Sober spaces at festivals—your help needed

Hi, good people. A lot of the Chefs With Issues work that I do isn’t super public. It’s one-on-one conversations with people who just want to talk about what they’re going through and hear that they’re not alone, get resources for loved ones, or who can offer me advice and insight about what’s needed.

Through the course of this, a few themes emerged, one of which is that food festivals can be incredibly difficult environments for people struggling with sobriety. Alcohol flows plentifully, parties abound, and it’s part of the culture. Front and back of house folks are away from their restaurants and it’s a chance to party with friends they don’t see very often—and pretty often, the drinks are sponsored, free, and inevitably boozy. Not only is it hard to find a non-alcoholic drink sometime—it’s hard to find a place where it’s not aggressively in your face.

So I’ve brought up the notion of sober or chill-out spaces, and relaxation workshops or group discussions with the organizers of a few festivals and I’m pleased to say they’re listening. I’ll share any details as things firm up, but what I’d really like is to hear from you.

What would be the right way to do this? What do you need? I’m getting more and more comfortable hosting group discussions about anxiety, depression, panic, etc., but I’m not a member of the sober community and I want to be very respectful of people’s needs and protocols, and ask for all the help I can to shape it.

My main questions:

What would this space look like to you?

What resources would you like in it? (Massages, privacy areas, counselor, non-alcohol beverages, etc.?)

Would an onsite AA/NA meeting be of use?

What would the vibe be? (Chill spa, quiet, upbeat, etc.?)

How should the word be spread and how private should its existence be? (Obviously no press allowed.)

Should there be any rules? (Like no photos, no tweeting, etc.?)

Anything else you would care to share, I am open and deeply grateful. Send me a note via the contact form, Twitter or Facebook DMs or kat at chefswithissues dot com, and I’ll apprise folks as this takes shape. Thank you.

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