Demi Lovato Calls Herself 'California Sober' — Here's What That Means

Demi Lovato’s “California sober” lifestyle isn’t sobriety at all, according to Ken Seeley, an interventionist and trauma professional. After the 28-year-old singer revealed that she’s not completely sober following her 2018 overdose, she used the term “California sober” to describe her current lifestyle.

Lovato first shared that she’s not fully sober on her YouTube docuseries, Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,  revealing that she’s “been smoking weed and drinking in moderation.” 

“I’ve learned that it doesn’t work for me to say that I’m never going to do this again. I know I’m done with the stuff that’s going to kill me, right?” she said in the docuseries. “Telling myself that I can never have a drink or smoke marijuana, I feel like that’s setting myself up for failure because I am such a black-and-white thinker. I had it drilled into my head for so many years that one drink was equivalent to a crack pipe.”

For Seeley, though, who considers the term “California sober” to mean using drugs or alcohol “in moderation,” anything short of complete abstinence cannot and should not be considered sobriety. 

“You might not do heroin, but you may smoke pot. But the reality here [is that there] is no moderation for people that suffer with addiction,” he told ET. “… You can’t just turn it off.”

Seeley, who’s been sober himself for 31 years, takes offense to the term itself, too.

“I think the term ‘California sober’ is quite disrespectful to the sober community,” he said. “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.”

Seeley thinks “making up” the term “California sober” is not only inappropriate, but also dangerous.

“It could kill millions of people by letting them know that it’s OK to use in moderation… To tell people that they could be sober and use in moderation is almost criminal, because I guarantee you if that takes off, people will die thinking that they’re California sober when there is no such term. There is no such thing,” he said, adding that continued use of alcohol and marijuana is “nowhere near sober.”

“If I got sober in today’s world and you told me I could use in moderation and that’s considered being sober, then of course I’m going to pick that one,” he said. “Then there’s going to be that one time I don’t use moderation and I overdose and die, just like she almost did.”

While discussing her “California sober” lifestyle in both her docuseries and in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Lovato did dissuade others from following her sobriety journey themselves.

“I also don’t want people to hear that and think that they can go out and try having a drink or smoking a joint, you know?” Lovato said in the docuseries. “Because it isn’t for everybody. Recovery isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You shouldn’t be forced to get sober if you’re not ready. You shouldn’t get sober for other people. You have to do it for yourself.”

“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 added on CBS Sunday Morning. “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.”

Seeley, though, didn’t think those statements “were enough.”

“I think she has an amazing platform to help people really understand the disease and that major platform that she’s standing on is also going to lead people to thinking they can moderate their using,” he said. “… The platform that she was given in this life, she needs to take responsibility for that and call it something else… whatever she wants to call it, but it’s not sobriety. It’s not sober and it’s so upsetting.”

Lovato’s current lifestyle, Seeley reiterated, is not “recovery” or ” sobriety” by their standard definitions. 

“Everybody in our community agrees with me that sober is some form of abstinence. If it’s not prescribed by a doctor, then it’s not to be taken,” Seeley said. “… If you’re gonna drink and use in moderation, that is not sobriety, that is using. That’s moderation, and that’s what it needs to be called.”

“… I was clear and precise on what sobriety was, [and] I’m alive and breathing today,” he added. “If it wasn’t precise and you left it up to me, I am telling you, I would’ve went off and running with that.”

Seeley fears that Lovato could do just that, and that her current lifestyle could be “a really slippery slope for her.”

“She is so beautiful and talented and has so much to give to this world, and I hate to see another celebrity get vanished and taken away from all of us because they think they’re in control,” he said. “I would hate to see that happen again, so I’m praying that she gives back the control to somebody that could really help her.”

As for what Seeley would recommend if he was treating Lovato, he said he’d remind the singer that “there is hope out there and there is hope and happiness with sobriety.”

“There’s a way to get there, but it’s really difficult. It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of dedication to really understanding the traumas that make us self-medicate with these drugs that bring you unhappiness,” he said. “If you want to work on that, I could show you the way that I’ve been working on for 31 years. I could show you the way millions of other people are getting there, but don’t take the bull by the horn and start controlling your own recovery.”

“You know in your heart where this is gonna end,” he added. “You know it’s not gonna end well.”

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