California Sober

Quitting drugs was easy. Dealing with the shit that comes after was hard.

This summer I threw myself to the whims of the rave gods and flew to Greece for a month in search of party paradise—an epic odyssey that found me shuffling to hardstyle in the mountains of Crete, and lolling around beaches like a stoned whale with SOPHIE and her girlfriend Tzef. On my last weekend, I ended up at a surreal afterparty at a loft overlooking the Parthenon with a guy I’d just met at a techno dive bar. After doing lines of coke off my ass he offered me a bump but I shook my head no… so he put a little crumb on his finger and I licked it. As my lips went numb my whole body shuddered with regret, which is how I knew that I wasn’t ready to break my sobriety… yet. 

This year I’ve been experimenting with a very specific drug diet: weed and psychedelics only. That means I can do shrooms, acid, and DMT/ayahuasca, but I am definitely not allowed to do coke, even with a hot stranger! I started calling this plant-based regime “California sober” sort of as a joke. But when I wrote about it in a druggie confessional essay for Broadly, the term went viral, and a friend even told me they saw someone wearing a shirt at Whole Foods that said “California Sober,” which is how you really know you’ve really hacked the zeitgeist. 

One of the dangerous side-effects of sobriety is that you become susceptible to things like VR ayahuasca

Honestly, quitting drugs was easy. Dealing with the shit that comes after is hard. Drugs make you feel like an exaggerated version of yourself—sexier, more self-assured—or they can be a fast-track to the serene state of self-obliteration. Either way, it always felt like cheating. Sobriety means wrestling with yourself—testing the limits of your strengths and insecurities, while sifting through the psychological gunk that rise to the surface when drugs can’t plunge them down. My California Sober journey (much like my Year of the Slut journey) has been about reconnecting with my body and confronting my deepest fears of failure.

I’ve also been thinking about the changing meaning of “sobriety” in recent years. The New York Times wrote that being “sober-curious” is the latest lifestyle trend, but I think it goes deeper than stunting on Instagram. Renegotiating my own boundaries with drugs has made me realize that the binary between “drugs” (=bad!) and “medicine” (=good!) is blurring. I think a lot of this has to do with the legalization of cannabis and psychedelics vs. the pharmaceutical and opioid epidemic: the drugs that put millions of mostly black men into jail brought about medical breakthroughs, while doctor-prescribed pills have sowed endless suffering. 

Being sick has become the new normal; it’s crazy how everyone I know has anxiety and/or depression, not to mention ADHD, OCD, and PTSD. “It’s like some dark psychic force is collectively draining us,” said one of my sober friends, which made me think about how our relationships to drugs can be understood as defense mechanisms. Some find strength in sobriety, others soothe with self-medication. Life can be so dumb and fragile and confusing, and sometimes the best way to transcend the bullshit is to dive within. No shortcuts, no cheating. 


This Sunday, I’m finally fulfilling my fantasy of throwing a Weed Rave in a sunny field where we can smell flowers and feel the wind in our hair as we smoke endless joints and dance to disco. The party is called WEEDSTOCK, and it’s FREE because I want half a million hippies show up.

The party starts at sunrise in Elysian Park with stoned tai chi (lol) and a sound bath with giant crystal bowls (no, not the kinds you can smoke out of). I’m really stoked that two of my fave LA DJs will be playing: Rail Up’s Kelman Duran will play an ambient-reggaeton set, followed by a fab disco set from my sis Masha, reigning queen of LA’s gay party scene.

The craziest part is that all these dope weed brands are gonna roll out picnic blankets and give out free weed!!! Joints, CBD sodas, gummies, vapes, and aphrodisiac shots…?! Don’t tell the cops. RSVP here for the location.

Welcome To Rave New World
Thanks for letting me slide into your inbox. This is a newsletter about sex, drugs, and raving by music & culture journalist + Weed Rave founder Michelle Lhooq. I’ll pop in whenever I feel like it, if that’s cool. This newsletter is just starting out so do me a solid: forward it to whoever might be into it! As always, you can follow my real-time exploits on Instagram and Twitter.