Demi Lovato recently celebrated six months sober on Jan. 25, 2019. Previously, the singer was sober for more than six years, but in her song “Sober,” which she released in June 2018, she admitted to relapsing.
In the song, Lovato confesses, “Momma, I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore / And daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor,” and about a month later, Lovato overdosed in her Los Angeles home and was revived with the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan. Lovato was hospitalized for a period of time and then went into an intensive inpatient treatment program, but this wasn’t her first experience with rehabilitation centers; she also sought help in 2010 and 2012.
During her first time in rehab at Timberline Knolls in Lemont, Illinois, Lovato was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Not only did Lovato seek help for her drug and alcohol addiction, she was also struggling with anorexia, bulimia and self-harm, and after rehab, Lovato returned to her unhealthy habits. In 2012 her entire team and family said they would walk away if she did not seek help; this intervention served as a wakeup call and Lovato went to CAST Recovery for sober living.
By recovering in a controlled environment and eventually transitioning to independence, Lovato was able to give up drugs and alcohol for six years. During this time of sobriety, she advocated strongly for mental health awareness by speaking to organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Democratic National Convention, and after her father — who had also struggled with mental illness and substance abuse — passed away, she also established the Lovato Treatment Scholarship to raise money for people who cannot afford mental health treatment.
Lovato became transparent about her struggles in her 2017 YouTube Original Documentary “Simply Complicated,” where Lovato and her family, friends and team spoke about the relentless bullying she endured, which eventually led to the onset of anorexia, bulimia and self-harm at a young age. From the minute Lovato signed on her first major role in the Disney Channel movie “Camp Rock,” she began to grow up too fast.
The performer was under pressure to maintain her bustling lifestyle as she held the Disney Channel franchise on her shoulders with roles in multiple movies and televisions shows, as well as releasing albums and touring each year. Lovato eventually crumbled under the pressure, punching one of her backup dancers who told on the performer for using drugs, after which Lovato then went to treatment for the first time.
After the second round of treatment, the Demi Lovato story did a 180 when she wanted to use her voice to help others. To bring healing to a larger audience, she partnered with CAST Recovery and took them on her 2016 and 2018 tours, which was called “CAST On Tour” and took place before every show began. Each show, someone would share their story to a room full of people in hopes of sharing wellness and awareness, and to destigmatize mental health struggles.
After her overdose, Lovato celebrated six months of sobriety with a slice of cake, a note from her team and a six-months-sober chip. In the days after, Lovato rewarded herself by getting a tattoo of a rose on the side of her finger as a symbol for how far she had come in her journey.
The case of Demi Lovato portrays how opioid addiction has become an epidemic in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people every day overdose and die because of opioids like heroin, fentanyl and prescription pain relievers, and in 2017, there were over 47,000 deaths by opioid overdose.
People abuse prescription and illicit drugs for many reasons: They may just be experimenting, or there could be a genetic link to the abuse of drugs, but many people fall into abusing prescription drugs because of pain from an injury. When they are no longer able to have a prescription from a medical doctor, they may turn to harder street drugs like Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, which is particularly potent and responsible for many overdose deaths. But the abuse of drugs is linked with mental illness, and treatment must address both these concerns.
Treatments include detox, inpatient and outpatient therapies and taking medicine, such as Methadone, to help with withdrawal. Sober living is a way to transition into a productive member of society, and social support is important as well, but the recovering addict must lean into the people who want to support them. The change all begins with the choice to recover; without this conscious choice, recovery is unattainable.
Before Lovato could return to mental and physical health, she had to actively choose recovery, and the performer did: She surrendered to her family, friends and team, and went to treatment several times. Today, she is actively involved in support groups and enjoys working out to relieve stress, but her advocating for others who struggle is also healing, as is expressing herself creatively through music, all of which strengthens the Demi Lovato brand and, more importantly, helps others.
By being so open, Lovato is breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and giving a voice to those who otherwise might not have one. Even though Lovato relapsed, she stood back up again and continued fighting for her sobriety, so she is showing the world that recovery is possible when you never give up. If superstar Demi Lovato can do it, then you can too.
To find resources for yourself or someone else who is struggling with opioid addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.