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Does Cali Sober Really Mean Sober?

The short answer? No, Cali Sober isn't the same as sober sober, but it doesn't mean it's bad.

Demi Lovato's appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast set the recovery world ablaze when she famously claimed a lifestyle of being "Cali Sober" that includes the use of alcohol and marijuana.


In turn, this vindicated many practicing MAT or Harm Reduction Recovery, while simultaneously drawing the ire of AA/NA/CA practitioners everywhere, especially the "Old Timers."


So, who's right and does "Cali Sober" mean the same thing as sober? While Merriam-Webster offers several definitions, for these purposes we'll use the following:


so·ber

/ˈsōbər/

adjective: abstaining from drinking alcohol or taking intoxicating drugs: refraining from the use of addictive substances.


By definition, the use of alcohol and marijuana would preclude someone from using the term "sober" in describing their lifestyle in the same way that someone who abstains from any and all mind-altering substances would. Now to Ms. Lovato's credit, she went to great length to make clear that this was her program and what works for her may not work for everyone, but is it a dangerous message?


Let us be the first to say that there are many ways to achieve recovery. While a 12 Step Methodology has been proven to have the best results, it's by no means the only way. As a community platform for people in recovery, we've learned to be open-minded about the various ways in which people get sober, but we also are very cognizant in outlining two key factors 1) How did a person use this methodology? and 2) What science backs it up?


Ultimately, the issue is not the personal choices people make regarding a program of recovery, but rather the risks associated, so what do we actually know?

  • 12.7 percent of the U.S. population, now meets the diagnostic criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder, according to a new study published by JAMA Psychiatry.

  • In 2019, 25.8 percent of people ages 18 and older (29.7 percent of men in this age group and 22.2 percent of women in this age group) reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month.

  • Research shows that harm reduction is minimizing risk and keeping people alive. Drug overdose death rates in the U.S. are 3.5 times higher on average when compared to 17 other Western Countries, so encouraging compassion is in our DNA.

  • A Stanford researcher and two collaborators conducted an extensive review of Alcoholics Anonymous studies and found that the Fellowship helps more people achieve sobriety than therapy does.

The biggest risk people and families in recovery face is not having accurate information. Just because someone is sober doesn't mean that they know what they're talking about and just because someone isn't sober doesn't mean that they don't. Just because someone has an M.D. or a Ph.D. after their name doesn't mean they're informed. Just because a treatment facility has a fancy website doesn't mean they use Evidence-Based Methodologies.


So, before you decide one way or another is best for you we encourage you to talk to your doctor, talk to your family or other support networks, and do your own research. If there is one area in which science is in complete agreement, it's in saying that the best way to ensure long-term sobriety is to not put substances in your body.