BY DIANA TSUI
Google dry January and you’ll get 375 million results. After two months of non-stop eating and drinking, restraint becomes virtuous and sexy. It says, smugly, look at me and my amazing willpower, refusing your offer of champagne. Too bad that level of self-control only works if you don’t plan on having a social life with friends who do drink. Plus, extremes tend to be unsustainable in the long term. And so comes the appealing concept of being California sober.
I learned about the term last year, but others like Vice’s Michelle Lhooq have written about it extensively. It means you’ve abandoned drinking in favor of cannabis (and in Lhooq’s case, also psychedelics). You’re not sober in the traditional sense, it’s wellness in moderation for people who require something to take the edge off everyday stresses. It was precisely what I needed after a huge life shakeup.
In November, I blew up my comfortable life — after living and working in New York City for 13 years, I quit and moved to Los Angeles to join MedMen. It was a major upheaval, and the stress wreaked havoc on my body. Most of December consisted of battling one nuclear-strength head cold after another. On top of that, at precisely 6 a.m. every morning my anxiety would crash over me, waking me up like a very annoying alarm clock. Everyone said it was a normal response to massive change but it sure didn’t feel good.
It wasn’t just a cross-country move and a new job that took a toll on my body. Living in New York, you act like a perpetual 20-something: work hard, play harder, and worry about it later. Early mornings bled into late, cocktail-fueled nights with no regard for healthy eating, normal sleep hours, and regular exercise. I thought I was fine, running on adrenaline, until it all caught up with me.
If East Coast life meant perpetual Peter Pan syndrome, moving to Los Angeles is owning up to being 30-something. Gone are the late night bar crawls and fried foods — it’s easier to wake up early, eat something green, and get my body moving. And living in a state with recreational cannabis meant that I could easily swap my nightly glass of wine for an edible. Instead of pinot noir, it was a Terra blueberry chocolate or half of a Wyld gummy.
Going Cali sober requires planning: I’ll pop an edible before I eat dinner and when it kicks in an hour later I’m full and ready to unwind. I learned that 5mg of THC was enough to chill me out without feeling as if I was glued to the couch. Socializing gets a little tricky but luckily this is a month where everyone’s in the mood to abstain. I cheated once and had some sake with friends while in Joshua Tree — hey, it’s moderation right?
It’s been almost two weeks (I started my resolution a little early) and I’m noticing changes both big and small. My weekday mornings are better — no more groggy, hangover mornings and fewer 6 a.m. anxiety attacks. On a whim, I decided to sign up and train for my first half marathon (Nike’s 13.1 in April!) I still plan on having a glass of wine every so often come February but it’s no longer the stress-relieving crutch it used to be. I like to believe that through this experiment my brain is slowly rewiring itself to be smarter, more focused, and resilient. And really, isn’t that what wellness should be?