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California Sober vs. Sober Curious: Which Is Better For You?

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Have you noticed a rise in “drink less” movements? More people than ever are finding ways to cut back on booze — and the options aren’t just limited to full-blown sobriety anymore. With new trends like “damp drinking” and “sober curiosity,” you can make major shifts in your drinking habits, without having to quit entirely.

upward angle shot of california palm trees
Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on Pexels

One rapidly growing movement is “California sober” (also known as “Cali sober”). But what does it entail, and could it work for you?

Read on for the facts on this new lifestyle trend, including what it means and how it compares to being sober curious.

What Is California Sober?

So, what is California sober? If you’ve heard of it, you might’ve noticed that it can take on many definitions. But as a whole, California sober’s meaning refers to an alcohol and substance-free lifestyle—except for marijuana. (Depending on who you ask, psychedelics may also fit under the “Cali sober” umbrella.)

Some people in this movement never enjoyed drinking much in the first place. Others have used cannabis to move away from booze. But since Cali sober has many meanings, those who still occasionally drink may also include themselves in the movement. In any case, the role of marijuana in this lifestyle makes it distinct from concepts like sober curiosity and mindful drinking.

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What Is Sober Curious?

Another movement worth exploring is known as sober curiosity—a growing trend full of people taking a closer look at their relationship with alcohol. They’re asking themselves, “Why do I drink? How could my health improve if I were sober? And how much drinking do I actually want in my life?”

Friends drinking beer together at bar
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Coined by author Ruby Warrington, this movement invites people to see the benefits of sobriety for themselves. By taking a break from drinking, they can have more energy, get better sleep, and gain insight that leads to lasting changes in their lives.

What’s the Difference Between Cali Sober and Sober Curious?

The main difference between being Cali sober vs. sober curious is cannabis (and sometimes, psychedelic) use. People who gravitate toward Cali sober are still interested in better well-being—and, of course, avoiding hangovers. But instead of having a daily drink, they may smoke or take a weed-infused edible to unwind.

Sober curiosity, on the other hand, is more focused on trying sobriety. This means seeing what it’s like to avoid alcohol entirely (while not using any other substances, either). 

All in all, sober curiosity is the healthier choice. But the moderation mindset of both may work as a “harm reduction” approach for those who want to cut back on their drinking.

Is Being “Cali Sober” Actually Healthy For You?

Cali sober is gaining popularity as a wellness trend, but that doesn’t necessarily mean marijuana use is a healthy habit. After all, smoking anything can take a toll on your lungs. Plus, we don’t have much long-term research on how cannabis can affect your body. And both marijuana and alcohol can be addictive—meaning it’s not always ideal for those with past substance abuse problems.1

That being said, we have a mountain of evidence on the adverse health effects of alcohol. And even though Cali sober isn’t better than sobriety (and more research is needed on marijuana’s long-term effects2), some people do feel that it helps them drink less. 

The Expanding “Cali Sober” Industry

With the rise of legal weed in the US, the Cali sober business is booming. One Forbes article even predicts this movement to be part of the next billion-dollar industry.3 And in California, it’s all about health and balance—meaning smoke shops, yoga studios, and all types of other businesses have been jumping on the trend.

friends smoking weed and drinking beer
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels

In some ways, the industry can offer new options for people looking to cut back on alcohol. On the other hand, those who can profit from the Cali sober movement may overstate its benefits. The problem is that it’s not always suited for everyone, and other alternatives are often healthier.

Health Risks of Marijuana and Psychedelics

Many people feel that marijuana and psychedelics are safe, with little-to-no side effects. However, they are mind-altering substances. And like anything in life, they don’t come without risk. 

Risks depend on usage—and of course, always check your local legality before trying anything. With that in mind, here are some potential cons of the Cali sober lifestyle:

  • Psychedelics and marijuana can bring on side effects like headaches, nausea, hallucinations, and more.
  • These substances can be habit-forming for those with a history of addiction—even if they don’t have the same effects as alcohol.
  • Cannabis use in the teenage years can have long-term effects on the brain.4
  • Cannabis can have negative side effects on the cardiovascular system.5

The Bottom Line: Moderating Your Substance Use

More people than ever are moving toward the “middle ground” of alcohol use, and Cali sober doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. And while it may not be the healthiest option, moderate substance use is far safer than heavy substance use. 

All in all, sober curiosity is the better movement for your well-being. But the best way to moderate your drinking? It all depends on you as an individual. Everyone has a unique past with alcohol, and some will have more comprehensive needs than others. 

If you want to cut back, it’s best to start with socially-supported options like:

  • Medications that can help you decrease cravings
  • Counseling to help you understand and rewire destructive habits
  • In and out-patient treatment options that use holistic approaches

And if you’re looking for more support, online programs can help. Ria Health is one option that offers anti-craving prescriptions, recovery coaching, and more—all from an app on your phone. You don’t have to identify as an alcoholic to join, and our team will work with you to build a program that fits your unique needs.

Learn more about how it works, or book a call today.

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Written By:
Alicia Schultz
Alicia is a Minnesota-based freelancer who writes for Ria Health and various other brands in the health and wellness space. Beyond addiction and recovery, she also covers topics relating to general well-being, mindfulness, fitness, mental health, and more. When she’s not writing, you can find her relaxing with her three-legged cat, trying new workout routines, and spending time with her loved ones.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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