This weekend, Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest takes over most of Auditorium Shores. And while the lineup changes each year, you can expect certain things: music, fans and alcohol. This year, though, the Fest is introducing something new.
There are very specific directions about how to find the place: "Look for the yellow balloons."
There you’ll find Christie Mokry beside a banner that reads “Clear Headed Haven.” It’s the mashing of two, often opposed, concepts: a sober tent at a music festival.
“It’s a support system for people who don’t want to use drugs and alcohol at the festival — who might be in recovery, who might not be in recovery or people who have friends or family in recovery and just want to come say 'hi',” Mokry says. “A little oasis for people who might get too inebriated to come and be safe; a support for people who don’t want to get loaded.”
This sober tent is a first for Fun Fun Fun Fest. The Austin City Limits Music Festival has never had one, though organizers say they’re looking into one for next year. There are other sober tents at festivals across the country. Sober Side at Chicago’s Lollapalooza and Consciousness Group, which follows electronic festivals across the country. Mokry first learned about sober tents in Tennessee, at Bonnaroo’s Soberoo.
“They had meetings throughout the festival, which was great. The person I went with wasn’t sober. And so it was nice just to be able to be like, ‘You guys get me. This is so great,’” Mokry says. “When I got sober I was 25, and I was like how am I ever going to have fun again?”
Mokry’s plenty fun. The 28-year-old is full of pep. One moment she’s talking about blacking out on her birthday three years ago, the next she’s erupting into laughter. Mokry says her dad is a musician and she grew up around music. The alcohol and drugs crept in.
“We would drive out to go to these big festivals or shows and whatnot and I’d be looking for drugs,” she says. “You’re thinking about it when you’re getting there, how am I gonna get X, and then you spend it and then you get it.”
Mokry started trying to get sober in 2012. In 2014, she spent a month in an East Texas jail on a theft of service charge. She dined and dashed and got caught. She has a son who’s now seven, and she had to give up primary custody of him. She had been arrested while traveling across the country on a binge.
“My sister calls it 'Crack Across America.' But it was really like this Hunter S. Thompson road trip where I did everything I said I wouldn’t do,” Mokry says.
She got back to Austin and started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She had a few missteps, she says, but this weekend at Auditorium Shores, she’s helping stock nothing but bottles of water, juice and coffee. Also, lots of candy because, she says, recovering alcoholics crave sugar.
On Oct. 21, she marked one year sober.
“For me to drink and use will either lead me to jail or death,” Mokry says. “A lot of people really misunderstand addiction. [They say] 'it’s like a mental thing' or 'why can’t you just have one?' I’d love to have one. That’d be great. I’d love to sit here and be like you. But I can’t.”
But she can buy a banner and stickers that say “One show at a time,” and yellow balloons. That’s the easy part, she says.
“It’s hard being a drug addict and an alcoholic,” she says. “When you run out of money and you run out of friends and you run out of people and whatever and all you can do is try to make it through the day and maybe sleep and you then you get up the next day and you’re like, 'How am I going to do this again?' And you can’t face the world.”
Mokry calls that surviving, but she says she got tired of surviving. She wanted to live and, she says, to be free of all that.
Mokry, and Clear Headed Haven, will be at Fun Fun Fun Fest all weekend, right by the Blue Stage.
Correction: The original post said Mokry was arrested in 2012. That happened in 2014. It also said she gave up custody of her son for the month she spent in jail. She actually gave up primary custody of her son, and entered into joint custody with her son's father.