Demi Lovato Is Only Human: Recovery, Relapse, and Response

By To Write Love on Her ArmsJuly 25, 2018

Demi Lovato is only human.

It feels important to start with that. It’s a simple fact, indisputable, but it’s one that can be easily overlooked. As with anyone who appears so often in the public eye, we can miss their humanity underneath the gloss. They are a pop superstar, a mental health advocate, a businessperson. They are a collection of so many impressive, admirable things that it is easy to forget that they are also someone who deals and struggles with bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, and self-injury.

It is not their fault that we miss this fact—that they are human. They are someone whose livelihood, whose art, demands a life lived online and in magazines. And we, as a society, are very particular about what we want to see from our stars. We like our public figures pristine and struggle-free, living in the perfect present and free of their troubled pasts.

Demi Lovato does their job well. They show up, they put on excellent shows, they give to their fans through their music and activism, and despite the many reasons they had to not speak out publicly, they continue to remind people that they are not perfect.

The stigma surrounding mental illness remains. They could have easily lost fans and contracts and money by being honest and upfront with their struggles. For all we know, they very well may have.

But still, they never stayed silent. They stayed strong. They stayed loud. They stayed front and center and showed us who they really were.

As a culture, we seem to have very little tolerance for the reality of human stories. There is no perfection in them; they are complicated and messy. Recovery is rarely linear, and only accepting people for their good days isn’t fair. We have to acknowledge the backslide, the setbacks, the obstacles they face that bring them closer to where they started than where they want and hope to go. We have to meet them there too.

Demi is someone who has worked exceptionally hard at their recovery for years, but just last month they revealed in a new single, “Sober,” that they had relapsed after six years.

Momma, I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore

And daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor

To the ones who never left me

We’ve been down this road before

I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore

Yesterday news broke that the singer was taken to a hospital following a reported drug overdose. Even before anyone could confirm their condition—reportedly stable—there were countless posts and comments across social media criticizing them.

Calling them weak.

Making it seem as if their struggles were a choice.

All but saying they didn’t deserve help, that they were a lost cause.

The judgments were harsh and swift and ignorant and sadly, unsurprising.

In “Sober” Demi writes:

We’ve been down this road before

And we certainly have. We’ve seen these responses far too often. We saw it with Kate Spade and with Anthony Bourdain and even with Amy Winehouse, who died seven years ago this week. We have seen people—mainly famous, granted—stripped of their humanity and made to feel ashamed of their struggles.

Kate, Anthony, Amy. We lost them. And every single day, the world loses more people. We might not know their names or be able to recognize their faces or appreciate their art, but still—we lose them. And though we might not see them or their struggles so outwardly, they do see us. They see how we respond to news like we did yesterday.

If you’ve struggled with addiction, you know that there are good days and bad days when it comes to recovery. The important thing we want to remind you of right now is that the bad days don’t define you. You can get the help you need. You are not less for struggling. You are strong for continuing to fight.

People who struggle with their mental health are not weak. They deserve our compassion, not our criticism. We encourage you to meet them with grace as they continue on in their journey to recovery. There is no place for shame here, only support. The stakes are too high for anything else.

Kate. Anthony. Amy. They were all only human.

Demi is only human.

The people in your life are only human.

So love them. Support them. Point them to the help they need and be there for them while they get that help. Show them that this world needs their presence, not their perfection. Remind them that you are in their corner and you won’t leave them alone in their illness.

Prove to them that it doesn’t matter how many times they relapse or where they are on the road to recovery, you will be there next to them as best you can.

For mental health resources in your area, visit our FIND HELP page.

For opioid addiction resources, we encourage you to visit SAMHSA.

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Comments (12)

  1. Janet Lynn Rubbo

    Thank you for such a beautiful article. I do not know her well because I am a product of the rock music from the 70s. But I do know of the mental struggles you speak of that she has. I have BPD and deal with it on a daily basis, the struggle, the stigma, the judgment from others! It is tiring and it is hurtful and it makes me feel ashamed of myself, and what I am and who I am. So I feel for her because she has a spotlight right on every flaw she has!!! But I hope she knows that all of her flaws are more beautiful and more precious than any perfection she may show in public!!! I hope she feels love from more people than she feels judgment. Again, thanks for reminding people that in this day And age, the horrible stigma still persists ever so deeply!!!

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  2. Boy Under the Bridge

    Thanks for writing. This kind of honesty gives people realistic expectations. If you’re going to tell a story, sometimes it’s best to tell it all. Sending her nothing but love.

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  3. Star

    Kate. Anthony. Amy. They had fame and fortune, but as you remind us, they were human.

    Don’t forget Avicii and Chester, who we’ve also lost to suicide (and who struggled with substance abuse) over the past year or so.

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  4. Amanda McCue

    I love everything about this. Demi is my idol and biggest inspiration in my own recovery. She’ll get through this! Much love!

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  5. Tamera Lindholm

    My best wishes to demi lavato and hope she recovers well

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  6. Jes

    Thank you so much for the way you’ve expressed genuine compassion for the amazingly talented and hard working Demi Lovato. Her legacy as a performer is legendary in how many hearts she touches with her presence.

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  7. Helen Sutton

    I love this, I needed this. I love Demi, and I hope and pray she finds the help she needs. I can relate so much to her, I too struggle with addiction, an eating disorder, and self harm. I’m a leader in a recovery program and my church, but unfortunately I had a relapse last week. It’s hard, and people do often forget we’re human, but as we say in my group, and it says in the AA book “Strive for progress, not perfection.” Demi’s music has gotten me through so much, she definitely isn’t alone in this fight!

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  8. Kasandra

    I find myself more and more out of control in my emotion. I do well for a while with tactics learned, but only for so long. Ive never been an addict but definitly have played with my fair share. And have continue to do so moderately, Theres always been a stopper inside of me, but the older i get the less i find myself scarred to just lose myselfin something like opites of any sort…. like im losing my abilities to not seek out a bad solution to bad pain. I self-harm on my normal freaked out days. But its not enough anymore.

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    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Kasandra,

      We are so sorry to hear about the pain you are experiencing. We hope that even on the difficult days, you can remember how valuable you really are. Your life is worth fighting for and we believe help is possible for you. If you would like, email us at [email protected] and we can help you find some resources in your area.

      With Hope,

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  9. Lori Bunce

    Beautiful. Thank you for these words to help us be more gracious to those who struggle.

    Reply  |  
  10. Courtney

    I love you even more for writing this blog post. Thank you for your support in the addiction & recovery community.

    Reply  |  
  11. Pearl Ortiz

    Spoken like someone who has their own experience. Read by someone who has been down this road as well. Thank you for your words. We should never find ourselves above others because the fall can be brutal.

    Reply  |  
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