Have you ever heard anyone say, “I wish I would’ve had more to drink last night?” I’d be surprised if anyone would ever say those words with a straight face! This year I decided to attend Burning Man for my 13th time and the first time to go sober. For those who have never attended the burn, it is an adult carnival in a gift-giving society where money is not allowed. The only place you can buy anything is from the ice vendor or coffee shop in the Center Camp. All of the proceeds go to schools in Nevada. Burning Man is a society that is founded on basic principles which all citizens are expected to follow. There are workshops, healing centers, concerts, a roller skating rink, bumper cars, ferris wheel, bars – you name it and it’s all included in the ticket. There are bars and strangers all over the place serving free cocktails and many different foods. Burning Man is an eclectic city of everything and anything you can think of with a bunch of people who seem as though they want to make your day!
Everyone’s definition of sober can vary. I did not use any alcohol or mind altering substances. When people offered me stuff, I would decline or if they were really insistent, I would take it and gift it to the next person I saw. I chose to not consume anything that put me in an altered state. The only item I used was medical marijuana for a broken leg due to the pain I was experiencing since the meds prescribed gave me too many unwanted side effects.
When I told a few of my friends that I was going to attend this event sober, it kinda freaked a few of them out. Some of them suggested that I camp with Camp Anonymous or one of the other sober camps. I considered it, but really didn’t know anyone in those camps. When I told one of my close friends, she said, “Well, I hope you don’t expect our camp to be sober at Burning Man.” She even told me that she didn’t want me to camp with her camp, which makes me question her loyalties and our friendship. Although initially I was hurt, I remembered how uncomfortable I was as a user around sober people. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I’ve been asked if I am uncomfortable around drinking and I tell them, “No, in fact, drink enough for me too!” I’m a better, happier person without it – I have no judgement for those who wish to indulge.
When a person drastically changes their behavior, it is important to recognize that it’s their choice and it is very unlikely others will follow. Just because one person gets on the sober train does not mean the rest of the party will go on that track. However, it is easier to recognize and empathize with another person who abuses it when you are clear minded. I believe that what I decide to consume or not is my choice and a part of my own personal journey.
Being around a bunch of people drinking when I am sober really isn’t as much fun as when I was partaking, but there are plenty of other things to do at a place like Burning Man. When I was asked at the bars what I wanted, many of the bartenders had really great alternatives. I was offered Kevitas, Coconuts, Coconut water, smoothies and mocktails. There are also plenty of people who don’t indulge or enjoy the affects of alcohol. In the desert, hydrating is easier with fluids that aren’t alcohol based.
In any case, the thought of resisting the temptations made me have a bit of anxiety and trepidation. I meditated and over-analyzed whether I should or should not go to the burn this year more than ever. I went back and forth – should I just stay home this year or not? A part of me doubted that I could resist a mojito or mimos on the playa, but I also knew how strong my willpower is when I set my mind to it. I am stubborn to a flaw sometimes and like to dare myself to do things. This year I made a conscious decision that I would go there and stay clean.
I have many reasons for cutting alcohol out of my life. For one, I started to black out and not know what I said or did. I’ve repeated stories many times almost to the point where I thought I might be getting Alzheimer’s. It was becoming more frequent and I have sadly lost very close people because of it. Some have passed away and others hold grudges about things I’ve said or done. Major life lessons have taught me that I have an allergic reaction to the substance. This is likely to be hereditary passed down from my biological parents. It was easy to convince myself that alcohol was not for me. I’ve had plenty of evidence that it does not serve my higher good.
After much deliberation, I decided that it was worth going to the burn and I wanted to see if I could set my intention and remain true to it the entire time. It was the best gift I could have given to myself. I vacillated about which camp to be with. I ended up camping with a friend from Santa Barbara and their primary gift to the playa was champagne. Here I was new to this whole sober thing and staying in a Champagne camp that’s primary focus was getting intoxicated and was mostly into drinking – something I had been trying to avoid! I would not recommend a non-drinker camp with a camp whose main purpose is to drink!
But I like challenges and don’t usually take the easy route!!!
Believe it or not, it was not as difficult as I thought. Instead of going out at night, I biked around Black Rock City and did all sorts of other things during the day. I ended up doing the most random things. For one, I met my soulmate at the Costco SoulMate exchange and had a terrific lunch with him at his camp called the HeeBee Gee Bees then had amazing network chiropractic adjustment from his camp. I danced, did yoga, visited friends, hung out with the Black Rock Rangers, sent postcards to my burner friends (who weren’t able to make it this year), delivered newspapers and did a lot of random amazing things completely sober – great things that I would not have done had I been wasted. It was much more enjoyable. Even camping in the champagne camp didn’t make me cave in to my promise.
I set the intention that my gift to myself was to resist the urge to use anything. I also did a few cleanses before the burn, which also helped. I brought a lot of really good Kombuchas, coconuts and teas. Each morning I woke up and felt great and ready to start my day. I remembered everything that happened and participated in the city a lot more. What I learned from it was that the burn and my life are both so much better sober. I remembered and experienced much more than I ever would by drinking. Burning Man teaches me more major life lessons each year and this one rings true: I have more fun being present, which to me is the best gift.
Photo Source: stuckincustoms.smugmug.com