The Danger of Semi-Sober Trends

Semi-sober trends like #CaliSober and #SoberLite can be detrimental to people who have a history of addiction.

Semi-sober trends like #CaliSober and #SoberLite may be something you’re familiar with if you follow celebrity influencers on social media. Although these trends may seem like positive wellness trends, the messages they carry can be dangerous and detrimental to people who are highly susceptible to addiction.

Some celebrities and social media influencers have endorsed semi-sober lifestyles as something that works well for them. By affirming these trends, they are encouraging others to do the same due to their influence. They promise that these permissive lifestyles, which promise a life of  “controlled” substance abuse, are the key to having balance and fun in recovery. In reality, this unstable balance of controlled drug use isn’t possible for those who struggle with addiction. It has the potential to completely derail a truly sober lifestyle.

Related post: The Slippery Slope of Casual Drinking In Recovery

To help you understand the real danger of semi-sober trends, let’s take a quick look at some of these trends making their rounds on social media:


The #CaliSober or California Sober approach permits people to use certain drugs in moderation. People who adopt this lifestyle claim that their relationship with drugs is a balanced and positive one. They say it improves their life, rather than damaging their mental and physical health. For example, following a near-fatal opioid overdose in 2018, Demi Lovato embraced being California Sober in an CBS Sunday Morning interview in 2021. They said they were mostly sober, but used a bit of cannabis and drank alcohol.1 However, since then, they have revoked their support of the California Sober lifestyle, saying instead that “Sober Sober” is the only way to be.2


Similar to the #CaliSober trend, #SoberLite permits the use of alcohol, but no hard drugs. People who endorse this lifestyle, like singer The Weeknd, view it as being a more achievable version of sobriety.3 In essence, it allows people to define what “sobriety” really means to them instead of adopting full abstinence from all drugs and alcohol.


People who adopt the #SoberCurious approach say they don’t need to exclude drugs and alcohol from their lifestyle because they’re not addicted. Instead, they do it because they’re curious to know what it’s like to live a life without the influence of any mind-altering or addictive substances. For example, people who endorse this semi-sober trend might participate in Sober October or Dry January.

A truly sober lifestyle

These semi-sober trends are all about embracing a “spectrum of sobriety.” However, that directly opposes the practice of being fully abstinence from addictive drugs and alcohol. The problem with being semi-sober is that it embraces a mindset that says the occasional use of drugs and alcohol is maintainable. In reality, that’s not possible for many people.

In reality, substance use disorder and addiction are serious conditions that affect millions of Americans every year.4 And addiction is something that doesn’t just go away. There’s no “cure” and it will require consistent, conscious effort to stay sober. For many individuals, the moderation and risk management methods aren’t a viable option. Even just using a small amount of cannabis or having one drink could cause a relapse back into full addiction.

A truly sober lifestyle is one in which you practice complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It requires an unwavering commitment to sobriety and it’s not a trend like #SoberCurious or #SoberLite. Instead, it’s a lifelong commitment to change and recovery, and for many people, it’s a completely transforming way to live.

The problem with being semi-sober is that it embraces a mindset that says the occasional use of drugs and alcohol is maintainable. In reality, that’s not possible for many people.

For someone who uses substances occasionally but does not have a substance use disorder, consciously following semi-sober trends might work well for them. In these cases, cutting back is a healthy choice. However, for a person with a history of substance abuse and addiction, these semi-sober trends are truly dangerous and can result in full relapse.

For example, one review of 13 studies published in the journal Addiction found that any alcohol use following treatment for drug use increased a person’s likelihood of relapsing.5 Not to mention, drinking alcohol minimally or using marijuana recreationally can lower your inhibitions. That may make it less likely that you’ll say no to harder drugs if they’re easily available. For those recovering from addiction, practicing moderation or devoting yourself to sober trends like #CaliSober are slippery slopes. They have the potential to derail your sobriety and send you right back into a life of addiction.

Although moderation has gained a lot of attention recently, reliable research studies show addiction can change the brain permanently.6 So for people with a history of substance abuse and addiction, using any amount of drugs or alcohol can trigger certain brain circuits that may make it very difficult to stop after just one drink or one toke of cannabis.

Related post: Is Abstinence From Addictive Substances Necessary In Recovery?

Maintaining real, lasting sobriety is possible

Maybe you’re struggling to stay sober. Semi-sober trends might be attractive because they seem more attainable. There’s no shame in struggling to maintain your sobriety. But jumping on the bandwagon of one of these trends is likely to do more harm than good.

At Eudaimonia Recovery Homes, we know the struggle of trying to maintain sobriety and we provide essential recovery support services and sober homes to help you achieve lifelong recovery. We offer sober living Austin, Houston, and Colorado Springs where you can feel safe and supported through every step of your recovery journey. Our recovery support services include a Peer Recovery Support Specialist (PRSS) program, three-phase individualized recovery program, Support Employment Volunteering (SEV) program, and regular drug testing to keep you accountable.

If you or a loved one needs help to stay sober, you’ve come to the right place. Please contact us online or call (512) 580-3131 to learn more about our sober living homes, IOP, and recovery programming.


  1. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/demi-lovato-on-life-after-surviving-overdose-i-had-to-essentially-die-to-wake-up/ 
  2. https://www.everydayhealth.com/addiction/demi-lovato-is-california-sober-what-does-it-mean-and-is-it-safe/ 
  3. https://www.bustle.com/wellness/sober-lite-meaning-the-weeknd-drinking  
  4. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35325/NSDUHFFRPDFWHTMLFiles2020/2020NSDUHFFR1PDFW102121.pdf 
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23075415/
  6. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain 

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