Demi Lovato has publicly shared her struggles with substance use and eating disorders which is admirably brave and reduces stigma. There’s been a lot of discussion about her about her struggles with substance use and her “lifestyle choice” to be “California sober” (and her song with that title).
What is California Sober?
According to Demi, someone who is “California sober” drinks alcohol or smokes marijuana ‘every once in a while.’ Many who have followed her career and her struggles with substance use disorders were shocked to hear this.
Many people in recovery who practice complete abstinence from “mind altering chemicals” have derided this ‘program of recovery’ as a poor and dangerous decision.
Addiction Professionals are Concerned About the Growing Popularity of “California Recovery”
Statistics show that most people who get sober and then return to drinking or use ‘less-risky’ drugs like marijuana eventually return to their drug of choice. As far as Demi Lovato goes, no one who is not her doctor, sponsor, or family is qualified to judge or comment on Demi’s choice. Hopefully, she also has people in her life who genuinely love her, and professionals to guide her.
Reserving Judgement on Others’ Sobriety
Judging somebody else’s substance use disorder and the way they choose to get help doesn’t help you or the person you are evaluating. Some people need help with their other mental health issues before they can tackle their substance use. Substance use disorders can vary in the way they display themselves in a person’s life. They are almost always a coping behavior. Not everyone is coping with the same issues, and not everyone uses substances the same way.
Anyone can benefit from sobriety and a life in recovery. Many people who get sober and stay sober go to 12-step meetings and follow the suggestions. 12-step programs, however, are not the only component of recovery. Healing can also come through therapy, medication, groups, exercise, wellness, meditation, and psychiatry.
Is California Sober Dangerous?
The question remains, can somebody else with a substance use disorder do the same thing as Demi and live an authentic, happy, non-addicted life?
Demi Lovato has revealed that she has spent her time recovering from opiate addiction and battling both an eating disorder and PTSD. (Eating disorders are also life-threatening when untreated.) At times, she believes, her drug use prevented her from killing herself. PTSD can be debilitating without treatment, and self-medicating is almost pervasive as a coping mechanism
Many people who have gone to war overseas or experienced traumatic events use substances to cope. When they’re using substances, it’s because they’re in pain. Getting sober can be scary for somebody with PTSD or other symptoms. They may even feel similar to Levato – that their choice to cope by using a substance is keeping them alive. Therapy and help from trained professionals can help you learn new coping skills if this sounds like you.
If you want to use “California sober” as a way to abuse substances, or a reason to relapse, then it’s dangerous! Addiction can play tricks on you, and other substances than your substance of choice may be a trigger to relapse.
Levato’s ideas about her struggles with opioid use disorder are uniquely her own, as are her struggles. Some people may say the ideas she shares about herself are dangerous. Indeed, her recovery model isn’t the one that is best known for helping people achieve and maintain sobriety or abstinence. We are not her doctors, sponsor, or family that lives alongside her addiction. (Talking about her struggles with self-harm and eating disorders can certainly help other people, and she has warned that her personal decisions to use marijuana and alcohol won’t work for everyone.)
There are a few dangers of trying to drink or use drugs casually:
- Relapsing back to your drug of choice. (Many people only relapse ONCE; you may not be able to handle the same amount of a drug, or it could be laced with fentanyl.)
- Becoming addicted to a new drug. Marijuana is more than 90% as potent as it was in the 1960’s – sometimes vapes can be as high as 70% THC, making it more addictive.
- Going back to old behavior, such as lying, cheating, or stealing. Also, taking dangerous risks such as driving drunk or buying illegal drugs.
- Losing connection with your recovery support system. Relapse does not mean the end of recovery, but if you are drinking and smoking pot, you might drift away from your counselor, sponsor, or sober peers.
Maintaining a Recovery Support System if You are California Sober
Demi Lovato’s ‘California sober’ may not be what anyone traditionally thinks of as recovery. For her, however, she’s feeling safer and healthier than she has in years. She no longer wants to self-harm or starve herself and that’s progress. She wants others to know that they can overcome and cope with their struggles. She is in therapy, and she is actively trying to be at ease in her skin.
Having professionals in her life to talk to and actively working on her issues keeps her here, on this earth, striving for another day. Her previous relapses and the damage they did to her body can serve as a reminder that there may not be another chance to recover if she returns to opioids. Let’s hope that can be enough to help her.
Either way, she will be welcome if she decides her “California sobriety” isn’t working out for her. There are addiction doctors and treatment programs to help her if she needs it. Also, the 12-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous is in has meetings around the clock no matter where she is.