One Colorado Dad’s Attempt To Fight Underage Drinking And Alcoholism
According to America’s Health Rankings, Colorado has a significantly higher percentage of adult binge drinkers than the national average. Additionally, the percentage of Denver adults who binge drink – 27% – is higher than any comparable city in the West, including cities like Las Vegas, Seattle, and San Francisco.
In light of these staggering statistics, Colorado dad Duke Rumely knew something had to be done. In 2018, Rumely started the non-profit Sober AF Entertainment, or S.A.F.E., which aims to promote “no drunk” areas and support sober safe zones at traditionally non-sober events (concerts and sporting events) for recovering addicts, families, and individuals who simply want to party without getting drunk or high. The title is meant to be catchy and appeal to a younger audience, but Rumely confirms that the AF acronym stands for “Alcohol Free” or “Alternative Fun.”
Rumely really noticed the need for such a group after his 20-year-old daughter texted him from a concert at Red Rocks last year. She said that everyone she was with was either drunk or high on Molly, and that she just really wanted to come home but was scared to leave alone.
A year ago my daughter was texting me from Red Rocks, saying that all of her friends she was with had taken Ecstasy and she didn’t feel safe. She wanted to take an Uber home but was scared. No one should feel like that.
The text rattled Rumely, who had his own intense relationship with alcohol as a young adult. He started drinking at the early age of 16, then by 18 he had picked up a DUI, and by 20 he was arrested in Mexico for drunk and disorderly conduct. A year after that incident he started attending alcohol addiction treatment – he’s now 30 years sober.
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During his own journey to sobriety, Rumely found a way to enjoy events without drugs and alcohol, but he says the pressure to drink at events for younger people hasn’t decreased in the slightest. It is the mission of Sober AF Entertainment to be a voice for the recovery community and provide activities and entertainment for people to enjoy soberly. The group helps sober individuals have fun and feel supported in environments such as music festivals and sporting games.
“I’m really concerned about the drug culture I see in Colorado and how we protect our kids,” Rumely said. “How do we show these kids that we can have fun sober? Nobody is explaining that. There is no culture out there besides the party culture at these venues.”
At one of Sober AF Entertainment’s first events, a sober section at a Rockies game, Rumely watched as more than 100 young people stood around trying to socialize and talk to each other at a tailgate party without the help of alcohol. It was clear to him they didn’t know how to act while they sipped on their sodas and waters. “I was watching these kids who are super awkward, newly sober, and trying to figure out how you re-engage in life,” he said.
In just the past 17 months, S.A.F.E has participated in 43 events both in Colorado and nationwide. The group has set up sober tailgate parties at Rockies and Broncos games, concerts at Red Rocks, and music festivals such as Bohemian Nights in Ft. Collins. Sober AF Entertainment has additionally partnered with the University of Colorado Boulder to provide sober Buffalo tailgates and help spread alcohol awareness amongst college students.
Rumely’s daughter, now 21 and a student at Colorado State University, occasionally stops by at his on-campus sober events and even brings her sorority sisters. She calls the tent the “dad zone,” a safe place where no “whiskey-drunk guy is going to come up and be inappropriate with her,” he said.
Rumely hopes to continue to expand his S.A.F.E. events across the nation and that other local leaders will follow suit to help foster awareness and a growing sober community.
Jena Hilliard earned her Bachelor’s of Arts degree from the University of Central Florida in English Literature. She has always had a passion for literature and the written word. Upon graduation, Jena found her purpose in educating the public on addiction and helping those that struggle with substance dependency find the best treatment options available.
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