'Soberchella' Is a Sober Safe Haven Amidst Coachella Madness

By May Wilkerson 04/22/16

Soberchella offers 12 step meetings for Coachella's sober performers and attendees.

'Soberchella' Is a Sober Safe Haven Amidst Coachella Madness
photo viaShutterstock.com

When you think of Coachella, sobriety might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But people who have given up booze and drugs don’t also have to give up on attending the music festival. This is in part thanks to “Soberchella,” a group which offers AA meetings and a safe haven for people who prefer to stay sober at Coachella, an annual two-weekend festival that takes place in Indio, Calif.

Soberchella was spearheaded in 2009 by a man named Bob and his wife, who are both in recovery, in response to a lack of available resources for people wishing to attend the festival sober. The duo “figured that if we were doing this, other people must be too,” Bob told LAist. Through a festival message board, Bob connected with a dozen or so other sober attendees, and they held their first Coachella AA meeting that year.

The movement, which is not officially affiliated with Coachella, has since grown. About 30 people attended meetings the opening weekend of this year's festival, with smaller meet-ups happening throughout the day. "There is strength in numbers," said Bob. "We all knew that if anybody got uncomfortable, we were out of there."

Though staying sober while surrounded by people getting drunk and high can be a challenge, it doesn’t have to be a bummer. One sober attendee told LAist that "actually being present" was a highlight of the festival for her. And a woman named Ana, who has been attending Coachella since 1999, said the early festivals were "a big blur" as she was constantly "loaded." Now sober since 2000, she says, "I probably have more fun than a lot of people."

And it’s not only festivalgoers who can find solace in a drug-and-alcohol free zone. There is a long history of musicians in recovery from addiction. In order to protect their sobriety and anonymity, the music industry-run MusiCares Foundation offers a "Safe Harbor" tent backstage where musicians, technical staff and other festival crew can seek support and attend 12-Step meetings.

Soberchella is for anyone who needs it. If you’re sober and attending Coachella this weekend, you can email [email protected]mail.com for location information on meetings, which are held daily at noon. Updates can also be found on the group’s Twitter and Tumblr accounts. Importantly, Bob notes that the group, in keeping with 12-Step Traditions, is not trying to preach or enforce sobriety on anyone. "We're not trying to convince anyone of anything or change their minds," he said. "We just want people to know that we are here. It's for ourselves, and anyone else who feels they need it."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.