California Sober: Just Rationalizing a Marijuana Loophole?

I like California. I like sobriety. Shouldn’t I like being California Sober?

First, history. I smoked a lot of weed back in the day. Between 1997 and 2002, it was a daily occurrence, sometimes more than once a day…usually more. I recognized that I used not just for getting recreationally stupid, as many of my friends did. Truthfully, I smoked less than most of them (who spent $80-$100 a week on marijuana) because I attained the high I was after once my mind didn’t feel so cluttered.

I think I smoked because of then-as-of-yet-undiagnosed bipolar disorder. That wouldn’t come until 2004, but when I was diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder” in 2002 and given a medication to take, my marijuana use dropped to nothing, literally in a week. I still drank like a fish, but I didn’t smoke anymore.

Over the next two decades, I smoked marijuana twice. Once around 2005 just because I didn’t want to look lame when a famous photographer offered it to me and then again in 2010 because I’d just bought a painting from an artist and again, I wanted to look cool. Despite the porn and alcohol addictions, marijuana was never my thing after proper medication arrived.

California Sober, as defined by the girl from Sunny with a Chance

California Sober is a relatively new term brought to the mainstream in the last few months by entertainer Demi Lovato. She was on a Disney show as a kid and has had some level of success transferring over to the grown-up music world, but she’s not quite at the level of former teen idols Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande. Lovato has been explaining California Sober – also the name of her most recent single – to the media. I actually think the Urban Dictionary has the best explanation:

California Sober is defined as a form of Harm Reduction that excludes the use of all drugs including alcohol and only utilizing Marijuana in Moderation.

Based on Demi Lovato’s recent Documentary, “Dancing with the Devil”, and her interview in ENTERTAINMENT, the phrase California Sober received significant backlash from the Addiction Recovery community, because Demi Lovato mentioned that she uses both Weed and Alcohol in moderation and labeled this activity as being California Sober.

There is a general consensus that Alcohol is not recommended as a form of Harm Reduction.

Urban Dictionary

The Libertarian Take on California Sober

So, if you’re California Sober, you’re only smoking weed and, depending on the person, maybe or maybe not drinking. Does this really fly? Despite being someone who can’t drink, I still don’t think I’m the one who should tell you that you shouldn’t be allowed to drink. I can’t, but I see people every day who can. Some of them may be former addicts. Does it matter what their previous vices are?

A lot of data says that somebody with one addiction is much more likely to develop another, often at the same time. That was me. Twenty-four years of porn and Twenty-two years of alcoholism is my history. But I can gamble just fine. I’ve turned down heroin and random prescription pills I couldn’t identify – and that was when I was both an active addict and a recovering one. Outside of traditional addictions, I don’t spend all my free time on a boat or doing extreme sports. I don’t eat to excess or starve myself. I’m not co-dependent nor do I binge-watch Netflix and while I was once a workaholic, I’m not anymore. I also never need my phone at the dinner table.

Should I never enter a casino or visit a buffet or watch another Netflix show in my life, I’ll be fine. I don’t think there will be a yearning. But, should I have to stay away from all of this stuff because up until seven years ago, I was drinking alcohol and looking at porn in unhealthy amounts?

My Mind is Like a Crowded Mall With Too Much Happening

I’ve never been a good sleeper and I think part of the reason that I turned to marijuana when I was young was to keep me asleep. My bipolar disorder has always run to the manic, so marijuana not only calmed the mind chatter down, it was also there at 3:30 a.m. if I was having a panic attack. Once put on the proper pills, I never needed it again for that purpose, until recently.

About 13 or 14 months ago, I wrote here about trying a marijuana edible for the first time. It was not an enjoyable experience. It also wasn’t the two other times I tried in the following month. There was no calming, relaxing effect. It made me plunge into the depths of self-loathing and fear, alternating with having to hold onto the ground so I wouldn’t go flying off the earth as it rotated.

The one thing it did help with the final time was my sleep. Imagine getting a song stuck in your head. Now imagine getting three stuck at the same time. On top of that, add all of your fears and insecurities screaming at you, plus turn up the imposter syndrome to 11. That’s been, on average, probably three nights of my sleep for the last seven years.

They’ve shuffled my meds around to try to account for these three bad nights, but it either hasn’t touched them, or it’s given me such negative side effects that any gains were not worth it. Sedatives and sleeping pills make me groggy for about 18 hours, so while I may sleep, I don’t really wake up until 4 the next afternoon.

Hmm… This is Starting to Sound Like How I Do Things

It’s got to be nearing 10 years since Maine started allowing people to purchase medical marijuana. The circumstances of how I tried an edible last year is that my wife and I got our ID cards when her doctor wanted her to see if it would help with some of the pain she gets as a result of a previous medical procedure. The courtesy was extended to me as well because the doctor knew my history with anxiety and sleep.

So, for about a year now, I have averaged smoking 2-3 drags of a pre-rolled joint nearly every night. It usually takes me about 8-10 days to go through one joint, a speed that I would have laughed at when I was 22 and could rip through two joints in a day.

The results have been positive. That small amount of THC helps calm me down prior to sleep and while it doesn’t put me to bed earlier, when I do get tired, I don’t spend a lot of time trying to fall asleep and thankfully, I stay asleep. I don’t have lucid dreams because I barely dream. I believe it’s also reduced my naps because while I don’t sleep longer hours, my sleep is of such a higher quality. Most importantly, no grogginess the next day.

For me, a small amount of marijuana around 11 p.m. usually ensures I’m in bed around 1:30 a.m. and when I get up at 6:30 a.m., I’m ready for the day.

Thanks for Labeling Me, Demi Lovato

So am I California Sober? I guess so. But I still do take three other meds every night. One is for my heartburn, and two are for the bipolar. I’ve not read if California Sober doesn’t count prescription meds or not.

There’s only three ways I’d denounce California Sober. First, is if there is a legit addiction to marijuana. That exists and usually the first people to deny it are the ones who are the most addicted. General rule to life: He who protests the loudest usually offends the worst.

Second, if you’re the type of addict/former addict who gets easily addicted to other things. I have not proven to be that kind. Still, I wouldn’t have done this my first few years after rehab to make sure that it wasn’t just a switch of addictions. The last year has proven to me I’m not getting addicted. I do however, understand why the Recovery Community doesn’t like this concept. Marijuana will be the one-way ticket back to addiction for some.

Finally, there’s one big reason I’d tell somebody not to be California Sober: If it’s illegal. Here in Maine, along with our liberal medical marijuana laws, we now allow recreational marijuana purchase and use. Yes, along with that person who needs it medicinally, you can just walk into most dispensaries and buy weed without “a doctor’s note.” It’s just like buying alcohol.

I know most states are not as liberal as Maine when it comes to marijuana. Politically, we’re a purple state, but when it comes to weed, we’re all green.

Just Don’t Become Cheech & Chong

I think if you can avoid smoking marijuana you should. But I also think if you can avoid prescription medication you should. I just can’t. My chemicals, through either inherited DNA or my own self-abuse, have left me in a spot where I need my daily prescription meds. They make my life better and more manageable. Now, the marijuana does, too.

As with everything, I think education is the key. I know more about weed now than I ever did. I’ve learned how it’s cultivated, how different strains are created and the intended results of those strains. Yes, I know that there are people who just use to blow their minds out and avoid their unresolved trauma. But here, that’s totally legal.

Between my personal experience, my libertarian views and the evolution of the law, I don’t have any trouble with the concept of California Sober. Does it make me a hypocrite? Maybe, maybe not. Just be careful.

Lead Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

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