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.
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.
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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.