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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Soberchella



[Writers note: The links in this piece are worth checking out!]

In the first week of April last year, LA Weekly asked me to help them provide media coverage for Southern California’s biggest music festival: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Considering the fact I’ve been labeled a music nerd/junkie/snob/nut job for all of my life, the invitation to cover one of the most renowned music festivals in the world was more than a dream come true. My downfall, however, was due to lack of experience. It wasn't festival experience that I lacked, but rather the experience of writing, reporting and working in a festival environment for 15 hours straight. I didn't realize how difficult and tiring it was, and therefore, didn't plan for it. I figured that when I got to the festival, brilliant ideas would pop into my head and I would have tons to write about. That obviously didn’t happen. Although I completed the amount of content I was responsible for, it was tough because I didn’t prepare--at all-- prior to the event.

So, when LA Weekly asked me to help them cover Coachella again this year, I made sure to prepare a laundry list of ideas. I scoured the Internet months prior to the event for things I could base my coverage around. At the height of my research, I discovered what felt like a glowing hidden treasure chest: Soberchella. Soberchella is a support group for people in recovery who want to experience Coachella to the fullest, while maintaining their sobriety. Over the three-day event, the group holds 12-step meetings on the festival grounds in order to provide safety, relief and strength for its members.

Originating in 2009, Soberchella has grown substantially, attracting people from all over the globe, let alone the country. Although most members are from the U.S., the group provides a sense of familiarity to foreigners attending Coachella by welcoming them into a group of like-minded people who share a couple of things in common: sobriety and a love for music.

As those who’ve been to the festival know, Coachella is a shit show. It’s become a place where people go to party their brains out for three days straight. Thus, the combination of the wild atmosphere, drunks and druggies, Coachella isn’t exactly an ideal place for a person who struggles with addiction.

This is what makes Soberchella inspiring: The group provides a safe haven for people in recovery amidst a chaotic warzone. Especially to those new to recovery, it’s commonly thought that events like Coachella are out of the question. Soberchella proves otherwise, however, as it provides those who struggle with addiction the opportunity to take on a new perspective about their condition. Being an alcoholic or addict doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, and that’s what Soberchella aims to confirm.

As Coachella has evolved, the focus has become more about partying and less about the music. The members of Soberchella, however, experience the festival the way it’s meant to be enjoyed: For the music. Going to a music festival for the sake of the music is a concept that seems long forgotten, sadly, which is another aspect that makes Soberchella unique.

Although sobriety isn’t an issue for me, Coachella is, without a doubt, one of the craziest and most unpredictable places I’ve been to because of the 100,000 inebriated festival attendees. With that said, if sobriety was a challenge of mine, I’d imagine Coachella to be an anxiety ridden experience. Needless to say, the members of Soberchella are impressively brave and commendable. You are who you surround yourself with, thus, you are as strong as those you surround yourself with. Soberchella, then, is an example of how powerful a group of strong individuals who share a common goal are.

Interviewing the leaders of Soberchella as a part of my festival coverage opened my eyes to an interesting subculture within the intoxicated festival culture. The group gives those who are challenged by addiction the chance to experience Coachella and feel safe about it. This inspiring group of people is a reminder of how incredible and positive humanity can be. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing people reach out and do good for the sake and well being of others around them.

By: Mary Carreon

23 Comments:

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