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In the wake of her near-fatal heroin and fentanyl overdose in 2018, Demi Lovato has described her moderate drinking and cannabis use during addiction recovery as being “California sober.”
The 28-year-old pop star was asked to talk about her return to the limelight following almost a decade of struggle with addiction during an interview with Tracy Smith on “CBS Sunday Morning.”
Lovato has endured two highly publicized relapses and suffered “three strokes and a heart attack” during that time — details of which will be shared in her forthcoming YouTube documentary “Dancing With the Devil.”
Lovato also talked about her current stage of recovery, when CBS’s Smith asked her to elaborate on the “moderation” approach to recovery.
“So, you’re doing what they call moderation, I guess, right? So, you’re drinking, smoking a little bit of weed, is that fair to say?” Smith asked.
“Yeah. I think the term that I best identify with is ‘California sober,’ ” said Lovato, at her Los Angeles home with Smith last week. “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.”
She continued, “I am cautious to say that, just like I feel the complete abstinent method isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody, I don’t think that this journey of moderation is a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody, too.”
Yet some viewers were critical of the “California sober” tagline.
“No clue what the specifics of ‘California sober’ are, but I would be offended if I was from California and that was the label. cc:@CBSSunday,” tweeted one critic in response to the segment.
“@ddlovato I want to let you know you are not a role model for recovery from opiates. Your claim that you are ‘California Sober’ is an insult. A stroke. Brain damage. Blindness and hearing loss. And you still drink?! Such a waste of talent. #wedorecover,” added another.
While the textbook definition of “sober” implies a total lack of intoxicating substances, Lovato’s “California sober” is different — a little more loosely defined.
Also shortened to “Cali sober,” the tongue-in-cheek catchphrase was coined in 2016, according to one of the earliest definitions on UrbanDictionary.com: “To abstain from all drugs except marijuana and alcohol.”
A more measured explanation is offered by American Addiction Centers, referring to the Moderation Management approach, as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program, which emphasizes abstinence.
According to their definition, “MM accepts that alcohol can create problems in a person’s life, but instead of admitting to powerlessness over the substance, individuals are empowered to learn how to manage and control their drinking.”
Like Lovato, “many people may not identify with the label of alcoholic even though they have issues with alcohol and problems involving drinking,” the AAC suggests.
Data on the efficacy of moderation management is limited so far, though some research has indicated success “for at-risk or beginning-stage problem drinkers” — a stage of substance abuse that addicts such as Lovato have surpassed. A 2003 study found that 15% of participants in MM showed symptoms tantamount to clinical alcoholism. Moreover, 30% of those in MM have moved on to abstinence-based programs.
Regardless of the potential successes and pitfalls associated with MM, Lovato has strongly identified with the slogan — as indicated by the song “California Sober,” which appears on her upcoming album, “Dancing with the Devil … the Art of Starting Over,” set to drop on April 2.
She concluded during Sunday’s interview, “I feel so good. I feel more joy in my life than I’ve ever felt, because I’m not quieting or diminishing any part of myself.”
“Dancing with the Devil” premieres Tuesday on YouTube.
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