Sober and Social
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Sober and Social

Sober and Social

Sober events like a concert held on January 28 help individuals in recovery find a no-pressure social outlet

Mike Sisson and Justin Pendergrass of the band Newsense Music perform at a sober concert co-organized by CITC Peer Support Specialist Sam Garcia.

On Friday, January 28, a crowd of music-lovers rocked out to a roster of Alaskan musicians, including Mike Sisson and Justin Pendergrass of Wasilla’s Newsense Music. Concert-goers enjoyed rap performances, energy drinks and boba tea, food, and a video by Nick Carpenter from the Anchorage band Medium Build.

But this concert had one quality most others don’t: it was a sober event.

Former CITC Recovery Services Case Manager Mike Sisson performs at a sober concert held January 28 at Main Event.

“The goal was to bring this event together and normalize the idea that sober events can be successful,” shared the event’s co-organizer, Sam Garcia, a peer support specialist at CITC.

“Resolutions: Music & Stories of Sobriety” was coordinated by Sam, in partnership with Anchorage graphic artist and photographer LeeAnna Chronister as a sober event, free of alcohol, and targeted at Anchorage’s recovery community.

Safe Socializing

For people in the recovery community, it can be difficult to find ways to connect socially that don’t involve alcohol. Live music, open mic nights, and even trivia nights are usually hosted at bars or other venues that make alcohol part of the action.

“Addiction is already a disease of isolation,” Sam pointed out. “When I was in early sobriety, I felt like I didn’t have anywhere to go to socialize.”

“When you’ve built your life around your opportunities to drink, you’ve built your friend circle, your routine, your hobbies, your schedule around that, too,” LeeAnna added.

“The flipside is that when you quit, you lose all that. That feels utterly terrifying. So where do you find new adult friends in a place that’s safe, without being asked that killer question: Can I get you a drink? Why not?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation has been especially hard on people in recovery. Opportunities to socialize without the presence of alcohol are even more difficult to come by.

Successful Sobriety

Making an entire event sober — rather than simply hosting at a venue that doesn’t serve alcohol — is crucial, said LeeAnna. “Even if your venue isn’t serving, you’ll have people show up who aren’t necessarily sober because they’re pre-gaming or coming from a house party beforehand.

“Sober events are important because you know you’ll be surrounded by people living a sober lifestyle. At a sober event, there’s no pressure.”

Justin Pendergrass of Newsense Music performs at the January 28 sober concert.

The challenge, she countered, is that most venues make their money on selling alcohol during events.

“That’s why we wanted to pull this concert off. If we make it cool enough and show that it can benefit the venue, hopefully more businesses will get involved.”

For the January 28 concert, Main Event Catering donated a venue at half the cost. The musicians, who performed free of charge, are also sober; they shared their own stories about recovering from addiction and finding support in the recovery community.

In addition to the “Resolutions” concert, LeeAnna has organized other sober events, including First Fridays and opportunities for people to make art together. In March, she’s hosting a sober paint night at her Spenard studio, with glow-in-the-dark paints.

Opportunity for a New Start

Sober events offer one more opportunity, Sam said, for people to connect — and to get help.

“My favorite part of the concert is there was this girl who came in. She was super quiet the whole night. Then she sat down by herself, and one of the other CITC peer support specialists went over to talk with her. It was obvious she’d come in looking for something. And she was able to make that connection.

“Sometimes,” Sam pointed out, “it’s easier to show up to an event, rather than a recovery meeting.”

To find out about upcoming sober events, follow CITC on Facebook. Need support on your recovery journey? Contact CITC’s Recovery Services Department at (907) 793-3200 or RS@citci.org.

Catch another sober event in March: splatter paint night hosted by LeeAnna Chronister.