What Does California Sober Mean?

What Does California Sober Mean?

California sober. It’s a term from the US, and it’s making its way over to the UK. But, what does it mean? And why is it gaining traction amongst people seeking a healthier lifestyle without completely abstaining from all substances?

Find out everything you need to know in this article.


What Does California Sober Mean?

California Sober, also known as the “Cali Sober approach”, typically refers to a lifestyle choice where an individual abstains from engaging with any addictive substance – except for marijuana. It’s gained popularity in recent years, particularly within discussions around substance use and addiction recovery.

The concept allows for the use of marijuana, considering it a less harmful alternative to other addictive substances (e.g. alcohol, opioids, or stimulants). The thought behind this semi-sobriety approach is that marijuana can offer some therapeutic benefits, such as relief from anxiety, pain, or insomnia, without the perceived risks associated with more potent drugs or heavy alcohol consumption.

Confusingly, though, the definition of “California Sober” can vary. For some, it can include the occasional use of alcohol or harder drugs, involving mind-altering substances, such as mushrooms or LSD. This is because they are believed to offer mental health benefits in controlled settings.


Does the California Sober Lifestyle Work for Everyone?

No. In fact, this approach to sobriety is actually somewhat controversial, especially if you were to talk to an addiction specialist or traditional recovery circles that advocate for complete abstinence from all dangerous drugs.

There is also the argument that replacing one substance with another is a slippery slope, as it does not address the root causes of addiction or the fact that it could potentially lead to new dependencies.

An example of someone who tried the California Sober lifestyle is the singer Demi Lovato, which came after her near-fatal opioid overdose back in 2018. They very publically endorsed the California sober lifestyle and expressed how moderate substance use helped her with the addiction recovery journey. However, recently, they have now openly spoken about how this practice did not work for them- and have chosen to lead a completely sober life instead.

The actual concept of California Sober reflects broader conversations about harm reduction. This is a set of strategies aimed at minimising the negative health, social, and legal impacts associated with alcohol or drug use. For example, what we’ve seen in Scotland with the plans to open the first-ever drug use room in the UK. The aim of this is to reduce the potential harm to people struggling with opioid use disorder, providing a safe space for them to use with access to immediate aftercare. This, too, is an approach that has divided opinions.

Harm reduction acknowledges that although abstinence may be the goal for some, others may seek something more realistic or practical for them with managing their substance use.


What Are the Main Concerns With Living a California Sober Lifestyle?

Although some people view this as a viable path to moderation or recovery, there are several concerns associated with it.

One of the biggest worries is that it might not be suitable for everyone, particularly for those with a history of substance abuse or addiction. The selective use of substances could also potentially lead to relapse into more harmful substance use for these individuals, and withdrawal symptoms are also still a common side effect in those who try the California sober approach.

What’s more, the term “sober” in “California Sober” can be misleading, as true sobriety advocates for complete abstinence from all substances, which includes addictive behaviours (such as gambling addiction). This could confuse what true recovery entails and may undermine the efforts of those striving for total abstinence with their long-term recovery.

The acceptance of marijuana and alcohol use also overlooks the fact that these substances can also lead to dependency and health issues for some people. So, although the concept of California sobriety might seem appealing as a less restrictive approach to substance use, it’s important to consider these concerns and understand that it may not be a one-size-fits-all solution.


What Are the Alternatives to California Sobriety?

Alternative approaches can vary widely depending on a person’s unique goals for sobriety, health, and lifestyle.

Here are some approaches that individuals consider as alternatives:

  • Complete Abstinence: This is the ‘traditional’ model of sobriety. It’s the approach that professionals believe is the most effective form of addiction recovery. It’s when an individual abstains from all substance use, including alcohol, marijuana use, and other drugs. This approach is also advocated by traditional 12-step programmes (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous).
  • Moderation Management: Moderation management allows individuals to consume alcohol in moderation. It’s designed for those who drink alcohol frequently and over the recommended guidelines, but do not identify as having an alcohol addiction.
  • Harm Reduction: We touched on this topic earlier, but this strategy focuses on slowly minimising the consequences of drug use without necessarily stopping the use entirely (at first). It includes practices such as using safer consumption methods, reducing use gradually, or switching to less harmful substances.
  • Therapeutic Use: Some individuals might replace recreational drug or alcohol use with therapeutic or medicinal use of certain substances, under medical supervision. This can include the use of medications for addiction treatment (e.g. buprenorphine for opioid addiction) or the use of CBD in a therapeutic setting for physical and mental health treatment purposes.
  • Behavioural Therapies: Engaging in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), or other forms of psychotherapy can be an alternative to recovery instead of engaging in substance use, helping individuals understand and change their behaviours and thought patterns related to substance use.


Struggling to Balance a Healthy Lifestyle? Get in Touch

Although a California sober approach may work for some, it doesn’t work for everyone. This is especially true for those who have struggled with addiction in the past.

If you or a loved one is currently struggling with substance use, please get in touch with our team today. We can provide free and confidential advice and help you navigate the next steps to overcoming this challenge. Reach us on our free number 08004700382.