It’s no secret that Demi Lovato has had her struggles with addiction to drugs and alcohol over the years. Since being thrust into the spotlight on Barney and Friends at the young age of ten, Demi has had a camera in her face most of her life.
The camera can be a star’s best friend, but it can often be her worst enemy as well.
Demi recently released her second, most powerful, personal documentary on YouTube. In the aptly titled “Simply Complicated,” Demi immediately reveals candidly her personal struggles and whirlwind romance with alcohol and drugs from a very young age.
The Lasting Scars of her Father’s Substance Abuse
Even as a child, Demi was never naive to the powerful call of addiction. She reveals that her father was addicted and chose substance abuse over a family. This let her know how strong the call from those substances was. After her curiosity got the best of her, she began experimenting with alcohol at the young age of seventeen.
This was partially to experience and understand why her father found substance abuse so alluring that he would walk out on his family for them. Her experimentation may also have partially been due to the fact that she was a teenager and it was available. After all, most high school students try alcohol at least once before they graduate.
She says of her first encounter with substance abuse during her younger years “I loved it. I felt out of control the first time I did it. My dad was an addict and alcoholic. Guess I always searched for what he found in drugs and alcohol because it fulfilled him and he chose that over a family.”
That first experience led her down a dark and difficult path that Demi acknowledges she has been lucky to pull herself out of. Her tale is a powerful one of luck and love; of strength and hope.
On Demi Getting Clean and Sober
“I had a sober companion and I went through like twenty sober companions. I was either craving drugs or I was on drugs. I was not easy to work with,” ~from the documentary “Simply Complicated.”
Demi struggled for several years with alcohol and stimulant addiction. She was primarily abusing Adderall and cocaine. The gravity of her problem finally came to light during the Colombian leg of her 2011 Camp Rock Tour. After her backup dancer Alex “Shorty” Welch outed her for abusing Adderall, she punched him in face.
Even her wild, erratic behavior and the assault weren’t enough to get her clean. It was only after her darkest period, when her management team threatened to leave her, that she finally entered treatment in 2011.
“The most important fear to Demi is losing people, losing people that she cares about and that love her. That’s the most important thing to Demi,” says her current personal development coach, Mike Bayer.
The singer recalls regarding the act of surrender and recovery, “That’s when the change is going to happen.”
On Demi’s Recovery and Sobriety
“Every single day…every single day is a battle,” the now twenty-five year old singer recently said at an event for the Brett Shapiro Foundation for Drug Prevention Summer Spectacular. “Some days are easier than others and some days you forget about drinking and using. But for me, I work on my physical health, which is important, but my mental health as well.”
At the event, Demi humbly accepted the Spirit of Sobriety Award and spoke candidly about her recovery. She now has over five years completely sober.
The singer has learned some wisdom beyond her years that she showed in her speech. Keeping in vein with an Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy, she shared that her sobriety is not one big decision. It is a decision that she has to make every day when she gets out of bed.
She knows that sobriety is a commitment. It is a marathon, not a sprint. So far, her philosophy has proven successful for her.
How Demi Manages to Stay Clean and Sober
Ms. Lovato knows that life doesn’t stop or even slow down because she decided to get clean and sober. She still has to endure a rigorous work schedule, including singing, touring, producing and more. So how does she manage to stay clean under so much stress?
It was a complete lifestyle change. She now focuses on eating right, working out, getting enough rest, and hanging out with certain people. She also knows who to avoid in her life.
Demi often recalls the old Alcoholics Anonymous acronym HALT–meaning hungry, angry, lonely, tired–four feelings that have led many less cautious addicts to relapse.
She knows her sobriety takes more than that though. Demi knows her sobriety takes true diligence. How does she show it? “I see a therapist twice a week. I make sure I stay on my medications. I go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I do what I can do in the gym. I make it a priority.”
