These Folks Came to Coachella to Get...Sober?

When night falls at Coachella, the sober come out to play.
When night falls at Coachella, the sober come out to play.
Colin Young-Wolff

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 Drug-Chella for nothing.

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 - spend a half an hour or more talking to each other about recovery.  

This is the kind of thing sober people have to deal with at Coachella.
This is the kind of thing sober people have to deal with at Coachella.
Curious Josh

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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