**Trigger warning: this article references substance use and addiction.
The Weeknd has never kept his history of drug use a secret — and even if he had, most people would assume he’s probably dabbled simply because of the industry he’s in — and has even admitted to shoplifting in his youth in order to buy drugs. He has also previously stated that using illegal substances often helped his creative process and enabled him to open his mind.
Now 31, the award-winning singer has revealed that he is “sober lite” prompting scores of people to say “well that’s great Abel, but what the hell is that?”
“I like sober lite,” the performer, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, told GQ Magazine. “I’m not a heavy drinker as much as I used to be. The romance of drinking isn’t there.”
While admitting that he still uses cannabis, Tesfaye explained what propelled his decision to start living a cleaner life.
“Drugs were a crutch,” he said. “It was me thinking that I needed it. And not doing the work to figure out how not to need it. And I’ve spent the last few years realising that and thanking God that I don’t need it. Because for a lot of people, it’s hard to shake it. But I knew I didn’t want it.”
So what is “sober lite”, and is it just a cop-out from giving up vices altogether?
The terms “sober lite,” “sober curious” and “Cali sober” have all been catching on recently, as people start to examine their relationship with drugs and alcohol and the roles they play in their life.
You’ll likely have noticed that several liquor brands like Gordon’s Gin and Carlton now offer alcohol-free or 0% beverages while brands like Seedlip have been steadily gaining popularity.
Melbourne is now even home to alcohol-free bar Brunswick Aces, and I recently noticed a booze-free bottle shop open in my neighbourhood (admittedly, I was horrified at the time but am now coming around to the idea).
While “Cali sober” refers to people who don’t drink or do hard drugs but still use cannabis, and “sober curious” refers to people who intentionally question their relationship with alcohol on an ongoing basis and cut back where they can, “Sober Lite” falls somewhere on the spectrum of sobriety as more people find the traditional methods of abstinence don’t necessarily suit them.
The benefits of being sober lite — which involves drinking and using drugs like weed in moderation — include the fact that it feels so much more achievable than taking a hard stance on abstinence.
Think about it. How many times have you woken up from an absolute bender, head pounding, stomach churning, declaring you are “never drinking again”, only to find yourself back on the wines the following weekend as though the previous week’s hangover never happened?
There’s a reason why events such as Dry July carry so much appeal — not only do they raise money for a great cause, but they allow us to start with an achievable goal of one month of being teetotal with the option to go longer if we feel we are able. You are also safe in the knowledge that no one is going to judge you if you’ve got a drink in your hand come August 1, whereas you might get a few side-eyes if you’d previously announced you were quitting the grog forever.
While going sober lite can be a great way for some people to explore how and where it might be worth cutting back on certain substances and set sobriety goals for themselves in a less intimidating way, it is certainly not the right approach for everyone.
For people who have a history with addiction, the use of any drugs or alcohol after quitting could potentially trigger a relapse,
Dr Lawrence Weinstein, M.D., chief medical officer of American Addiction Centers, told Bustle, “For someone who might use substances on occasion, consciously making the choice to embark on a ‘sober lite’ lifestyle can certainly work for them.”
However, he cautions that “Many people in recovery abstain from anything and everything that can produce an intoxicated feeling” explaining that “addiction can change the brain permanently, and even after years of sobriety, even a small drink or drug hit can trigger those brain circuits again.”
Considering that Australia has long had a history of intense drinking culture, it might be difficult to imagine the sober lite trend taking off on our shores, but you’d be surprised.
“Australia is one of the top 10 countries globally leading the moderation trend, alongside Japan and South Africa, so even though we have a reputation of being heavy drinkers, it’s a stereotype that isn’t true for all Aussies,” said Brunswick Aces brand director Stuart Henshall.
With much of NSW currently in lockdown, it could be that, like in 2020, people are drinking more than usual to curb boredom and anxiety, making this a great time to consider taking a holistic look at your substance use habits and seeing where moderation might be needed.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to seek professional advice when tackling these types of things so, when in doubt, chat to your GP or therapist to figure out the best way forward for you.