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Summer Concert Going – Drunk Vs. Sober

Summer Concert Going – Drunk Vs. Sober

Summer Concert Going – Drunk Vs. Sober

I went to a free concert at Meijer Gardens on the 4th of July with Cindy. She seems to be witnessing a few of my sober “firsts”. This time, it was at an outdoor, camp-chair, picnic basket kind of concert. I haven’t been to one of those sober before. In fact, an outdoor concert (once I recced the toilets) was always an opportunity for drunken disorderliness on my part. Where better to get pie-eyed, than a pot-holed, minefield of folding chairs, wrinkled blankets and loose detritus?


Concert Going Drunk…

In the past, I would have had a glass of wine or four as I packed the cheese and crackers. I’d happily pour the better part of a bottle of wine into a thermos “roadie” and find a clever way to hide more wine on my person. Once we got settled, I’d locate the open bar and buy three, bad wines at a time – spilling booze as I teetered over the lawn with three Dixie-cups smashed together.


I can remember the slightly desperate feeling of having to go to the bathroom (all that liquid), but feeling unsteady. How was I going to pull myself up out of the folding chair two inches from the ground? Eyeing a path through the blankets and Yetis and hoping I wouldn’t lose my tenuous balance – land on someone’s bucket o’ chicken. Or turn an ankle.


I’d leave the food untouched, flinch at the first sip of concert wine like I was taking medicine. And then it wouldn’t taste so bad. I’d get sleepy, grumpy and bored. Sounds like three of Snow White’s most unpleasant dwarfs, right? And at some point I’d hate the band or my hair or the person I was with. I’d pick a fight.


That was me, summer concert drunk…


Concert Going Sober…

So, on the 4th I entered the bandstand area, minding my own sober business, carrying our snacks in a big, blue insolated bag. And a very nice man wearing an apron and a sun hat said, “Would you like some drink coupons?”

I said, “No thanks.”

He said, “Are you sure? There’s wine and beer!”

I said, “No thank you.” I even smiled sweetly. Ask Cindy.

We walked past him and he tried again, like he was on commission, not a volunteer, “It’s delicious wine and beer and these are discount tickets!”

I said loudly over my shoulder, “I’m an alcoholic!”

He looked so crestfallen, I kind of felt badly for him. But then I thought of all the people who were new to recovery and struggling a bit, going to their first sober concert and this kindly idiot was forcing drink tickets on them. So I said to Cindy, “I wonder if I said enough? Should I have told him to take ‘no’ for an answer and to stop selling so hard?”

Cindy said, “I think you said enough… I think he got it.”


Navigate THAT grasshopper – outdoor concerts are made for those with good balance…

My first sober, outdoor concert was fantastic.

Free, so it wasn’t flawless, but I enjoyed every bit. I was able to make my way to the bathroom, teetering on a tiered step like a Flying Wallenda, awake and cheerful and grateful.


I got home and, coincidentally, a newly sober friend of mine wrote to say she was going to a concert and finding the prospect difficult. So difficult, she didn’t even think she wanted to go…  Concerts, particularly outdoor concerts, are triggers for everybody. And it’s a shame. I told her that she was in charge of the situation – to go and enjoy herself. I said, “At least you don’t have to worry about your balance on the way to the porta-potty. At least you’ll remember what you hear.”


See how this peer recovery support works?


She said she went to an Elton John concert sober once. And the first song he sang was, “The bitch is back – stone cold sober as a matter of fact.” She says she laughed out loud… And that’s it in a nutshell – feeling alive and unfettered and happy at an outdoor summer concert. Really hearing the music. Laughing out loud…


Today I’m not drinking because there is an outdoor concert this week!!!


How come you’re not drinking?


E2E – we will NEVER forget you…


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Comments (10)

  1. Jim Flaherty
    Jul 10, 2017

    Change of subject: Reading a very moving book: DRINKING – A LOVE STORY. Every alcoholic should read it–an excellent reminder of every trick we all played to disguise our drinking.

    • Marilyn
      Jul 10, 2017

      I haven’t read it. But I will. Thanks for the suggestion.

    • tim s
      Jul 10, 2017

      I agree. She captured the descent and the climb out really well. Highly recommended.

  2. Anne
    Jul 10, 2017

    It’s uncanny how your posts are always so timely. Your pre-sober concert description, including prep work, is all me. Only difference is I would’ve ordered 3 drinks but quickly guzzled one before going back to me seat so my friends thought I ‘only’ bought two.

