Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil

Hit or miss?

Addiction specialist reveals what he thinks about someone being ‘California Sober’

Moderated path to recovery instead of absolute abstinence

In July 2018, Demi Lovato made headlines after a drug overdose that almost took her life. Years later, the award-winning singer and actress opened up in her most recent documentary, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil, available on YouTube.

During the four-part piece, Lovato walked us through her drug abuse journey and shared details regarding the days before her overdose, what really happened that scary night and her path to recovery. The 28-year-old pop star also revealed that she had organ failures, three strokes, and a heart attack, and her condition was so critical that the first 24 hours after overdosing, doctors waited to see if she would survive.

Demi Lovato 'Dancing With the Devil.'©YouTube
Demi Lovato

However, after going through this life-threatening experience, Lovato relapsed and now considerers herself as “California Sober” and is choosing marijuana and occasional drinking as a moderated path to recovery instead of absolute abstinence.

But are there any issues with this type of lifestyle? According to Patrick Cronin, an addiction specialist with Ark Behavioral Health, which services families throughout the U.S on substance abuse, believes so. “Some definitions on the internet may vary slightly, but most refer to ‘California Sober’ as a lifestyle trend where people abstain from using hard drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine as well as alcohol, but continue to use marijuana and other psychedelic substances like psilocybin, mushrooms, and LSD,” Cronin explains to HOLA! USA.

Addiction specialist reveals what he thinks about someone being ‘California Sober’©Olesya Yemets on Unsplash
“‘California Sober’ as a lifestyle trend where people abstain from using hard drugs, but continue to use marijuana and other psychedelic substances.”

According to the expert being “California Sober” is not a recent trend. “It has been a lifestyle for some people pursuing recovery and also for people who are not or never been in recovery,” he said. “Celebrities are constantly in the public eye and are forced to give answers regarding their lifestyle most of the time. With that being said, ‘California Sober’ can be a way for people to label their substance abuse journey. For other individuals, it can truly be the beginning of a path towards recovery.”

Is this a practice that doctors or substance abuse experts recommend? Patrick Cronin thinks people should stay away from it. “From my experience, I could not recommend California Sober,” he said. “There is a difference between harm reduction and California Sober. California Sober appears not to indicate wanting to stop using. If someone is California Sober, they already have relapsed. I don’t see relapsing as just being about your substance of choice. A relapse is using any substance again,” he added.

Demi Lovato 'Dancing With the Devil.'©YouTube
The singer knows some of her fans might criticize her for choosing marijuana and occasional drinking as a moderated path to recovery instead of absolute abstinence. “They don’t have to love it. They don’t have to like it,” she told EW. “As long as they have a conversation about it and they learn something, then I feel like I’ve done my part.”

The expert also told HOLA! USA if addiction issues are on the rise due to the pandemic or if we hear about them more often on the news because of celebrities. “According to a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) survey, the pandemic has prompted at least 40 percent of Americans were dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues,” Cronin said. “The pandemic being a time of uncertainty has led to a growth in fear and grief which has eventually led many down a dark path of substance abuse, whether they are a celebrity or not. Dependence on opioids, other drugs, and alcohol often have gone hand-in-hand with mental health issues.”

The same way people struggle with additions, their families also struggle to navigate the situation and help them make better decisions. According to Cronin, although this is not an easy task, extending a helping hand with a successful result is possible. “Watching someone you love struggle with substance abuse is hard. It’s important to take care of yourself first and make sure you are in the right mindset to help,” he told HOLA! USA. “Also, do your research on how best to help — support groups, recovery centers, designated detox clinics, etc. Just as important is to remember always to show your loved one that you’re supportive in their recovery journey.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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