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Demi Lovato Shouldn’t Be Shamed for Their Addiction Recovery Process

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Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Reality star Lala Kent recently spoke out against Demi Lovato’s description of their sober lifestyle as “California Sober” because she found the term offensive. Lovato chose to describe their sober lifestyle in this manner because they still partake in marijuana and alcohol in moderation. The term “California Sober” historically has been used to define a sober lifestyle where individuals abstain from all substances except for marijuana, but each person differs in how they define their “California Sober” lifestyle. Kent, who chose to pursue sobriety in 2018, claims that the term “California Sober” is offensive to those who choose sobriety and abstain from all substances. It is because of her experience with sobriety that she claims Lovato doesn’t have the right to say they are sober because they still use certain substances. While Kent’s opinion is valid and I definitely see where she is coming from, her critique of Lovato’s recovery process is shaming, invalidating and appears to offer that sobriety is a contest of “perfection” and “purity.”

As having chosen sobriety myself, I found Kent’s opinion of Lovato’s choice of recovery to be demonizing and unnecessarily critical. While traditionally, the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program requires that individuals abstain from all substances so that they can practice mindfulness and stay in reality, this treatment modality is not the only treatment for addiction available. Like many forms of mental health care, treatments and ideologies for sobriety are constantly evolving. Recovery from substance abuse is an extremely personal choice and path, and over the years we have learned that recovery works in diverse ways for different people. There is not one treatment of sobriety that is 100% effective for everyone, and ultimately, sobriety and recovery look different for each individual. The most important thing to keep in mind is that recovery is designed to help individuals participate in their lives and relationships with others to the extent that they deem is healthy for them. Kent’s words suggest that there should be specific rules for living in sobriety, but this is simply ineffective and inaccurate of today’s addiction recovery methods. Choosing sobriety is such an important choice for someone to make, and there is nothing wrong with defining your recovery and sobriety in your own way. No one should shame anyone for how they are taking care of themselves, and if allowing themselves marijuana and alcohol allows Lovato to stay more committed to abstaining from other substances, then I admire them for connecting with themselves and listening to what they need in recovery.

My sobriety and my recovery are my personal choices, and no one can tell me that what I am doing is wrong because I know what my body, mind and soul need. We often hold ourselves to such exacting standards of what we think is expected of us, that we can sometimes become judgmental of others because we are so hard on ourselves. It is just important to remember that we need to be kind to ourselves, because recovery of any kind is difficult and life-changing, and we all deserve grace.

I appreciate Lovato’s truthfulness with what sobriety looks like for them because they have opened up the conversation on sobriety and made those of us in recovery think about how we define sobriety for ourselves. But Lovato has also helped us to take a look at ourselves and any judgments we might hold against others who struggle with substance abuse.  Neither Kent nor Lovato can dictate how recovery should be viewed for everyone, and nor can anyone else. The diverse pathways of recovery are what make sobriety possible, and no matter how you choose to follow your sobriety, know that your choice is valid, and it is malleable and can change throughout your journey. Your recovery is yours alone, and no one can take that from you.

Image via YouTube/Billboard

Originally published: July 28, 2021
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