When Guns N’ Roses came to the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for a reunion tour at the end of last month, it was a big night – a big night for law enforcement. There were more than 30 arrests made during the course of the night with charges that ranged from lewd conduct to assault of a police officer to drug possession.
Concerts are very often where high levels of drug and alcohol abuse occur, and for many in recovery, being in attendance is a huge risk for relapse. Even with every intent to stay clean and sober, it can be difficult not to get caught up in the atmosphere of recklessness and the “live for the moment” attitude that defines huge concerts.
So should people in recovery avoid attending all rock concerts since they have the potential to trigger cravings and lead to relapse?
An Individual ChoiceIn some cases, yes. Simply avoiding a concert – or any event or venue that has a high likelihood of putting you within arm’s reach of drugs and alcohol – is not a good idea if you are early in recovery or otherwise feeling unstable in recovery. During the first year or so, as you work to stay sober, it can be a big risk to go any place where substances are in heavy use, from concerts and bars to parties and raves.
Similarly, for those who are going through a tough time emotionally or dealing with high levels of stress (e.g., after the loss of a loved one, a breakup or divorce, a job loss or tough financial time, personal health crisis, etc.), it is recommended to avoid any locale that could easily put a drink or a joint (or a needle or a pill) in your hand.
For those who have quite a bit of clean time under their belts and are prepared to make use of certain recovery “tools,” a concert does not have to be a threat to recovery.
Coping MechanismsNo matter how long you have been sober, being around drugs and alcohol is risky. Those who are unprepared may find that they have a drink in their hand before they have time to process what is happening.
Taking the time to prepare in advance can help you to make sure you have a good time without feeling stressed out by the presence of substances. You can:
- Bring sober friends with you.
- Check in with yourself prior to the event as well as during and after, and note if you are feeling any cravings or high stress levels.
- Bring lots of water with you to stay hydrated and away from vendors selling alcohol.
- Have an escape plan – that is, have a friend on standby or be prepared to call an Uber if you feel uncomfortable and need to leave.
- Know what 12-Step meetings are Happeningand where the night of the event in case you need to go check in when you leave the concert.
- Talk about how you feel about the event before and after with a substance abuse treatment professional, like a therapist.
The more coping mechanisms you implement on the night of the concert and the more you check in with people who can help you to remain accountable and on top of how you are feeling before and after, the more likely it is that you will be able to focus on the music, have a good time, and avoid relapse.
Is a Concert a Risk to Your Recovery?Ultimately, there is no single “right” way to do anything, no one timeline that defines what “should” happen or when you “should” be able to do certain things in recovery. Your addiction and what led up to it are unique compared to everyone you know; thus, your recovery should be unique as well. This means that if you do not feel comfortable going to a concert at any point in your recovery, you are under no obligation to go. You have every right to create boundaries that work for you as you build a new life for yourself in recovery, and putting safety in sobriety first is always the right choice.
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