Demi Lovato's Definition of "California Sober" Is Controversial (EXCLUSIVE)

Demi Lovato referred to herself as "California sober" in her docuseries 'Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,' but what does the term mean?

Chrissy Bobic - Author

Mar. 24 2021, Updated 1:01 p.m. ET

Demi Lovato
Source: Getty

In the YouTube docuseries Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil, Demi Lovato explains her road to what she deems is her recovery from drug use and addiction. She's candid with viewers about her struggles and triumphs, and fans have responded mostly positively to the series in the wake of Demi's 2018 overdose. 

But one big takeaway for many is the use of the term "California sober" in the docuseries, and what it actually translates to for someone in active recovery.

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What does "California sober" mean?

In her docuseries, Demi explains that she is no longer actively using opiates and the harder drugs she once employed as an addict, but uses the term "California sober" to describe her lifestyle of not totally having kicked every addictive habit. Distractify spoke with Patrick Cronin, addiction specialist with Ark Behavioral Health, about the actual meaning of the term when broken down.

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"'California sober' is a lifestyle trend where people abstain from using alcohol and hard drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, but continue to use marijuana and other psychedelic substances, like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD," he explained.

During her worst moments, Demi had experimented with meth, ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, and oxycodone. While she may no longer be using some of the harder drugs, being "California sober" means she hasn't nixed everything completely.

Being "California sober" could mean more risk for relapsing.

Patrick Cronin also explained that the particular lifestyle that Demi is open about in her docuseries could have lasting negative repercussions on her overall sobriety. While Demi appears to think this is the happy medium she needs in order to more realistically manage her addictions, Patrick shared that living the lifestyle of being "California sober" could lead to more relapses than recovery.

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He explained that, to some, living this particular lifestyle means those in recovery have already relapsed. But being "California sober" increases the possibility of someone relapsing with the drug they have cut out, so, Patrick said, "they absolutely are risking relapsing on their drug of choice."

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Those in recovery may not embrace this lifestyle.

While Demi might consider herself to be in recovery and, according to Patrick, "it's her right" to feel that way, others who are in recovery may not accept being "California sober" as a way to handle addiction. He also shared that most people who are in drug addiction recovery are not living the lifestyle Demi explains in her docuseries.

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"I think everyone in the recovery community would have different opinions, because judgement isn't what we strive for," he said. "With that being said, it would be more frowned upon than accepted for sure. It would be considered highly dangerous and a trend we wouldn't suggest because of possible fatal consequences."

What drugs does Demi Lovato still use?

Demi reveals in her docuseries that she has been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in moderation and that, for her, giving everything up would be like setting herself up "for failure."

For Demi, living a "California sober" lifestyle means finding a middle ground that works for her. But if you ask addiction specialists, they are more than likely to dissuade others from employing the same tactic.

If you or someone you know needs help, use SAMHSA's Behavioral Health Treatment ServicesLocator to find support for mental health and substance use disorders in your area:, or call 1-800-662-4357 for 24-hour assistance.

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