Lala Kent on Demi Lovato's 'California sober' approach: 'That's super offensive'

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Lala Kent is taking issue with Demi Lovato's "California sober" approach to recovery from drug and alcohol abuse.

During a recent appearance on the "Behind the Velvet Rope" podcast, the "Vanderpump Rules" star, 30, said she disagreed that a person who smokes marijuana and drinks alcohol can identify as sober.

"I don't like to judge, but I actually think that that's super offensive," Kent told the podcast's host, David Yontef. "You know, there are people out there who work their a-- off to never take themselves out of reality and to never place themselves in an altered state. You know, they don't even, when they have a cold, take DayQuil or NyQuil."

Lala Kent and Demi Lovato (Michael Bezjian / Emma McIntyre / Getty Images)
Lala Kent and Demi Lovato (Michael Bezjian / Emma McIntyre / Getty Images)

The reality star, who celebrated two years of sobriety last November, added, "So to say that you're, like, 'California sober' or this type of sober is extremely offensive, I think."

Lovato, 28, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, has been candid for years about their struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. After suffering a near-fatal overdose in 2018, Lovato began their recovery process anew.

However, during an interview with "CBS Sunday Morning" that aired in March, the "Anyone" singer said they still use marijuana and drink alcohol.

“I think the term that I best identify with is 'California sober,'" Lovato said. "I really don't feel comfortable explaining the parameters of my recovery to people because I don't want anyone to look at my parameters of safety and think that's what works for them, because it might not.”

The “complete abstinent method isn't a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody,” they added.

Yet to Kent's mind, sobriety requires total abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

"If you are drinking or you're smoking weed, you're not sober," said Kent, who welcomed her first child, a daughter named Ocean, with fiancé Randall Emmett in March.

Related: Her approach has caused a stir, but what do experts think about it?

Shortly after Lovato's interview aired, TODAY consulted addiction experts to have them weigh in on the concept of being "California sober," which existed as a cultural expression prior to Lovato's usage of the term.

One of the experts, April Marier, an administrator for substance abuse prevention and treatment programs at Riverside University Health System in California, told TODAY that although there's no one standard approach to sobriety, she worried about those who still use some substances while on a recovery journey.

“I feel that the challenge with 'California sober' for someone with an actual substance use diagnosis is the risk of developing an addiction to another drug,” Marier said.

“There’s a term I've used when counseling somebody: It’s like switching seats on the Titanic — it's not going to save you; you’re still going down.”

However, Dr. Brian Hurley, director of addiction medicine for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and director-at-large at the American Society of Addiction Medicine, told TODAY there may be some leeway when it comes to recovery from addiction.

Hurley, who prefers the term "remission" to "sobriety," said he wanted all of his patients struggling with addiction to achieve full remission, meaning that they've arrived at a place in their lives when their substance use was no longer compulsive and was causing no harmful consequences.

While that may require full abstinence for most of his patients, “it is possible to be in remission from a substance use disorder and not fully abstain from all intoxicants,” he said.

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