8 Ways to Stay Sober at Burning Man
Are you ready for the burn on the playa?
By ‘the burn’ of course we mean the annual weeklong art festival Burning Man that takes place in the Nevada desert! If you have ever seen a video or a reference to Burning Man in the media or in a movie than you probably have a pretty specific picture of what Burning Man is in your mind. People typically envision it as a hedonistic freaky-frenzy of a party with nothing but bizarre art, ravers, hippies, drugs and alcohol. But for most people that attend Burning Man, it isn’t just a massive non-stop party. Burning Man is actually a place to relax, attend a number of events and work-shops, while seeing world-class and uniquely inspired art.
Every year the temporary metropolis of Black Rock City, which is the home of Burning Man, and its community grows. At the same time, so does the clean and sober community within it. Burning Man for many who are clean and sober is often not seen as a fight with temptation, but rather an opportunity to grow.
While there are a few people who may feel this is too risky, and we support and understand your choice, there is also plenty of reason to be confident in going to Burning Man and staying sober. There may be those in your own support system you want to consult with, like a sponsor.
Here is another 8 ways to stay sober at Burning Man.
Be honest and careful
This is about being honest with yourself, as well as with others. First, before going to burning man you should be honest with how you feel about the adventure you’re about to go on and your ability to do what you have to in order to remain mindful, happy and sober.
Then be honest with others. For one, the idea that everyone is handing out drugs like candy is probably not always the case. However, for your own safety and peace of mind always ask if anything you may ingest contains drugs or alcohol. Burning Man’s economy is based on gifts, and some may have the best intentions. Let people know you are clean and sober to avoid confusion.
Always consider the source, and use your judgment. Even though most people probably won’t try to slip you anything you don’t want, every year medical tents still report people being dosed without knowing.
Go with sober friends
This is always a good idea when going to any shows or music festivals. Having people who are familiar with your own behaviors and your own story can make it a lot easier to lean on them if you start to feel like something is bothering you. If you have sober friends it can be even more effective because they can relate to the things that may bother you. Sober friends can understand and provide a unique kind of peer support, while also keeping you accountable.
Enjoy the art and music
Burning Man isn’t just about the huge, all night concerts. There are artists who show up every year who have spent the entire year designing and building unique and awe-inspiring installations of art.
Taking some time to wander around and enjoy some beautiful and exclusive art, which is sometimes even interactive, gives you an opportunity to enjoy stunning visuals without needing drugs or alcohol.
According to one investigation, there are various clean and sober theme camps at Burning Man you can seek out:
- Anonymous Camp
- Run Free Camp
- Camp Stella
- The Hokey Pokey Destiny
You can typically research sober camps ahead of time to find out when and where they will be at Burning Man. You can reach out to the groups to try and plan your own camp site ahead of time, and possibly arrange to meet up with them.
Yoga and Meditation
For a lot of people yoga and meditation become a pretty consistent part of their recovery program. It is a relaxing practice that helps with mindfulness and self-awareness. So of course if you are interested in yoga you will be thrilled to know there is frequently a lot of opportunities to take yoga classes during a week at Burning Man.
Vinyasa yoga and kundalini yoga are a few styles that some Burning Man veterans have reported to experiencing during their time in the desert. Some have also spoken of chances to take meditation and breath-work classes and workshops. Stay sober at Burning Man may simply mean staying focused and grounded, and meditation and yoga can do just the trick.
Just because people come to Burning Man to experience something new and exciting while they escape from the world doesn’t mean they suddenly stop all their good habits. Some people actually enjoy exercising at Burning Man, doing things like riding bikes or organizing group work outs.
According to one young woman’s story, when she went there was even an ultramarathon. Yes… ULTRA-marathon! Burning Man attendees actually got up and ran 50k (31 miles) around the desert.
Many people find that volunteering in some way is a huge part of their recovery. Doing service work is one way we can take the focus off of ourselves, build connections with others and do something productive. If you find yourself struggling, you can always find some way to help someone else.
Burning Man can also present a lot of opportunities to do some service and volunteer your time to others. You can offer to help welcome people into the camp grounds and get set up. You can help by cooking meals and finding other ways to give back to those at Burning Man who might need a little help settling in themselves.
12 Step Meetings
Believe it or not, there are actually 12 Step meetings every day at Burning Man. While not all people who are clean and sober will be involved in 12 Step groups, the meetings will provide a space to get some support in case you are in need. You can also meet with other sober individuals and get connected with the clean community of Burning Man.
These meetings include Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon and Narcotics Anonymous. Some of them will alternate between the larger Sober Camps that you can find, but there may also be smaller groups that form more organically.
What you might find surprising, and what several accounts from attendees have found, is that the toughest part about burning man has nothing to do with what some people expect. The true challenge of burning man apparently doesn’t come with avoiding drugs or drinking, but actually from the elements.
Between the desert sun and the dusty climate, staying hydrated and accepting the exhaustion that comes with being amerced in 24 hour music and festivities, some people find that fighting the urge to use is usually the least of their worries. The hard part is keeping the dust off (pretty much impossible) while trying to rest between all the dancing, music, art, and exercise, hanging out and volunteering! There is so much to do at Burning Man that drugs and alcohol might just get in the way. But the truth is, once you build sobriety and recovery on a solid foundation, you have the potential to find true freedom and happiness without needing substances to make it happen.