Demi Lovato has decided to stop being California sober, but the confusion over what the term means lives on. On Thursday, the singer announced on their Instagram story, "I no longer support my 'California sober' ways. Sober sober is the only way to be," per People magazine.
When Lovato previously revealed in March that they identified as California sober, fans were quick to wonder if the approach would be beneficial, given their history with drug and alcohol addiction. The former Disney Channel star almost died from an overdose in 2018.
Back in April, the writer who popularized the term, Michelle Lhooq, joined NBCLX to explain: What does California sober mean? How can it help? Here's what she had to say.
What is California sober?
The definition of "Cali sober" is abstaining from alcohol and most drugs, Lhooq wrote in a 2019 essay in Vice. According to the Urban Dictionary, its meaning is "a form of Harm Reduction that excludes the use of all drugs including alcohol and only utilizing Marijuana in Moderation."
When Lovato opened about being California sober in their docu-series, "Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil," released earlier this year, they implied that they were using marijuana in moderation and still drinking, which prompted backlash within the addiction recovery community. Most proponents of California sober recommend steering clear of alcohol.
Some critics of the term have called it offensive to the sober community because of how hard fully sober people work to abstain from alcohol and drugs. But Lhooq believes the term helps people by showing that there's a "spectrum" of sobriety.
"When you consider how many people struggle with substances but don't want to talk about it, it's because they don't really like to use words like 'addict,' and they don't want to think, 'Oh, if I say that I have a problem with this substance, I can't do any substances forever,'" Lhooq said. "Shifting the dialogue to be a bit more accepting to all the different experiences that people can have and to think of sobriety as something a bit more fluid and something that people can determine for themselves ends up being really empowering."
She added that seeing sobriety as a spectrum encourages people to try different approaches to recovery, and when they find the one that works best for them, they can become part of the community that practices that method, whether it's California sober or something else.
"It's so important to have a social network and to feel like your struggles are reflected in other people's experiences, to feel like you're less alone in recovery," Lhooq said. "I actually prefer smaller communities, online groups. ... Finding like-minded people is really important so that you can talk about the specific scenarios that you might find yourself, like wanting to drink or have some kind of altered experience but don't actually think that would be good for you."