For young Grateful Dead fan Duke Rumely, the presence of a sober support group at the band's concerts helped make sobriety cool, at an uncertain time in his recovery. As a parent in Colorado years later, Rumely was often reminded of the dangers at concert or sporting event venues for people in recovery, or for those who simply choose not to drink or use.
“My daughter texted me from Red Rocks, and wanted to take an Uber home because the friends she was with were on Ecstasy and she hadn't realized it,” Rumely tells Addiction Professional. “There really is not a secondary culture for these kids except for the party culture.”
Rumely last year launched Sober AF Entertainment (SAFE) to provide an alternative. In operation since June 2018, the nonprofit has hosted sober tailgates at 38 events, mostly in Colorado. The sober spaces carry great importance for Rumely in his home state, where he says young people are inundated with pro-drug messages.
“We're trying to show them that you can have fun without drugs and alcohol,” says Rumely, who serves as SAFE's executive director. “There is a pent-up demand in this space.”
Rumely adds ruefully, “We have lost the war here in Colorado when it comes to the potency of marijuana.”
Sports venues receptive
Rumely so far has found that sports teams have been easier to work with than music venues. Teams typically will offer his group discounted game tickets and a space to hold its event if it reaches a threshold of participants.
Multiple events have been held at University of Colorado football games and at several of the Denver-area professional sports venues. Rumely says the owner of the Colorado Rockies baseball team even donated several hundred dollars for food for one of the tailgates.
Some of the pre-game events have been held at the Denver location of Phoenix Multisport, the organization that promotes fitness activity for individuals in recovery.
As the next college football season approaches, SAFE has partnered with Tailgate Guys, an organization that handles logistics for tailgate events, to help it organize events across the country. The first will be the University of Miami-University of Florida football game on Aug. 24.
“The vision is that this will be a national do-it-yourself sober tailgate movement,” Rumely says.
The organization is trying to do its part to create a small shift in the entertainment culture. “At any college football game, it's beer pong in the parking lot,” he says. “At any music festival, kids can buy any type of drug.” He adds, “As a father, this is just petrifying.”
SAFE's mission is summarized succinctly on its website: “We want to be the voice for people looking for a safe place to have fun!”