Meet the Folks Who Come to Coachella for the Sobriety

Note: Coachella, Southern California's version of FPSF, is going on this weekend in the high desert outside Palm Springs. Our friends at LA Weekly and OC Weekly will be there the whole weekend and will be bringing us regular updates. This article was written by Mary Carreon.

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Photos courtesy of LA Weekly
Did you know that, for some people, Coachella represents a big ol' Alcoholics Anonymous meeting?

Since 2009, New Orleans couple Bob Johnson and Jane Smith (not their real names) have led 12-step meetings on the festival grounds for those who, like themselves, are in recovery. They call their group Soberchella.

But one wonders: Is there a harder place to be sober than at Coachella? The spot is undoubtedly ground zero for folks who want to party their brains out for three days straight. Folks don't call it DrugChella for nothing.

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But, believe it or not, some people actually go for the music, and that's the case with most everyone involved; they're psyched about the opportunity to see acts like The Cult, The Knife, Nicole Moudaber, Disclosure, Toy Dolls and the Replacements. And just because there's a bunch of drunk and high idiots running around isn't going to stop them.

"I've never heard the serenity prayer with a trap beat at any other group before," says Johnson.

The group met Thursday night and Friday morning in the camping area. (Coffee was provided, of course.) But the main meetings are held inside the festival grounds while the action is underway. The crew -- which has grown to almost 30 people strong, mostly from Southern California -- spends a half an hour or more talking to each other about recovery.

In the midst of all the chaos is when the group demonstrates its strength by sharing experiences and offering support.

"It seemed like a natural thing for most of us, because going to music festivals is something we enjoy doing and recovery is an essential part of our lives," says Johnson. "Once we did it a couple of times there was no turning back.

Don't get them wrong -- the festival environment can be an intimidating place for those in recovery. The goal? "To help people and make them aware that they can be safe," says Smith.

Concludes Johnson: "Soberchella is a spiritual oasis in the desert."


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