As addicts, we are always searching. Seeking. Hunting. Prowling. On the make. Whatever term you want to use, we are always looking for our next hit. The next score. The next drink. Pick your time. Pick your place. It doesn’t matter. When you are an addict and the urge hits you (which it does often), you morph into a predatory mode, and the game is on.
I spent this past Friday at a large 3-day music festival in San Francisco, California. I have had many experiences and memories of acting out (and indulging my addiction) at this type of event before, but this was the first time that I wanted to try to attend a festival while in recovery and actually keep my sobriety intact.
I make a plan. Us addicts are pretty good at that. I had a group of friends going with me who knew that I was “taking a break from drinking and drugs”. I had a serious talk with myself to reaffirm the other components that comprise my sobriety (no anonymous sex allowed). I had a call scheduled with my sponsor for mid-way through the day. I had program friends who I was planning on texting. I worked with myself to review my intentions for the event – “enjoy the music and the company of your friends; don’t use this event as a gateway back into your addiction”. All of this pre-work seemed pretty solid on paper. My sponsor and friends seemed supportive. A good week or so of preparation seemed to be ready to come to fruition. And then the day of the event arrived.
I made it through the pregame at a friend’s house – chugging water while they took shots. I endured stoically through the drug deal in the park – stepping away to call my sponsor while they conducted their business. I watched my friends live their happy lives with moderate use of illicit substances – keeping them hydrated and safe as the day went on. I stared wistfully and jealously while I turned into a third wheel as two of them started making out in a drug and alcohol induced high during the third DJ set – just trying to focus on the music and hoping that they were having fun. But then my resolve started to crumble. The music was no longer holding my interest. My friends were otherwise occupied in their revelry. And so it started. My neck started to crane from side to side. No longer focused on the stage. Not turning to my friends. But searching. Scanning the women in the crowd. Looking for the alcohol tents nearby. Trying to pick out the dealers doing their thing. So I lost. My best intentions – again usurped by the power of addiction. The fun, carefree day of the festival now marred by the broken thinking of my presently lost mind.
This story has a happy ending. I did white-knuckle my way out of the day with my sobriety intact. I did make it to a meeting the next day to share about the experience. I did sell the last 2 days of my 3-day pass so that I wouldn’t be at risk again in the short-term. I do have hope for the future where I may be able to attend these types of events and keep my addiction at bay (likely with more time and with a better plan).
But more importantly, I came away with a goal. I never want to go to an event like this again “searching” and “lost“. I want to go to this type of event already “found”. I want to go with self-love. With an inner strength of character that is validated by me and not by the perceptions of others around me, or by the alcohol and drugs that I put in my system. With a girlfriend who loves me for me, instead of a random woman who will comfort me with her body for a night. If I find myself, then there is no reason to go back to my addiction, because I have the life I wanted and have gone to the right lengths to get it. I want to be “found”.