When catching a concert, comedy show or sports event, alcohol is almost always on the menu.
For recovering addicts, the temptation to drink at events can be strong, which is why a Vancouver Island man is launching a music and comedy festival that’s designed to be a safe and fun place for those living with addictions challenges.
“Despair, disconnect,” that’s how Mike Manhas describes living through 21 years of addiction.
“I was addicted to everything is the honest truth,” he told CTV News.
Staring down a possible jail sentence, Manhas entered rehab.
“While I’m there a lot starts to change,” he said. “It’s the very first time I admit that I have a problem, that I’m an addict, and it’s the very first time I realize I’m not alone.”
This October, Manhas will celebrate nine years of sobriety. It’s a journey that hasn’t been easy and has often meant avoiding social events altogether.
“There I was sitting in the corner with a couple of people in early recovery, nervous, thinking, ‘Well, I want to do what they’re doing,'” said the recovering addict.
“I don’t want to have to give up music, I don’t want to give up comedy, I don’t want to have to give up watching events, but where do I go to do all that stuff?” he said.
That’s the question that led to the idea of SoberFest. The festival is a one-day event with 10 live musical acts, 10 comedians and more.
SoberFest will be making its debut in Langford, BC, on Aug. 27.
“Everyone deserves a safe place to be,” Manhas said.
Manhas has also created a non-profit called The Rewired Recovery Foundation, which the festival will support.
“When someone is ready, we have to open the door,” said Sharlene Law, executive direct of Umbrella Society, a mental health and substance use support organization in Victoria.
To get a spot in a publicly funded addictions facility, wait times can be anywhere from three to nine months. Proceeds from SoberFest will fund four beds which will be facilitated through the Umbrella Society in Victoria.
“Most of our clients are on the waitlist for some kind of treatment, so we’ll just be identifying people that are able to go as soon as the bed is offered and make sure it’s a good fit,” said Law.
The goal for Manhas is to make SoberFest an annual event and fund more treatment beds.
“To be able to help even just one person a year is a miracle, but I think we can do better and I think we can do more,” said Manhas. “In my heart of hearts, I just want to do more.”
SoberFest will run from 11 am to 7 pm at the Ranger Station in Langford.
Tickets are $40 and can be purchased through the SoberFest 2022 Facebook page.