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What is California Sober?

After Demi Lovato's appearance on CBS Sunday Morning in March, the phrase "California sober" became popular. According to the artist, she's discovered a path ahead that works for her after her near-fatal opioid overdose in July 2018.

She told CBS's Tracy Smith during an interview at her Los Angeles home:

"I believe the word that I most connect with is 'California sober', because I don't want others to see my bounds of safety and assume that's what works for them, I don't feel comfortable expressing my rehabilitation to others. For the same reason that I believe the total abstinent way isn't a one-size-fits all answer for everyone, I don't believe this path of moderation is a one-size-fits all option for everyone."

So, what does it mean to be "sober" in California? Is it safe to use?


The California Sober Lifestyle

Although refraining from all substances is often characterized as sobriety, California's sober approach focuses on moderate use of specific substances.

According to Patrick Cronin, an addiction expert at Ark Behavioral Health, Demi Lovato is swapping opioids for other drugs, such as alcohol and cannabis, in the case of her addiction to opioids.

Streamlining your drug usage is a word that has been popularized by a piece written by Michelle Lhooq in 2019.

When she relocated from New York to California (a state where marijuana is legal, thus the nickname "California Sober"), she stopped using all narcotics save marijuana and some psychedelics. According to Lhooq, persons who abstain from all narcotics save marijuana use the phrase "Cali sober."


drug recovery

Is being sober in California a good idea because of the negative effects that drugs have on mental and physical health?

Tim Brennan, the Head of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West and Morningside Hospitals in New York City, adds,

"I prefer hearing 'moderation' as a specialist. It might be dangerous to consume too much of anything. If you've been drinking more than normal because of the epidemic, cutting down is always a smart idea, just as it has been for many others. To cure a drug abuse illness, substituting one chemical with another is not enough. Opioid treatment programs wouldn't be necessary if ingesting things like cannabis were a cure."

People with drug abuse disorders may have a predisposition to all mind- and mood-altering substances, leading in additional hazardous behaviors, according to Dr. Polacheck.

Many individuals in recovery have recounted their own stories of how they tried to moderately use 'other' drugs.

Some people may establish unhealthy habits in other areas, such as eating, job, shopping, sex, etc., which may have a negative impact on their mental health as much as their physical health. Polacheck says these tales are regular ones he hears from his patients. When it comes to supporting people's personal health journey, there are, of course, exceptions.

Lovato has said that California sober is not for everyone and there is no one-size-fits all cure for addiction. She also emphasized that you should get sober for yourself, not for other people.

"I am cautious to say that, just like I feel the complete abstinent method isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody, I don’t think that this journey of moderation is a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody, too."

- Demi Lovato