Sober Space Policy

This zine by Crimethinc is a classic examination of the role that alcohol plays in the anarchist space. It features a critique that looks at how alcohol use (and abuse) within the anarchist space fosters apathy, connects with patriarchy, and blunts revolutionary efforts. A second essay looks at the role that alcohol and intoxication has played in the creation of civilization. Highly recommended!In pursuit of fostering accountable, responsible, and safer space, all communal space is sober space, meaning specifically that substance use is not to occur in such spaces and substances are not to be in open view. Dirty Hands Collective events and spaces are not tolerant of belligerence, be it “sober” or “inebriated” in variety (not all sober people carry themselves in a bad way, just as not all inebriated people behave belligerently). If you attend our events or utilize our spaces, please keep this in mind. We seek to maintain a friendly space that’s open & welcoming to all, including children and those dealing with substance abuse & recovery.

Our culture is dominated with substances. There are many opportunities for people to socialize in settings that involve drugs and alcohol. Restaurants, clubs, shows, bars, and even most events at private homes frequently involve drugs and alcohol. These environments exclude many demographics of people- people in recovery, underage people, people at higher risk for arrest, and people who are triggered by inebriated people. Creating a sober space is making a space that is safe for more people than are usually considered in our society. As anarchists we think it is important to be inclusive of groups that are often completely ignored and oppressed. Children need places to go that are safe and sober. People in recovery need places where they won’t be tempted by substances they are trying to stay away from. And people who are triggered by inebriated people need spaces they can go and not have to deal with that trigger. These are just some examples.

Our sober space policy is one of inclusivity, not exclusivity. We do not think it is asking very much for folks who are not sober to simply not consume substances in collective, designated sober spaces. Only a few event organizers and participants consider themselves sober. Everyone however agrees on the benefits of having a sober space. Folks who are not sober and are part of the event simply go somewhere else when they want to drink. We understand that people often use intoxication as a means with which to cope with a variety of issues, such as depression and social anxiety. We also understand that there are many people with chemical addictions to substances which make it hard for them to not be intoxicated. We are not trying to condemn any of these people, intentionally exclude them, or make them feel judged for their use or dependence on a substance.

If people want to experiment with sobriety, or coping with issues in a sober way, we encourage you to come be awkward with us. We would be lying if we suggested we are all full of social grace. However, we have had some beautiful friendships develop, when we are our honest, goofy selves.

We are not maintaining a sober space for the purpose of judging or excluding people who use substances. We hope that is not the impression you get.

One of the things that is really important to our collective is being accountable and respectful to the communities we live around or within (human and non-human alike). We have all seen many situations where non-sober spaces and non-sober events end up resulting in disrespect towards the bioregion or neighborhood they are located in. We are really happy that we don’t have to go around picking up beer cans. And we like not having to worry about one of our friends trying to leave intoxicated and drunk driving. The image that we are able to present as a sober space is more positive for the kids and community members we interact with. We are not trying to imply that substance use always results in these issues, we are just offering them up as examples of things that can become problems. This doesn’t mean we are perfect, or that not having intoxicants or intoxication automatically makes us have better relationships with one another, as well as the larger communities we’re situated within. Those are the sorts of things that take years of work. But having sober space simplifies some issues and prevents us from having to deal with unnecessary problems.

There are probably reasons for having a sober space that we are missing in this statement. And different people in the organizers’ collective have different reasons that make the issue more important to them personally. We invite you to please come have respectful conversations with us if you have any questions or concerns about our sober space. Thanks!