What Is California Sober? Here’s What You Need to Know About This Hangover-Free Way to Have a Good Time

california sober cat

For many, more than a year of being cooped up inside has meant consuming more alcohol than ever before. Some folks, feeling burnt out from booze, are adopting a California Sober lifestyle, or forgoing drugs and alcohol (with a few exceptions). Read on to learn more about this buzzy (pun intended) trend.

What Is California Sober?

Though the term doesn’t appear in any official medical literature, California Sober typically describes a person who abstains from drugs and alcohol with a few exceptions. Because it’s not as rigid as straight sobriety, being California Sober means different things to different people. Most commonly, California Sober means abstaining from all substances but cannabis, though the definition sometimes includes psychedelics like LSD, ayahuasca and psilocybin. Still others, like Demi Lovato, choose to drink in moderation as well. The singer, who’s been extremely open about their struggles with addiction, recently told CBS Sunday Morning, “I think the term that I best identify with is ‘California Sober.’” Noting that they still drink and smoke weed in moderation, Lovato added, "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.”

Proponents of a California Sober lifestyle appreciate that it’s more nuanced than total sobriety, allowing for a healthier, more moderate relationship with substances. Still, California Sober isn’t without critics. Particularly in relation to addiction, some say that California Sober is a potentially dangerous trend. When Lovato described their current relationship with substances as leaning into moderation, Ken Seeley, a registered addiction specialist and founder of the Ken Seeley Communities in Palm Springs, California, told Entertainment Tonight, “I think the term ‘California sober’ is quite disrespectful to the sober community.” He continued, “I know a lot of people that work really hard to hold their abstinence and fight for their lives in recovery, and to bring up this new term, ‘California sober,’ is so inappropriate.”

It’s a Lifestyle Trend Reflective of the Times We’re Living In

Regardless of supporters or its critics, the timing seems right for a surge in people adopting California Sober lifestyles. As the pandemic winds down, a sizeable portion of those folks who found themselves drinking more than ever are turning to beverages with low alcohol contents or none at all. In fact, the IWSR (the leading source of data, analysis and insights on the global beverage alcohol market) predicts that sales of no/low alcoholic beverages will increase by 31 percent in volume by 2024. And these aren’t your run-of-the-mill O’Doul’s knock-offs: Brands like Kin EuphoricsOptimist Botanicals and Athletic Brewing Co. are combining inventive flavors with chic packaging to cater to the alcohol-free—or sober-curious—set.

Beyond that, the widespread legalization of cannabis is making it easier than ever to opt out of drinking. According to Politico, more than 40 percent of Americans live in places were weed is now legal. And, as more states decriminalize/legalize pot, tons of new weed-centric brands—like ALT liquid cannabisKin Slips THC sublingual strips and Kiva edibles—are launching and expanding. Does this mean we'll see a slowdown in the CBD craze as more potent cannabinoids become more widely legal and available? Only time—and Seth Rogen's this-makes-so-much-sense cannabis brand—will tell. (Reminder that cannabis criminalization has disproportionately targeted people of color; learn more about cannabis criminalization reform here.) 

Still, if you’re secure in your relationship with substances and looking to drink less while still partaking from time to time, California Sober could be worth a try.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...