Exploring Cali Sober: A New Approach to Sobriety

Delve into the concept of “Cali Sober” and how cannabis and plant medicine can redefine your relationship with sobriety. Discover the origin of the term, ways to reduce alcohol intake with plant medicine, modern definitions of sobriety, and why more women are adopting this lifestyle.

What is Cali Sober? Part 1

In our substance-soaked world, how does one approach sobriety successfully? From abstaining from individual drugs to going cold turkey on the whole bunch, there’s no shortage of options for crafting your relationship to these potent substances. But have you considered going Cali Sober?
After listening to this episode you will have a better understanding of…

  • The woman who coined the term Cali Sober
  • How to use cannabis and other plant medicine to decrease intake of alcohol
  • The broad range of how modern sobriety is being defined
  • Why women are adopting a Cali Sober lifestyle

Episode Guests

Michelle Lhooq | @michellelhooq

Episode Resources & Additional Reading

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Podcast Episode Full Transcription

0:00:00.4 April Pride: This podcast discusses cannabis, and is intended for audiences 21 and over.

0:00:10.2 Michelle Lhooq, Rave New World: So I decided to go on a… I called it an experimental drug diet for a year, where I decided to cut out all substances, including alcohol for a year, except for cannabis and psychedelics, just to see what it would do.

0:00:30.1 April Pride: Welcome to the High Guide, I’m your host April Pride. Sobriety can be defined in a variety of ways, for many people, the words I’m sober are speaking to their abstinence from alcohol, but similar to how the phrase, “I don’t drink anymore” doesn’t mean you don’t consume liquids in general, sobriety and the substances with which you abstain from or choose to consume is an increasingly subjective space. And being Cali sober, which is also our glossary term for this episode, is yet another approach to managing our relationships to substances, and perhaps a drug diet you should familiarize yourself with. In today’s episode of the High Guide, we talk to Michelle Lhooq, a journalist who coined the term Cali sober, and as a pioneer driving the Cali sober lifestyle into the public vernacular. When her article for Vice went viral, the new age approach to sobriety officially struck a vein in the public consciousness.

0:01:27.2 Michelle Lhooq, Rave New World: So I guess my story begins in New York where I was a music journalist covering nightlife and music festivals, and underground culture, dance music culture for many years, and I think that that background and experience allowed me to become very familiar with a wide range of substances, which are used in these spaces, in very experimental and community-oriented ways. Of course, there’s also the dark side of addiction and substance dependence that also was a very real experience for me to witness first-hand, but I’m grateful, I’m grateful for the opportunity to understand drug culture in this very immediate way, starting from a young age and seeing all sides of it. So this experience allowed me to start my transition into becoming very interested in cannabis professionally. So in 2018, I left my job in New York and moved to California to witness the legalization of cannabis, that was obviously the year that it kicked in. And as I adopted a more California-oriented lifestyle, I realized that the substances that I had become pretty dependent on in New York to live this extremely high-functioning, fast-paced, productivity-oriented lifestyle, which was fueled a lot by amphetamines really, and then downers to come off of them, or just always kind of being on this cocktail of drugs that helped me to keep functioning at this extremely high level of alertness at all times.

0:03:28.7 Michelle Lhooq, Rave New World: I was working 12 hours and then partying until 4:00 in the morning, and that was my job, but once I came to California, I started diving really into the cannabis world, in the psychedelics world, and it opened my mind to a different way of living, so it became very clear to me that my body’s rhythms were out of sync with the California lifestyle, I felt like I was on a different timeline almost, where I was just moving too fast, I was being a speed freak. I was like, “Actually, I want to be tripping out in the desert and more connected to my body.” I decided to cut out all substances, including alcohol for a year, except for cannabis and psychedelics, just to see what it would do, and I call this drug diet, California sober. And I basically started using that term when I went out to parties especially, and people would be confused when I declined a drink or a line of coke because I told them that I was sober, but then I was still smoking weed. And so I started saying California as a joke, like, “Oh, I’m Cali sober.” And I was so new to California that I didn’t even know that people didn’t say Cali in California.

0:04:55.3 April Pride: Oh Cali, yes the term signals an out of stater for sure. But for those of us not born and raised in the great State of California, but may have spent years of our life there, we appreciate your patience with our neophyte choice of words, whether you call it California or Cali, until recently, neither name was often associated with sober.

0:05:16.9 Michelle Lhooq, Rave New World: And then out of nowhere, this editor at Vice reached out to me, she wanted me to write about one habit that had transformed my life for a newsletter that Vice was doing. And so I wrote this essay very like a stream of consciousness. I think I wrote it on a plane while flying somewhere on an assignment, and I submitted it when I touched down. And it was so crazy to me how this essay went so viral, it hit the zeitgeist in a way that none of my writing over the last 10 years ever has, it just went so viral that within a couple weeks, it seemed like it was everywhere, and everybody was talking about Cali sober. I think one of the first mainstream publications to write about it was New York Magazine and The Cut, and then that kind of helped to catapult it towards the Goop Land, and a lot of cannabis brands started picking it up, and I just started seeing it everywhere.

