There are many ways that you can wind down after a hard day’s work. For a lot of Buentoilliçan history, many chose alcohol as the route to relaxation, or blissful oblivion, oblivious of the pains of life. Yet as we all know, alcohol is a fickle mistress, and many have suffered from its abuses. In modern Buentoille, those having trouble with alcohol and other mind-changing chemicals are helped by MHS treatments which address the underlying causes of their self-abuse but in the past these treatments were not available, and other help could be hard to come by. For those in privileged positions, it didn’t matter if they treated those around them terribly, or could not hold down a job; this was par for the course. As always it was the working classes who suffered most.
Yet there was help available. For some, the temperance movement of the nineteenth century was helpful, but for others it was a moral crusade that vilified rather than actually helped. In small groups here and there folk gathered for self-directed therapy, but it was never a widespread phenomenon, nor were the results quite as positive as the professionally run services freely available nowadays. Usually these groups weren’t well publicised, or even available to the general public (we only have records of them today because of the work of the pioneering cultural historian Sameera Sthutz), but there was one group, a group of working-class Buentoillitants committed to beating their addictions via non-conventional means, who gathered a fair bit of public attention: The Society of Sober Adventurers.
Today the Society is very different from what it once was; nowadays it functions as a charitable organisation, raising funds to help those suffering from substance abuse, a problem which is far less prevalent but which has not disappeared completely. Whilst many of the members are still recovered or recovering alcoholics, they are not exclusively so, as would once have been the case. The festival today, the biggest fundraising event in the Society’s calendar, traces its roots all the way back to the group’s formation, indeed to the very first meeting when Deer Franklö initiated the first set of recruits, then only fourteen individuals.
There are few differences between that first initiation and that which will happen today, the primary one being the safety net which is strung between the buildings, a fact which Franklö would consider sacrilegious. The Adventurers were not some expeditionary force, nor a military group of any sort, but thrill-seekers, who exchanged the highs and lows of alcohol for the highs and lows of the City: they ran across rooftops and delved deep into the Buentoilliçan bowels. The first jump, they say, is always the hardest, and it seems that this difficulty is more than a matter of nerves; the Sixth Geermande Avenue Jump, or the Worrisome Jump, as it is more aptly known, is a considerable distance, and perhaps more startlingly, to a higher ledge than that which the prospective Society members launch themselves from. A good deal of upper-body strength is required to pull oneself up, even if you manage to catch hold of the opposite ledge.
For Franklö, it was not just the adrenaline that helped stave off alcohol cravings, but the sense that one’s life was constantly at threat. ‘Only by risking our lives so tangibly can we see its true value,’ was how they expressed this sense, ‘there is no better way to understand what we throw away when we lose ourselves to drink.’ Whilst it is technically still not possible to join the Society without completing the jump, at least according to the organisation’s charter, these ‘official’ members are actually treated more as a particular type of fundraiser, rather than the only members; originally the system obviously discriminated against less able folk, all of whom are offered full membership now. Hopefully the sponsorship raised by the jumpers today will help out a lot of folk who are currently suffering, and hopefully nobody will fall, and miss out on their momentary place in the sun.
Other festivals happening today:
- The Festival of the Fastest Fingers
- Take Home Your Hope Day