing Buddha offers non-alcoholic cocktails, like their  “Summer Thyme in The Garden” cocktail and “Strawberry Rose Lemonade.” Zigs serve Shirley Temples with Gummy Bears, and I know that sounds like a kids drink, but who can deny the delight of a Shirley Temple? I can’t. When I’m not at a venue I’ll be dropping into one of my favourite places: Good Luck General Store, where I’ll grab a VAMS Kombucha. It’ll be refreshing as I’m roaming the downtown and checking out the muralists at work. 

In fact, one of Up Here’s other bloggers Amanda wrote a whole piece on places to get non-alcoholic beverages!

I’ll let people know I don’t drink, and stick to supportive friends.

Typically, when I share that I don’t drink, I’m met with messages of support or indifference. I plan to surround myself with positive people. This is my most parental advice, but it’s true: Friends—the good ones—don’t want you to be anyone but yourself, and they don’t care that you’re not drinking. If you’re worried then try to buddy up with a friend who you trust or who is also sober. If you can’t think of anyone and you don’t want to go alone, then find me. 

I’m going to dance.

Up Here will be a time and space where I take advantage of my chance to dance. During the festival you’ll find me dancing at acts like Milk & Bone or Reykavíkurdætur. I’m not a particularly good dancer, and for a long time I considered myself to be a person who didn’t dance (a thing that is rarely true, even of those who say it), but I’ve recently discovered concerts to be a great opportunity to dance in the comfort of a crowd. It’s an excellent way to stay busy and entertained, without any alcohol.

I’ll take timeouts if I need them, and so should you.

I, like a lot of folks, experience the fear of missing out, but I've consulted with friends who don’t drink because of reasons that are different than my own, and they have let me know that sobriety, especially early sobriety, can be a space of social anxiety and resentment. Where they once used alcohol as a social lubricant, they are now having to navigate themselves and social situations anew. If you don’t feel comfortable, I encourage you not to go, or take a time out to drink some non-alcoholic beverages. But if the reason you want to go to the festival is good music, good public art, and having a good time then I hope to see you out there enjoying those things—whether you’re drinking or not. 

Bennett enjoying a nice cold non-alcoholic beverage

Bennett enjoying a nice cold non-alcoholic beverage

Bennett Malcolmson