Talking with Wharf Rats

If you are a fan of rock and roll and also in recovery, then you may be wary of going to rock concerts because the environment may have many triggers and remind you of your days of using drugs or alcohol.

Some of us in early recovery were warned to avoid “slippery” situations like a concert and we have become accustomed to AA/NA meetings and sober social events where there is a support group of sober people to interact with and no drugs or alcohol to be found.

But what if your favorite rock band is playing a concert and you don’t want to miss it? Will you feel tempted to relapse without your network of supportive sober friends? There is an organization called The Wharf Rats which will help you get the best of both worlds.

The Wharf Rats Table at the Dead Concert in Los Angeles on May 9th, 2009

Last weekend I attended a concert by The Dead at the Forum in Los Angeles and my co-worker Brian made a comment to this effect: “I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life, but I’ve never been anywhere with this many people who are high on drugs.” We were laughing about it and having a great time because we were in a large group of people who had become sober and were living great lives as a result of quitting drugs and alcohol.

But I was thinking about the odd person who was trying to stay sober and might not be feeling that comfortable in this environment. Then I noticed a table with yellow balloons I knew that I had found a safe haven for those in recovery – the Wharf Rats table.

I do have memories of The Wharf Rats from “back in the day.” I remembered that The Wharf Rats were people that held sober group meetings during the intermissions of Grateful Dead shows. At the time, I knew that the group was for sober Deadheads and I knew the namesake of the group was the song Wharf Rat by the Grateful Dead that chronicles an alcoholic ex convict who is hopeless. At the time I didn’t really want any part of this type of gathering so I avoided them.

A nice man at The Wharf Rats table at the recent Dead concert gave me a newsletter and a really cool sticker and told me a little more about The Wharf Rats organization. The Wharf Rats’ meetings are basically 12-Step meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous that were held to give people strength to stay sober during concerts.

In the newsletter that the nice Wharf Rat representative gave me, the Wharf Rats organization makes a point that they are not affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous but I think that is more of a political statement because from what I can gather from their website and newsletter the philosophy is 12-Step based.

Learn More about The Wharf Rats

If you want more information, there is a Wharf Rats Website with some information and regional contacts. On the website you will find pictures, past newsletters, and a blurb about “Who We Are:”

The Wharf Rats are a group of concert-goers who have chosen to live drug and alcohol free. Our primary purpose at the shows is to make ourselves available to anyone who feels we may have something they want. We offer support, strength, fellowship, and hope. Look for the yellow balloons, signs and the Wharf Rats information table. Pretty cool, right? One thing that I noticed on the website was that The Wharf Rats also have regular 12-Step meetings in some locations (I wish there was one in Southern California).

So, the next time you want to see a concert and you want to network with sober people, I recommend checking out The Wharf Rats to see if they are setting up a table. You can get the best of both worlds – great music and a sober support group.