It’s never easy to watch addiction or alcoholism take a life on the public stage. Celebrities such as Amy Winehouse and Heath Ledger pass away due to drinking or drug abuse, leaving tragedy in their wake. Fans wonder what untold wonders might have awaited us in the future if their beloved celebrity had lived. Grieving family members watch as cynical internet users blame the victim for their disease. The whole world over, those who know the horrors of alcoholism and addiction feel a knot in their stomach as they learn that the disease just claimed another victim. This is why we need success stories such as Demi Lovato to keep us going.
Demi Lovato is more than just a success story. In a similar fashion as Ronda Rousey, she’s become a role model to countless young women who struggle with eating disorders, depression, and drug abuse. She shows us that the beginning of a downward spiral doesn’t necessarily signal the end of a life. In fact, many of us often find that things only get worse before they get better. We can choose to accept our misery and steer into the skid, or we can choose to improve our lives and our well-being.
Today’s media tends to focus on death and negativity, which is why we must share stories such as that of Demi Lovato. The celebrities who lose their lives to drugs and alcohol deserve to be remembered. But so do those who show us that we can make a better choice. These are individuals who lead by example. Their very existence reminds us that this disease is only fatal if we allow it to be. Do we die in obscurity, or do we live to the fullest? Demi Lovato chose the latter. Now let’s talk about how she did it.
A Brief History of Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato might be taking a break from the spotlight at the moment, but she’s been in the public eye since she was a child. Beginning her career on Barney & Friends alongside fellow star Selena Gomez, she eventually made her real break on the Disney Channel. After her appearance on the series As the Bell Rings, she auditioned for a role in the televised motion picture Camp Rock. Two and a half weeks before the film’s release, she began her first tour in anticipation of her debut album. Her album, Don’t Forget, received a warm reception from younger demographics and sold 89,000 copies in its first week. Don’t Forget also marked her first collaboration with the Jonas Brothers, not counting Joe Jonas’ appearance in Camp Rock.
While starring in her own Disney sitcom, Sonny with a Chance, Demi Lovato released her second album. Entitled Here We Go Again, this album did even better with critics than her first. As the album’s title track rose through the charts, the singer began her second tour. She continued collaborating with other stars during this tour, which spanned forty cities across the US. Among her opening acts were such big names as Jordan Pruitt and David Archuleta. This tour won a nomination at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards, with Demi Lovato and David Archuleta receiving the award for Choice Music Tour.
By this time, her career was taking off at a rapid pace. Subsequent years would see Demi Lovato embarking on more tours while releasing three more albums (Unbroken, Demi and Confident). She also continued her acting career, appearing in films such as Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam and her own documentary, Demi Lovato: Stay Strong. Aside from her appearances on reality shows such as America’s Next Top Model, Punk’d and The X Factor (as a judge), Demi Lovato also guest starred in fictional series such as Grey’s Anatomy and Glee.
Behind the talent, however, Demi Lovato is a human just like anybody else. And as we all know, being human has its ups and downs. Lovato struggled with several personal demons throughout her early career, including bipolar disorder and depression. In her youth, the singer was bullied to such an extent that she pulled out of school, completing her high school career through home education. Other personal demons included self-harm, bulimia, drinking and drug abuse. In 2010, things came to a head. After punching a dancer during the 2010 Jonas Brothers Live in Concert tour, Demi Lovato entered a rehabilitation facility.
Personal Struggles and Successes
Demi Lovato struggled with eating disorders long before she began drinking and using drugs. In an interview with Access Hollywood, the star explains that it began before she even reached the age of 10:
“It was always there, but then I just acted on it at around 8 or 9 years old. I started overeating, compulsively overeating. I would bake cookies and then eat the whole pan. I went from doing that to being unhappy with my body. I went to just completely starving myself and that turned into throwing up and starving myself and it was just this crazy battle going on inside of me. It got really difficult [and] I would throw up and it would just be blood and it was something that I realized if I don’t stop this, I am going to die.”
