Sober on the Playa

Before You Go

Review pages 100-102 in “the Big Book,” Alcoholics Anynmous.

Talk To Your Sponsor. We recommend that you have a serious dialog with your sponsor before buying your ticket.

You will see (or smell) people getting high. You will see people getting drunk. You will witness some Burners that are clearly fucked up. The conditions are harsh and daily life can, at times, be overwhelming. Be honest with your sponsor about these things. Additionally, you sponsor should also know that there is much MUCH more to Burning Man than “nudity, drugs, and fire.” Learn as much as you can about the event so that you can describe the elements of the experience that have drawn you to it. The organizers of Camp Stella do not make any specific time requirements or recommendations. Your decision to participate is between you, your sponsor, and your higher power.

Fill Up Your Tank. When we don’t have time for meetings is usually when we need them the most. You will no doubt be very busy in those countdown days before the event. And it’s easy to underestimate how long it will take to finish projects, pack, shop, and do all the things that people do before leaving town (and work) for 7 – 10 days. This would not be the ideal time to cut back on meetings. In fact, we suggest making time to work in an extra meeting wherever possible.

While Living in Black Rock City…

Find a Home Meeting. In the “real world” Home Groups help us stay sane and sober for many different reasons. There are now about half a dozen daily 12 step meetings in Black Rock City. Pick a time and place that works for you and return to the same meeting regularly. Burning Man only lasts 7 days, but seeing and hearing the same people even just a few times can be really helpful.

Remember HALT!

HUNGRY: Many people report a loss of appetite while in Black Rock City. Don’t forget to eat! You don’t want to be miles away from camp when you remember that you forgot to eat lunch. Some of us have found protein bars handy for instant hunger relief. Pay attention to the clock and eat regularly.

ANGRY: Remember, there are now about half a dozen meetings each day in Black Rock City, and program people are nearly always available if you need to talk.

LONELY: Ironically, many participants report that the one moment where virtually all 36,000 citizens come together, the night the man burns, is the single loneliest moment of the week. Be careful not to have unrealistic expectations for this event. It is a spectacular performance by any measure, but it’s rarely anyone’s single favorite moment of the week. Usually, participants most revered experiences are random unplanned personal encounters. We suggest that you go to the burn with people that you trust will be sober and stick close. Once the man falls, it’s very easy to become separated. Every year a group of sober people from Camp Anonymous attend the burn together. Listen for announcements at meetings towards the end of the week.

TIRED: Do not go to Burning Man expecting to ever get a full 8 hours of deep restful sleep. It’s possible, but unlikely. After the sun disappears over the mountains each evening (listen for howling throughout the city), is when the real magic begins. There are only 7 nights of Burning Man a year and you’ll want to get the most out of them. This means staying up as late as you can. Unfortunately, sleeping in late isn’t so easy. The unforgiving sun illuminates your tent, temperature rise, and neighbors will be noisy as they start their day (or end it). Before you go to bed each night, put on a pair of eye shades (available at most drug stores). This will trick your body into thinking it’s still dark outside. Bring a couple pairs of ear plugs to muffle the thumping of distant rave parties. Finally, if you are hydrating properly, you will need to pee in the morning while it’s still cold outside. Ladies, stop by Pee Pot camp and make your self a Pee Pot; Guys, designate an empty water jug. Sorry to be graphic, but a quick pee in (or near) your tent may enable you to get back to bed quickly and squeeze out a few extra hours of sleep. You’ll be less likely to fall back to sleep if you have to get dressed and take a bike ride to the nearest porta-potties when it’s bright and sunny but freezing cold outside.

Allow yourself to head home early if that’s what your body is telling you to do. We are only human and there’s only so much we can do. No matter how hard you try, you will only see a fraction of all there is to see at Burning Man. Make it an early night and you might be able to stay out later the next night.

Develop a Routine. Addicts sometimes do better when we have a daily routine. This can help give us a sense of stability in a world where nothing seems normal. Here are a few ideas.

  • Go to Center Camp to read the paper each morning.

  • Have breakfast with your campmates while reviewing the days possibilities in the Who What When Where or while listening to Black Rock Radio.

  • Find a workshop or class to attend on a daily basis.

  • Make a daily commitment to a regular volunteer gig such as the Lamp Lighters or Recycle Camp.

  • Go to the same meeting at the same time each day.

  • Plan on having dinner with your campmates each night.


These are just a few ideas. Having a daily routine can be really helpful, but be careful not to over commit or stretch yourself too thin.

Volunteer Work As you probably already know, nothing helps us get out of our selves better than service work. We recommend making a formal commitment to volunteer – even if it’s just one shift.. Many (second year +) Burners in recovery have found that Rangering is an extraordinary way to contribute to the community. Click here for more details on how to volunteer or subscribe to Jackrabbit Speaks to get the dirt on some of the more unique opportunities Informally, there are many opportunities to help out your fellow citizens. Maybe you could help a neighbor pitch their tent help or help a stranger by carrying a bag of ice.

Attend Meetings. While some see Burning Man as a big party, many see as an opportunity for growth. Going to meetings may help you get the most out of your experience. Besides, where else can you go to a meeting where people are wearing costumes or perhaps nothing at all? This is also one of the few places where there are no baskets passed during the meeting (with the exception of ice and coffee center camp, cash transactions are not permitted at Burning Man). Other than that, a 12 step meeting might be the most normal hour of your day.

The first AA meeting in Black Rock City was held in 1997 when the population was only 12,000. Today, the population is around 35,000 and between Anonymous Camp, Hokey Pokey Camp, and now Camp Stella, there are several meetings a day to choose from (including AA, NA, Alanon and CoDA).


%d bloggers like this: