Going Cali-Sober

Put down the Camels and pick up some Excellent Chocolate

There’s a method of going sober that is quietly growing in popularity . It’s a smidge underground because the concept itself is heretical to a lot of folks who take their own sobriety Very Seriously.

All the same it’s a great way for many individuals looking to get their life back into shape to rid themselves of what’s been killing them. And, in great honor of our Lord Harm Reduction, I’m going to tell you about it.

Please say hello to going Cali-Sober.

What’s That?

Going Cali-Sober is the act of getting fully rid of whatever has been killing you, cutting back on other activities that cause material harm to your body, and consuming small amounts of cannabis at your own discretion.

For an alcoholic, then, going cali-sober would mean zero booze, cutting back on smoking, and consuming small amounts of edibles when they wanted.

If you can stop drinking and smoking you’ve made enormous changes to your life that will improve its quality and extend its length. But, to many inside the Sober World, consuming cannabis in any quantity is antithetical to sobriety.

That’s silly to me. Let me explain.

Tell Me More

If you’re cutting something out of your life — alcohol, cocaine, whatever — you’re going to spend time around folks steeped in 12 Step ideology. They’re largely lovely people. Hell, most rehab facilities are based around 12 Step concepts. Mine was.

One tenet of 12 Step programs is that you must get rid of all things that change how you think; that you need to abstain from things that impact your mood or consciousness.

This is why some hardcore 12 Steppers are opposed to other sober folks taking antidepressants or other prescribed medicines. Happily that particular lunacy is fading.

But the general idea still holds sway. For example, lots of my friends who are 12 Stepping sober boozers would argue that any alcoholic who abstains completely from alcohol but consumes moderate amounts of cannabis isn’t sober. (It’s effectively canon.)

This regular plank of 12 Step wisdom, however, is porous. No old-school 12 Step advocate will tell a recovering alcoholic not to smoke cigarettes. Indeed, one of the best places in this planet to bum a smoke is still out front of any AA meeting. There are other exceptions as well. You can eat as much as you want if you are a sober alcoholic, according to conventional 12 Step wisdom. And coffee is literally a staple of AA-provided fare.

As you are already saying to yourself, nicotine, caffeine and food can change the way your brain works and feels. And each can be addictive. And yet these are allowed by AA folks while they shun cannabis.

What gives, you might ask. History, I think.

Back when the AA Big Book was written, smoking was far more popular (you can see the trend here). Cannabis, however, has a history of being viewed domestically through a racist lens. As NPR wrote in 2013, “it seems clear that much anti-cannabis animus had a racial dimension.” And AA was put together by a couple of white dudes in the late 1930s.

So it’s not a surprise that things that white dudes did — smoke, drink coffee, and eat — are given a free pass while cannabis isn’t.

To be clear, cannabis can be abused. It takes some serious effort, but you can pull it off. If you are consuming enough to impact your life, you probably need to give it up as well. But lots of folks enjoy small doses of the stuff while maintaining rigorous abstinence from what was killing them before they got sober.

Cali-sober, that is.

What I read this year, 2019 edition

Books are cool!

Sharing my 2019 books read list for fun. It’s here. (My 2018 list is here.)

A few favorites:

Keeping to my same reading goal for 2020 (one book per week, on average). Excited.

Going Back To TechCrunch

New job is (mostly) my old job.

I’m off to Boston on Monday to onboard with Verizon Media Group. As of next week I’m back with the TechCrunch crew. I’m stupid excited.

Expect more Equity with Kate Clark, some writing for the main blog, and, I’m hoping, a lot of stuff for Extra Crunch.

I’ll work full-time remote from Providence, but will be in and around San Francisco somewhat often.

That’s it! See you on Twitter!


I'm not doing my old job anymore as of right now.

Hey everyone, happy Friday.

Today was my last day at Crunchbase. I stepped down as Editor in Chief of Crunchbase News back in October but agreed to a period of transition to help the team find a new normal. That’s now complete.

My time at Crunchbase was one hell of an adventure. Willing a news organization into existence from nothing was wildly difficult, and far more so than I anticipated.

But it worked. Crunchbase News published thousands of pieces following its early 2017 launch. The publication earned the 24th spot on Techmeme’s presence leaderboard (ahead of Axios, Gizmodo, and The Information), broke news (like this), reached millions and millions of people, and, in October, my final full month writing for Crunchbase News, smashed its own records across every metric that publishers care about.

We also got linked to by effectively everyone we respect, and our work was frequently covered by other publications. The News team launched a podcast with friends that racked up millions of downloads (two, actually), produced and published a podcast at home, wrote endless columns, put together hundreds of newsletters (including a weekend missive that we made up), and partnered with Yahoo Finance, the San Francisco Chronicle, SmartNews, and TechCrunch.

In just over 1,000 days we got a hell of a lot done.

So why am I leaving? I stepped down because living in two places was hard before I got married in June and impossible after. During one particular run after the wedding I wound up in San Francisco for four out of five weeks.

More on what I’m doing next in a few weeks (I’m super, super excited). Now it’s time to fly to San Francisco (with Liza, this time) and move out of my apartment. Then, a week off and a new challenge directly following.

A big thanks to the News team: Sophia (for her crazy fast ramp on late-stage topics), Mary Ann (for her reporting prowess and kindness), Jason (for joining super-early and leading our data work), Jenna (for being a tremendous editor and leader), Natasha (for her reporting eye and excellent writing), Joanna (for rigorous reporting and rock-solid dependability), Li-Anne and Dom (for our art), and our former interns Celia (Celia is now a journalist at The Block), Grace, and Sav (who is now in law school).

And Holden. As News’s managing editor, he was indispensable in the professionalization of the team’s processes, tightening our writing and editing, and demanding that we level up. He’s one hell of a journalist and understands the fundamental value of the trade.

Finally, a big thank you to Crunchbase and the people who comprise the company. When I joined back in January of 2017 we hadn’t yet raised our Series B and were sharing office space with Engadget (Hello, Robbie!). Now thanks to the hard work of everyone at the company, Crunchbase is growing quickly and recently announced its Series C.

I’m proud of the Crunchbase News project. And I wound up being able to publish roughly 950 articles (around 570,000 words) while working with amazing people. It’s hard to beat that.


Saying Goodbye To Rich

A good man taken too soon.

I don’t have a copy editor for this personal blog. Please send all typos and corrections to chris.gates@techcrunch.com. Thanks! - A

This weekend Liza and I packed up the car and drove to upstate New York from our beloved Providence. It’s not the first time we’ve made the trip. In fact, it’s a route we know pretty well by now, having driven the same tracks to visit my brother Andrew and his family at West Point a few times.

Sunday’s trip wasn’t for something so joyful as that, however. We were driving to a wake.

Last week my family learned that a member of our extended tribe had passed away, abruptly, and surprisingly. Rich was suddenly no longer with us.

I loved him but didn’t tell him that enough before I couldn’t ever. So, a short note about someone good is the best I can do. Please take a walk with me.


Rich is hard to explain. He wasn’t closely related to me. In fact, he wasn’t related to me at all. He was the step-dad of my second-oldest sister’s husband. On paper that sounds tenuous, but it wasn’t. He was a treasured member of the growing group of humans that I’m lucky enough to call my family.

But none of that is why Rich was hard to explain. It was how he acted.

In life, Rich was what everyone claims a passed away loved-one was: kind, caring, patient, and focused on others. But instead of merely fitting those criteria when it came time to draw the curtain over his life, he was a model of regular compassion while he was still with us.

Let me try to explain. Rich was the sort of person who you’d turn around and find helping someone through a door. Or with their jacket. Or helping clean up. Or offering a kind word. Or talking to that person that no one was really excited to chat with, but needed an audience all the same. And he’d do it again, and again, and again.

The only time I can recall Rich ever making a negative comment was back in my early twenties. I was playing bartender for some party my parents were hosting. I had just learned how to mix drinks and was pretty proud of myself. Rich, a man who had a good taste in essentially everything, asked me to make him a drink. I did. He sipped it. “No,” he said.

He wasn’t wrong, looking back.

Rich’s pervasive gentleness and regular compassion made an impact on me. So much so that I used him in conversation as an example of someone I wanted to be like when I grew up.

And I only got him in my life for a decade or so.

I became acquainted with Rich when we first met my sister’s future in-laws in upstate New York, near where we’d circle back later to say goodbye too soon after that first hello. After that, we were in and out of each other’s lives during all that happens in families, weddings, births, arguments, holidays, stress, and good times.

He made it to Liza and my wedding just this June. The pictures from that event, up until now mere artifacts of joy, are now more than that; they mark my last moments with a very good human.

A private person, though. At the wake, a room full of people draped in the trappings of grief and rapid preparation, his two biological sons spoke. They said that their father had been a quiet man, someone who didn’t share his feelings overmuch. That was true.

The pair of fine humans (I got to meet one of them earlier that day, and somehow found myself without something to say for the first time in my life, tongue-tied by an event — death — that I don’t know well and honestly don’t want to better learn) said that they were thankful for the packed room. It helped them understand their father more, they relayed. Seeing all the gathered mourners “helped illuminate” him in “a much brighter light.”

If he was hard to get to know it’s because he didn’t talk about himself very much. This post is an attempt at doing that for him.

I wish I had told him all this when he was still coming ‘round but I can’t. So I’m telling you.


P.S. I just went back through our wedding photos. I could find just one that Rich is in. Here it is, with the man himself in the background:

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