0:06:22.5 Michelle Lhooq, Rave New World: And like I told you April, I think I was a little bit hesitant to claim credit for it in the beginning, and I think that naming something that’s already kind of bubbling up in the culture helps to solidify it as like, “Oh, this is a thing that’s really happening.” But I didn’t wanna be egotistical and be like, “Hey, I’m the one who started this,” but only later, I think now, seeing how many brands are using it and how many people are talking about it in the discourse, I think that I realized also, thanks to all of the Black Lives Matter and the Asian-American solidarity that’s happening, that it is important for me as a woman of color, to speak up about the fact that I helped to kind of name this based on my own experiences, because it’s important for people to understand that Asian women can talk about drugs and can talk about addiction, which is not really a role that a lot of Asian women feel comfortable talking about. As model minorities, we’re often told that doing drugs, and being a party girl is just bad. These roles are often stigmatized. So now I’m starting to step up a little bit and be like, “Yeah, no, this was me.”

0:07:45.6 April Pride: Well, we can definitely thank Michelle for bringing Cali sober into the mainstream conversation. From her use of the term Cali to her openly shared stories, the authenticity is evident and quite moving to read. This essay that Michelle wrote for Vice, there’s so many great nuggets here, but I just wanna read a few things. One, when she talked… When you talked about moving from New York to California and needing to slow down, I just talked to someone who got stuck in California for three months during the pandemic, and she was supposed to be flying home to New York and just got stuck in California, and she said she was coming out of her skin, she just can’t move that slowly. And she said that she consumed a lot of weed while she was stuck there in the sunshine state. And this is how you describe going from Adderall filled days and nights, etcetera, to yeah, being near Joshua Tree and just looking at palm trees with a great sunset and being totally happy with that.

0:08:48.2 April Pride: You say here, “The physi-adrenaline of uppers do not allow you to appreciate the slow wash of sunlight on your skin. When you’re strung out every inhalation triggers a craving for a cigarette instead of fresh air, every minute is so pregnant with possibilities for more spikes of manufactured pleasure that even an idle second is torture and an hour-long car ride becomes hell. And so the sublime natural beauty and slower rhythms of my new city it can encourage me to a radical way of living.” And that is what makes me emotional to read it because yeah, I… Definitely substances are something that I… I don’t know if struggle’s the right word, I’m very conflicted about my consumption of alcohol for the most part, which is almost non-existent, except for I did go out with Carl last night, we did have some… We broke our seal for quarantine, we went out and had some tequila, it was really good. Can you talk a little bit about the transition from any and everything that someone would hand you both day and night to really… I don’t know if focus is the right word, but to sticking to psychedelics.

0:09:59.3 Michelle Lhooq, Rave New World: To me, it was important to include psychedelics in the conversation. I think it’s really interesting how as Cali sober has become more and more popular and discussed in the mainstream conversation that psychedelics are sometimes left out because people are still kind of wary and maybe feel like they’re too edgy. No, it’s so much like, “Oh, Cali sober equals weed.” But to me, it’s really important that we include psychedelics in that framework. However, I do think that Cali sober is one lifestyle, it’s one drug diet, it’s like any kind of diet where there are many, many different ways towards enlightenment or towards having a sustainable relationship with the substances that you consume. And I think that I’ve seen California sober defined differently by other people. So Demi Lovato defined it as drinking and smoking weed in moderation, so she actually includes alcohol in her definition of California sober. I didn’t, because I had basically come up with this term based on my observations of the California lifestyle at parties that I was going to, which was cannabis parties, and I noticed that a lot of people weren’t drinking. But I’m really open to other people taking this term and playing with it.

0:11:41.5 April Pride: We hope you enjoyed this introduction into the origins of being Cali sober, and if you’re curious to play around with this new age drug diet as a lifestyle, tune in next week where we take a deeper dive with our high guides for some best practices and fresh perspectives on the ever-changing world of sobriety. And definitely check out Michelle’s sub-stack Rave New World. I started subscribing earlier this year, and it definitely got me excited to get out into the world under the influence of potent plants. Thanks for listening to this episode of The High Guide, and join me April Pride every Friday at 1 PM Pacific in Club House, where we cover all things A to Z regarding plant-based pleasures. We hope you found our discussion of Cali sober informative and encourage you to take a deeper dive into our glossary of terms on our website, thehigh.guide. Of course, you’ll find a new episode of The High Guide every Friday, subscribe and follow wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you’re looking to stay in closer contact, give us a follow on Instagram at thehigh.guide and subscribe to our newsletter again, on our website, thehigh.guide. This is April Pride. Thanks for joining me on The High Guide.

Episode Credits

Producer & Host: April Pride Audio Engineer: Nick Patri, Cloud Studios Theme music: Cheri Dub, Morris Johnson

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