Why California Sober Won’t Work For Me

Recently, the term “California Sober” has been bandied about in my circle. It’s on TV, in articles and even mentioned by friends. As someone who is sober, works very hard to stay that way, AND lives in California, I was intrigued. What does it mean to be California Sober? I set about my quest for new knowledge. This means, of course, I searched the internet.

It turns out that California Sober is “an approach to recovery that includes drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis in moderation.” 1

Wait. What? Drinking alcohol and smoking weed is called sober? Hmmm. Evidently, celebrities like Demi Lovato are touting its effectiveness and some experts are calling it “harm reduction.” Harm reduction, in the recovery world, is the use of techniques and substances to minimize the use of harder, more dangerous drugs. Essentially, the theory is that alcohol or milder drugs in moderation can keep someone off the heroin or fentanyl, which will kill you a whole lot faster. Methodone and suboxone are also drugs people take to keep them from doing the “hard stuff.”

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I am not an expert or medical professional, so I have no opinion about how these techniques work with others. Let me be very clear. If California Sober works for you and keeps you alive and on the planet, I am all for it. I think Demi Lovato is an amazing human being who is doing a lot of good by being so open about her life. If Demi Lovato wants to be California Sober and it helps her stick around and do even more good, more power to her. As just a garden variety alcoholic in recovery, I can only report what I see in myself and in my sober friends. That said, I am completely positive that California Sober won’t work for me. Here are a few reasons.

Reasons Why California Sober Won’t Work For Me

  1. California Sober won’t work because I tried it already

I have tried California Sober thousands of times before it had the fancy name. Most everyone I know who has struggled with addiction has tried it already!

Let me know if this sounds familiar to you:

After a bad or embarrassing bout, you decide to get yourself together. Have just one drink after a long day. Maybe just a little bit of a joint to take the edge off. And, many times, it looks like it is working. A few days, weeks or even months and you think you have this thing licked. “Ah, I’ve been making this addiction thing a big deal and it’s not,” you say to yourself. You have officially graduated as a normal drinker or drug user (if there is such a thing.) Then you realize that the thought of that drink or drug you’ll have at 5:30 is running around in your mind all day. You can’t think of anything else. It becomes the most important thing in your day. Once the obsession sets in, your goose is cooked. Am I right people? When those floodgates open, and they will, one or two drinks become four or five. Then booze is not enough and you need something a little stronger to get the same high. Pretty soon you can’t stop until you pass out. The cravings and obsessions have taken over. The “California Sober” idea that conjures up images of tanned and toned moderate drinkers sitting by the twinkling sea soon becomes a trip straight to the hell of addiction. Sound familiar? It’s a story that played in my life many many MANY times. Rinse and repeat. Groundhog Day.

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Wow, that got really dark really quick. Sorry, but, it’s true. Addiction is not for sissies. California palm trees or no palm trees, addiction is dark and moderation is impossible for me.

Elton John feels the same way:

“Moderation doesn’t work,” he said. “Sorry. If you drink you’re going to drink more. If you take a pill you’re going to take another one. You either do it or you don’t.” 2

2. California Sober won’t work because cannibus is not just weed anymore

Today’s marijuana is a whole new kind of animal. Breeding and refining the plants’ properties over time have produced a product that is alarmingly stronger than the cannibus of the past. The THC concentrations in today’s marijuana are higher and have become more dangerous.

NPR reports:

“High concentrations (of THC) can cause panic attacks, and if someone consumes high-enough levels of THC, “you become full-blown psychotic and paranoid.”3

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Here’s this from Drugabuse.gov:

“Recent research suggests that smoking high-potency marijuana every day could increase the chances of developing psychosis by nearly five times compared to people who have never used marijuana.”4


Today, a few puffs to “take the edge off” can lead to psychosis, hallucinations, anxiety, depression and suicide. They have even found that consistent use among young people can even lead to schizophrenia.

Call me crazy but that doesn’t sound relaxing at all. What is considered “relief” from the stresses of life can lead to a new range of problems much worse.

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2. California Sober won’t work because why bother?

This is the real question to me: why is it so important to keep alcohol and drugs in daily life? Sober life for me is more than just putting together consecutive sober days. I am not sitting here, thinking, “Gee, I wish I could drink right now but I can’t.” I’m not white-knuckling it through life, denying myself the one thing that can relieve my worried mind. No way. On the contrary, I don’t even think about drinking and drugging anymore. It doesn’t even cross my mind.

Real sobriety, for me, has brought healing and peace in the most profound ways. I learned what made me drink in the past and how to let those things go. I learned new coping strategies. I am surrounded by friends who are meaningfully sober today. I see the world in a completely new way. I know now that drugs and alcohol were NOT relief in the end. They created and perpetuated far more problems than they solved. With freedom like that, a drink or a puff doesn’t even appeal to me.

Now, I am not saying that getting sober and learning to stay that way were easy. It took a lot of work. I had to go inside my mind and heart and uncover painful things from the past so I could heal. Most people aren’t willing to do that. I was only willing because I was so miserable. I am also not saying that every day is filled with rainbows and puppies. I have fears and sadness and confusion just like everybody else. I just know that drugs are not going to help at all. I have tools today to stay on track. And the resulting fullness of heart and quietness of mind that I have today are priceless.

In conclusion, let me reiterate some crucial points. Demi Lovato, we love you and wish you well. You keep doing YOU! Anybody who is doing the California Sober thing and it is working, rock on with your bad self. There are billions of ways to do something and I would be a fool to say that what works for me is for everybody. However, I know in my heart that just 10 minutes of California Sober would lead down a dark path I may not survive. Plus, I have found that complete abstinence has its perks. Big ones: freedom, calm and strength in the face of anything life can throw at you. I’ll stick with what works over here.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/demi-lovato-says-shes-california-sober-what-does-that-mean
  2. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2021/04/06/demi-lovato-dancing-devil-explores-california-sober-concept/7089763002/
  3. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/05/15/723656629/highly-potent-weed-has-swept-the-market-raising-concerns-about-health-risks
  4. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/myth-or-fact-marijuana-stronger-these-days#:~:text=It’s%20no%20myth%3A%20Marijuana%20today,in%20marijuana%20have%20been%20increasing.

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