Indeed, she takes the physical aspect of her recovery very seriously. She is extremely passionate about her love of MMA, or mixed martial arts. “I work out personally because I love the way it makes me feel…the release of serotonin.” She sent out an Instagram post recently celebrating her huge achievement of a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The endorphins released from a strenuous work-out are the same chemicals released from powerful painkillers such as heroin and fentanyl. Demi knows that exercise truly is a natural high.
The Effects of Drug Abuse on her Relationships
As her personal life coach Mike Bayer mentioned, losing people closest to her is one of Demi’s biggest fears. This is likely stemming from her absentee addict father. Anyone struggling with addiction can relate though.
When we are struggling with addiction, we can be very difficult to love or even be around. We will lie, cheat, manipulate situations, and steal if necessary. Anything we can do to get our next fix. This will eventually drive away even the most devoted of people in our lives.
But like it is for so many people who are wayward ships in the sea, it was some of Demi’s loved ones that helped her fight through her struggles. Nick Jonas, who costarred in the Camp Rock franchise with her when they were both fifteen, was by her side through the entirety of her struggles.
“The Jonas Brothers were the ones waving the flag, and Demi kept drifting farther and farther away,” Lovato’s manager said of Demi’s drug use.
Nick spoke about her struggles as such “It became really good, you know, between she and I for a while, growing closer than we’d ever been. I remember thinking in my head and feeling a bit of pride about it, like selfishly maybe I was helping her back to being the Demi we all know and love. She’s not going to do anything crazy, she’s going to be fine. And then this [the punching incident] happened.”
Throughout the craziness of that entire era, her loved ones still supported her. That moral support is so important to a struggling addict, even if they don’t realize or appreciate it. That support and tough love are what managed to get Demi into treatment finally, and likely saved her life.
What Demi’s Struggles Mean for All of Us
There might not be many parallels that the average person can draw between her life and that of an international pop superstar. But Demi Lovato’s story is different. It is simply more human, more real, and rawer.
The insidious disease of addiction knows no bounds. Addiction doesn’t care if you’re white, black, Hispanic or Asian. Addiction doesn’t care if you’re super-wealthy, famous and powerful or if you’re just an average person struggling to pay your bills on time. It doesn’t care if you’re a man or woman, gorgeous and sexy, or plain, homely and shy.
Addiction is a manifestation of the wounds that so many of us all carry on the inside and don’t understand how to heal. When those bad, ugly, painful feelings surface, we all want to reach for something to stuff them back down. Something that will keep us comfortable and numb and allow us to not have to feel the pain and darkness for a while.
Demi had to learn to face her demons at a very young and impressionable age. Her strength and hope through her struggles and ordeals give us all a glimmer of hope that recovery is always possible, no matter what your circumstances are. Wealth and fame might make many things in life easier, but that doesn’t apply to recovery.
We all still need the support and understanding of loved ones. We still need to know that we matter, even when we are at our worst. And we do matter. If you are struggling with addiction, know that it is never too soon or too late to get help. The time to do so is always now, for you may not have a chance in the future. The disease of addiction is always progressive and ultimately fatal.
Recovery is Possible
When we are at the end of our road, and it seems that there is nothing more that we can do, we have two choices. We can go on to the bitter ends, whether they be a jail, institution, or death, or we can make a choice to change. To give recovery a chance.
When your life is falling apart around you, and you feel that crumbling, empty, gnawing feeling on the inside, let someone know. Talk to someone you know, love, and trust, or reach out to another addict. Another addict can relate to your struggles, whether they know you personally or not, better than most people you will encounter.
Taking that first step toward recovery is as easy as opening your mouth and saying “I have a problem and I don’t know how to fix this on my own.” This is huge. With our self-medication, we have been trying to fix a problem on our own that we don’t know how to fix. Addiction is an isolating disease. The first step to recovery is opening up and letting those that you care about and that care most about you back in.
Let someone know what is going on with you. If they’re close to you, chances are they have some idea that you’re struggling with something anyway. We’re never as good at hiding the problem as we may believe. And while recovery can be difficult, it is one of the most rewarding experiences a person will have in their life.
You can now stream Demi’s powerful documentary “Simply Complicated” on YouTube.