    I’ve been struggling to remain sober for years. My first Sober concert was two years ago. Boston at an indoor casino in Michigan. I was so new to being sober that I didn’t think I was enjoying the show because all I could see where all of the people drinking and the drink stands available at every step. Once the concert was done I realized I did enjoy it and could even speak about it because I was sober while attending. (I think that was the first sober concert of my 55 years!)

    I think the vendor selling drink coupons got your message and hopefully he’ll sell a little differently. This part of your story also struck home. I’m having dinner a week from today with some old friends. Last time we had dinner I kept getting pressured to drink – because that’s what they are used to. I haven’t told this particular group I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been playing different responses over in my head. For some reason saying I don’t want a drink isn’t enough. I’m considering telling them I’m finally admitted I’m an alcoholic, but darn, why must I do this? It’s the disease that is hard to admit and one where I’ll feel judged. Sad isn’t it? I didn’t judge two of these friends when they announced they had breast cancer. This is just my own problem and something I need to get over.

    Thanks Marilyn for once again reminding me I am not the only one.

    • Marilyn
      Jul 10, 2017

      You are welcome. And you are definitely not the only one. In four years, I have been pressured to drink only three times. And I don’t think you have to explain why you don’t drink by saying you’re an alcoholic. I am just a ridiculously open book (and kind of an ass…). I think a good way of saying no is, “No thanks – really – I’m taking a break from alcohol. On a health kick and I’m finding it doesn’t agree with me like it used to.” If they push past that response, I’d be surprised. If they are close friends and you really feel the need to go deeper, say, “I’m really trying to stop drinking, so I’d appreciate it if you’d just pour me a glass of sparkling water.” Look them right in the eye.

      As I say, four years and I’ve only been pressured three times – most people are just pushing drinks to be good hosts and if you are someone they are used to drinking with, it feels weird for you to say “no” I suppose. Remember, you are in control of the situation. No one is going to FORCE a drink down your throat. Take care and congratulations on your sobriety. You’ll feel better for it in the morning.

    • tim s
      Jul 10, 2017

      Try “No thanks. I’ve had enough.”

    • tim s
      Jul 10, 2017

      Unless you’ve been REALLY good at hiding it, GOOD friends will be most likely to say, “I’m so glad for you” or “we’ve been hoping you’d do this.” And then, in some cases at least, the next question will be “Are you going to meetings?”

  3. KB
    Jul 10, 2017

    Great post Marilyn. Going to concerts has been a “substitute addiction” for me, (I live in Vegas and boy are there many concerts every week). I don’t miss the drinking at the show anymore as the music seems to give me the same feeling I used to have when inebriated. There are still the occasional do gooders who want you to get drunk with them but they are fewer and farther in between these days as I don’t hang with that crowd anymore. If Roger Water’s new show, Us & Them, comes your way make sure you go see it. (I peg you as a Pink Floyd fan. English ex-husband, probably made you listen to them. Right ? ). It won’t be free but it’s pretty good. All the Best.

  4. tim s
    Jul 10, 2017

    For those times when you used to stand in line for as many drinks as you can carry (or for the Porta-Potties):

    Some may not be aware of this, and it’s not for concerts-in-the-park but most of the big touring jam bands (Dead, Phish, DMB, Widespread Panic, etc.) have fan-instigated meetings during the intermission(s). The Wharf Rats (look for the yellow balloons at Dead shows; the Phellowship for (guess who), etc. I’ve only been to Wharf Rats meetings but they can be large: I’ve seen more than 100 sober Dead Heads having a meeting on the grass, in front of god and everyone. Check it out :https://www.inspiremalibu.com/blog/recovery/getting-high-on-the-music-sober-meet-up-groups-at-concerts-and-festivals/

  5. Ainsobriety
    Jul 16, 2017

    How come you're not drinking?
    Because I love the feeedom!
    I never expected to like concerts sober. I didn’t even think I liked live music…the crowds, the noise.
    I love them. I’m current,y in Quebec City and the summer festival. I’ve seen the Who, Metallica and Gorillaz in the past 3 days.
    Most shows we go to are heavy metal. I’m always surprised that how few people are stumbling drunk. There is always a lot of weed being smoked, and I don’t like that, but generally the crowds are good natured and I am sober and alert and bale to get myself up to the stage!

    Sober concerts are one of the highlights of my sober life! Who knew?!


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