The singer wasn’t alone in this struggle. As Lovato tells American Way, both her mother and grandmother struggled with bulimia as well. Her father, an alcoholic, also suffered with bipolar disorder. Demi Lovato suffered these same afflictions, also cutting herself to escape the pain suffered from bullying in school. As her fame awarded her more independence, she eventually found her way into cocaine. The singer explains that she could hardly go half an hour without a fix. She even brought cocaine on airplanes so that she could use in the first class bathroom.
Rehab helped, but the problems soon started again. The compulsive overeating eventually returned, and the rest of her demons soon spiraled back into the picture. At the age of 19, she hit a new bottom. As she tells Access Hollywood:
“I was going to the airport and I had a Sprite bottle just filled with vodka and it was just nine in the morning and I was throwing up in the car and this was just to get on a plane to go back to LA to the sober living house that I was staying at…I had all the help in the world, but I didn’t want it.”
Fortunately, this experience helped her to open her eyes. Demi Lovato says that she finally realized that she wasn’t acting like a normal teenager. She was acting like an alcoholic. Things weren’t all uphill from there, but they were certainly better. In 2012, Demi Lovato took her last drink to date. She did check into a sober living house in 2013 for close to a year so that she could better work on her sobriety, but she remains sober to this day. This is the most time she’s had under her belt since she began drinking and doing drugs. Four years sober, she credits much of her success to her continued attendance at AA meetings.
How She Handles Things Today
It can’t be easy to handle demons such as these while living in the public eye. Nonetheless, Demi Lovato sees this as less of a burden than an opportunity. Her fame allows her to help others. Quite active in philanthropy, Lovato turns her compassion toward those with similar struggles. In honor of her late father, she started the Lovato Treatment Scholarship Program. She also penned a letter for Seventeen in 2011, advising those with bulimia and similar problems to seek help with The National Eating Disorders Association. In that same year, Demi Lovato teamed up with the Jed Foundation to take part in the Love Is Louder Than the Pressure To Be Perfect Campaign.
Since her eating disorder and addiction often complemented one another, Demi Lovato fights them both with similar principles. Two of those are honesty and positive thinking. She talks about staying positive by looking in the mirror. Instead of seeing faults, she sees the ways in which she is improving. And even when the faults are as clear as day, she doesn’t let them get her down. As far as honesty is concerned, Lovato spoke of this in an interview with Fitness Magazine:
“I don’t have a lot of yes-people around me, and most people in this business do. It’s good to surround myself with those who aren’t afraid to tell it like it is, because sometimes they see things before I do. It also creates an environment where I’m not ashamed to ask for help.”
Aside from staying positive and utilizing a proper support network, Demi Lovato tries to see herself more objectively. She notes in the aforementioned interview that she once spent an entire summer performing in a leather jacket. The heat made her miserable, but she felt self-conscious about her arms. She weighed only 105 pounds at the time. We often say that the true meaning of humility is seeing ourselves as we really are. When we fail to do this, we often make unhealthy decisions. With four years of sobriety under her belt, it’s safe to say that Demi Lovato is living a much healthier lifestyle now that she’s learned the power of self-acceptance. Both our strengths and our weaknesses combine to form our inner self. We shouldn’t hide that person behind a mask of self-destructive behaviors and dishonesty.
Demi Lovato teaches us that recovery builds confidence. A true recovery role model, she knows that life won’t always be perfect. But if we learn to accept ourselves one day at a time, we can find serenity. And in doing so, we undergo a transformation that changes our lives for the better. Perhaps the greatest lesson she can teach us stems from her stay in rehab, where she was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder:
“I had two choices: I could pretend it never happened, or I could tell people the truth. I was tired of hiding and relieved to know what was wrong with me so I could finally do something to get better.”
If we can all learn to apply this lesson to every problem we face in recovery, our lives will see vast improvement. It worked for Demi Lovato. Will you let it work for you?