Recovery First Tailgaters Provides Pre-Game Sober Parties

By Dorri Olds 10/27/16

Recovery First Tailgaters offers sober football fans the opportunity to party with others in recovery on game day.

Recovery First Tailgaters Provides Pre-Game Sober Parties
Photo courtesy of Dwayne Beason

Dwayne Beason is the founder of Recovery First Tailgaters. For those who might not know, a tailgate party is a social gathering around the open tailgate of a vehicle. They are usually in parking lots at stadiums before games and they tend to involve a lot of alcohol.

Beason spoke to The Fix about his inspiration for sober recovery tailgating. “I grew up in South Louisiana and my grandfather was a huge LSU [Louisiana State University] fan. He had a Winnebago and we’d get up early and drive to all the home games. We'd pack up the motor home, bring stuff to cook, and nobody was in recovery then so there was a lot of alcohol.”

Drinking and drugs took over Beason’s life. “I got kicked out of my hometown. I was drinking, drugging, smuggling and dealing crack cocaine. I was always a smidge away from getting caught.”

He ran into legal trouble after being caught dealing ecstasy. Before that, he said, “I was enabled a lot but one day my grandfather called me to go have lunch with him and when I got there, there was a judge, our attorney, the district attorney, and my grandpa with the sheriff, my dad, and my uncle. It was an intervention.”

Photo courtesy of Dwayne Beason

That’s when he joined the Navy, but his drinking and drugging continued and he was kicked out. The end came when he’d taken “a bunch of LSD” and nearly crashed his motorcycle. “When I woke up the next day I had this moment of clarity, it’s like, I can’t live like this anymore." 

He went into treatment May of 1988. He was 21. There, he was sober, but he still loved games. “I was a huge Tigers fan,” he said. So he came up with the idea to set up a tailgating tent at games for sober people, and word traveled fast.

“We’d always cook and had bottles of water and a TV, so people would just come hang out with us,” said Beason. He laughed when he said, “A lot of times it was the other team’s fans that would come hang out with us.”

In the early days, he put up large banners that said, “Friends of Bill. W.” But, by 2012, with the crowds continuing to grow in numbers, he decided he wanted to share these events on a larger scale. That's when he came up with the name "Recovery First Tailgaters."

Beason doesn’t make money on these events. Now, at every event, there’s a banner with a tree logo so their parties are easy to find. 

“I wanted there to be a symbol. We’ve had RFTs at concerts, Mardi Gras, football games, festivals, and it’s just a place when you see the flag it’s like, 'Hey, we can go there and hang out.' We promote on social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. And you can share a pin for iPhones and Androids. It marks the GPS where you are and you send that out by text or post on Facebook. They get the pin so they can get to where you are.”

Beason wants everyone to know this is about recovery first. “It’s not about the event. It’s for young people in recovery to learn how to be social in a safe place.”

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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.