Is California Sobriety a Thing?

If you have followed the stories of celebrities who have struggled with addiction, you may have heard specific methods or narratives they are questioning. Specifically, celebrity Demi Lovato used the term “California Sober” to describe her sobriety and recovery. At its core, the concept of being California Sober embodies the idea of abstaining from select substances instead of all substances. 

For example, individuals who struggle with opioids may consciously decide to omit them from their substance use but still recreationally engage in alcohol or marijuana use. This is not to say that it is entirely wrong to take an unconventional approach to recovery. Addiction treatment is not a one size fits all situation. Treatment is most effective when it is individualized and tailored to each person. 

With that said, this untraditional concept of choosing not to abstain from all drugs or substances can prove hazardous. Replacing these substances with others in attempted moderation can be dangerous and counterproductive, especially for those whose addiction has completely taken over their lives. For some, it may seem ultimately subjective or even irrelevant, but the idea of California Sober leaves much to be desired regarding what true sobriety is. 

For some, abstaining from the substances that are most destructive to them may help. Still, for others, they are simply transferring dependency from one substance to another without adequately handling the core of what has caused the addiction.

Can People Effectively Abstain From Select Substances?

The biggest question in the debate on California Sobriety is, can people genuinely only abstain from specific substances and fix the problem of addiction? In most cases, it seems unlikely. No matter how it is defined, addiction at its core involves dependency on a substance, thing, or activity. This dependency is usually a result of one’s inability to cope with a traumatic event, childhood, or other co-occurring mental disorder. 

That is not to say the ability to avoid something as harmful and addictive as cocaine or heroin is not commendable. It is a significant deal to free oneself from using substances like these. However, is much progress being made if someone simply becomes dependent on alcohol or a less harmful but equally dependent substance? Treatment and recovery are not just about freeing oneself from substance use; it is about freeing oneself from the demons that caused the substance use in the first place.

While some have only heard of the California Sober approach recently, it has been around for a while. Many have claimed it is unsuccessful, especially when initially getting clean. In almost all cases, these instances lead to a relapse. Moderation is essential, but in many cases, if an addiction has developed, the time for moderation and the ability to moderate is gone. 

If an individual recreationally uses drugs and alcohol, they should pay close attention to instances where they are consuming too much. Making a plan at that time to lessen their consumption use and determine why they are consuming more can be helpful. Perhaps there are extra stressors taking place in their life. Maybe they are grieving the death of a loved one. Perhaps they are completely powerless over the amount consumed for no apparent reason. 

Whatever the case, the California Sober approach may be serving as a bandaid to the severity of one’s substance use. Still, it will not repair the emotional damage one is trying to heal from that manifested through substance use. 

The Dangers of Selective Substance Abstinence

Abstaining only from a specific substance does not fix the problem an individual is struggling with. Additionally, it is important to remember how the brain is affected by addiction and long-term substance use. Substance use triggers the same dopamine response experienced through any pleasurable activity. It causes such high volumes of dopamine, and over time those volumes decrease, causing the need to use more to capture the same feeling. 

The California Sober way simply replaces one substance for another, causing a similar reaction to dopamine receptors. In the end, addiction to a new, “less harmful” substance can occur. If one is changing the drug of choice but still looking for the same response, they will find themselves consuming more and more of that substance, falling into the same struggles, and, more often than not, experiencing a relapse.

At the Lakehouse Recovery Center, we believe that individualized treatment is the best approach to recovery. Many who adopt the California Sober method may do this because they believe one treatment method does not work for everyone. We agree with that notion; however, caution should be exercised with the California Sober approach. If you or someone you love has tried the California Sober approach to recovery and are still experiencing repeated relapses, we encourage you to seek help today. While it may work for some, it is not for everyone, and it may be time for a new approach. 

California Sober is something many have tried for a while now. The term has gained more attention in recent years, but the core concept has remained the same. In a nutshell, being California Sober describes the process of abstaining from one specific substance instead of all substances. That could mean deciding to omit heroin from recreational use but still using marijuana or alcohol recreationally. It’s your decision whether a method such as this is practical. For many, though, they may be ultimately experiencing a repeated relapse, except with a different substance. This might be for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, abstaining from the substance in question does not tackle the core issues that most likely led to your struggle with addiction. Additionally, long-term substance use alters the brain, increasing the likelihood of relapse. If you are experiencing frequent relapses and looking for a new approach to recovery, call the Lakehouse at (877) 762-3707.