Ark Behavioral Health Addiction Specialist On Demi Lovato's California Sobriety - Exclusive Interview

Singer Demi Lovato's addiction and recovery process has been well documented by the star. An overdose that could have ended in tragedy inspired Lovato to seek help, and in 2021, they opened up about charting their own course to sobriety (via Everyday Health). As they said in an CBS News interview that March, "It's like I, for the first time in my life, had to essentially die to wake up."

The singer went on to detail that maintaining a different version of sobriety worked for them, explaining, "I think the term that I best identify with is California sober. I really don't feel comfortable explaining the parameters of my recovery to people, because I don't want anyone to look at my parameters of safety and think that's what works for them, because it might not."

In December of last year, Lovato committed to staying 100% sober, writing on their Instagram Story that staying away from all substances was "the only way to be."

Before Lovato bravely shared their journey to sobriety, many people may not have been familiar with what so-called California sobriety is. To explain the difference between California sober and sober, and also share how the pandemic has affected addiction in this country, Health Digest talked exclusively to Dr. Manish Mishra, Medical Reviewer for Ark Behavioral Health.

Dr. Manish Mishra explains the term California sober

Can you share a bit about your background and experience?

My name is Dr. Manish Mishra. I received my Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from Guangzhou Medical University in 2018. My roles include supervising patient care and planning, implementing and directing clinical services.

I am currently the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healthcare and Diagnostic Center. In my role as Medical Reviewer for Ark Behavioral Health, I work to provide accurate, authoritative information to those seeking help for substance abuse and behavioral health issues.

What is California sober versus just sober?

California sober is a more recent movement that involves abstaining from all substances except for marijuana and/or alcohol. Sober, however, refers to avoiding all substances, including alcohol and marijuana.

California sobriety can be a slippery slope

Is the term "California sober" harmful, and if so, how?

The idea behind California sober is that marijuana and alcohol are less harmful than harder drugs, so they're acceptable to consume in moderation. However, this isn't always the case. Not only can both marijuana and alcohol create their own sets of health and addiction risks, but they can act as gateway substances back into drug use.

Making exceptions for certain drugs can become a very slippery slope. If you've struggled with substance abuse, California sober can sound appealing, but replacing one mind-altering drug with another won't help a person to remain sober and find long-term recovery.

The reality is, many people who use marijuana or alcohol in this way have co-occurring conditions like mental illness or substance use disorders. With emotions running high and a lack of healthy coping strategies, instead of exploring options such as therapy and professional treatment, people embracing the California sober movement may push these legitimate issues down in search of temporary relief.

Unfortunately, in many cases, this ultimately leads back to drug use. The only way to achieve sobriety is to embrace full sobriety and uncover the root causes of the addiction.

The pandemic led to an addiction spike but help is available

Have you seen an addiction spike during the pandemic?

There was a significant spike in drug abuse and drug overdoses during the pandemic, and the effects are still impacting lives today. During lockdowns, many people turned to marijuana and alcohol daily to cope. However, these substances often lead to the use of new drugs, an impact that took hold of many lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated pre-existing substance abuse or mental health disorders.

Can you provide advice on what someone should do if they are worried about a loved one's addiction or are battling addiction themselves?

Whether you're concerned about a loved one's substance use or are beginning to see the signs of addiction in yourself, the first step is to treat it seriously and seek professional care. Have an honest conversation about how substances may be impacting your or your loved one's life. Remind yourself or your loved one that they're not alone, and support is available. Consider speaking with an addiction counselor or getting started with a rehabilitation program.

If you're ready to start the path to healing and sobriety, help is available to you and your loved one. You can learn more about substance abuse, treatment, and recovery by exploring the extensive resources provided by Ark Behavioral Health addiction treatment specialists.