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What is California Sober? Get the Facts

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California Sober is a somewhat newly coined term made well known by the pop singer, Demi Lovato. In her song, California Sober, Lovato talks about her ‘semi-sobriety’ also known as California Sober. And while this trend is gaining momentum, it’s important to understand what it is and how it can endanger recovery. 

In her song, California Sober, Lovato says the following: 

Cashin’ in my chips for forgiveness

Trading in my shame for perspective

Tired of being known for my sickness

It didn’t work, I’m tryin’ something different

She also says, 

Used to live in fear of always slipping

But living for perfection isn’t living

What Lovato is referring to in these lyrics seems to be related to the traditional—and proven—approach to getting sober. Traditionally, getting sober meant to completely abstain from alcohol and all drugs. This approach to sobriety has worked for hundreds of thousands of people. However, California Sober, is a twist on true sobriety. In fact, many would say that being California Sober isn’t really being sober at all. 

The term California Sober isn’t a medical term or recognized as a type of sobriety by any of the leading drug and alcohol groups or mental health groups. According to the Urban Dictionary, California Sober is when individuals only engage in using marijuana and some psychedelics. However, for many, California Sober also includes the moderate use of alcohol. This is the case with Demi Lovato. 

Lovato stated in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning the following, 

I think the term that I best identify with is ‘California Sober.’” “I really don’t feel comfortable explaining the parameters of my recovery to people because I don’t want anyone to look at my parameters of safety and think that’s what works for them because it might not.”

Lovato has been open about her use of alcohol in moderation in addition to marijuana use. For many, this is an appealing route to sobriety. When faced with stopping using any kind of mind-altering substance many are full of fear. Facing reality without a ‘buffer’ can seem unbearable. So, for this group, California Sober may seem like a light in the dark. However, it’s vital that this be approached with caution. 

Does California Sober Work? 

Recently, there has been a shift towards individuals wanting to drink less and stop using dangerous drugs. The pandemic increased alcohol consumption for many who now are looking at their lives and seeing the detrimental impacts of its use. This has led to a sober-curious movement across the nation. And while this is a good trend, it’s important to understand that for anyone with real alcohol or drug dependence simply cutting back on alcohol or drug use isn’t the solution. 

For individuals who are not addicted to alcohol or drugs, being California Sober may work. In this case, these individuals would not use hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. However, they would continue to drink in moderation, use marijuana, and even certain psychedelics. But this isn’t how it typically works for someone who is addicted. 

When someone is diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD), it’s more than just the drug of choice that’s the issue. Many with addiction issues have underlying issues which propel them to use alcohol or drugs in the first place. When these issues, which are often trauma-based, aren’t addressed, the problem still exists. And, being California Sober is continuing to remove them from reality and let the underlying issues continue to fester. 

It’s imperative for someone who wants to truly recover from alcohol and/or drugs to do the work associated. This means addressing underlying issues, facing fears and emotions without the cushion of any type of substance, and taking one day at a time to live completely drug-free. 

Not only does being Cali Sober stop these processes, but it can also lead many back to heavier drug use. When the underlying issues associated with and propelling addiction aren’t addressed, they will certainly pop up again and this can lead to further addiction issues. For those who have just used marijuana in recovery, they have often found themselves back to full drug use in a matter of time. 

In addition, those who have struggled with addiction issues in the past may quickly find themselves addicted to these ‘less harmful’ drugs like marijuana. This may not happen immediately with the first use, but it’s vital to remember that addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. This means that left untreated and with continued use, it becomes worse, never better. 

California Sober is very appealing to many. For those who don’t have a SUD or AUD, it can be helpful in living healthier lives free of hangovers and other aches and pains associated with alcohol and drug use. However, for those who have real addiction issues, California Sober can be a way to delay actually getting sober. True freedom from addiction comes with complete sobriety from all substances. 

Many who use alcohol and drugs to cope or take the edge off deeply fear facing life without this crutch. However, they are only robbing themselves of true happiness and freedom. Facing life, its ups and downs, good times and bad, being completely sober and feeling all emotions is real freedom. And while many fear this, once it’s been embraced life will be beyond your wildest dreams and you will have true freedom. 

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous talks about how being semi-sober will turn out. On page 58 the following is stated:

“We thought we could find an easier, softer way but we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start.”

The Big Book of AA was first written in the 1930s and this clearly states that the ‘easier, softer way’ doesn’t work. While there are various ways to get sober today, AA remains one of the most popular and proven-to-work approaches. The authors of this book who started AA make it clear that total abstinence is the only true way to recover for life. 

California Sober definitely is an easier, softer way. Whether it works or not for singer Demi Lovato remains to be seen. Everyone’s path of recovery is unique to them just as their treatment should be. What works for one may not work for the next. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug use, Futures Recovery Healthcare is here for you. We offer our clients multiple pathways to recovery and believe that recovery is possible for all who truly want it. 

Contact us online today to learn more or call us at 866-804-2098.

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