Recovery advocate and author Ryan Hampton says the star’s hospitalization “shows we need to flip the script and encourage recovery” in an industry that “often protects and sometimes encourages” substance abuse and addiction.
On Tuesday, when I saw the headlines that Demi Lovato had been hospitalized for a drug overdose, my heart dropped. This can’t be happening. Demi, an outspoken advocate for recovery and a beautiful, passionate face of the mental health empowerment movement, was struggling. Hollywood’s culture often protects and even sometimes encourages substance use and addiction. Demi’s relapse shows that we need to flip the script and encourage recovery instead.
Hiding her addiction has never been Demi’s style. Demi Lovato’s rise to fame didn’t come without complications. In fact, there were several obstacles in the young star’s life that almost ended her stardom before it truly began. These are all detailed in her new YouTube documentary, “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated,” which was released just last month.
“Simply Complicated” is an honest, candid, raw look at Demi Lovato’s life and her road to recovery—recovery from depression, from bipolar disorder, from an eating disorder, and from drug addiction.
Demi Lovato’s drug addiction spoke about it a few years ago, when she had just started her recovery journey. The 25-year-old was five-years sober and using her story to encourage others struggling with substance abuse.
“It’s important to understand that relapses do not mean that someone can’t get sober. Starting and maintaining a sober lifestyle is an ongoing process and for some, relapse can be part of this journey,” Jamison Monroe Jr., founder and CEO of Newport Academy, a teen rehabilitation center told Fox News.
Some sources close to Lovato have said the star will seek drug abuse treatment at a rehab facility following her hospitalization, but this will not be the first rehab stay for the Disney alum. Lovato entered rehab and treatment in 2010 for bipolar disorder and her addictions to alcohol, cocaine and OxyContin.
“In order to address substance abuse—no matter what the substance of abuse may be—it’s essential to address the root causes,” Monroe said. “Effective treatment focuses on identifying and working with the mental health issues that gave rise to the self-destructive behaviors.”
Demi’s story is shockingly similar to many others that aren’t making headlines. That same day, 174 people died of the same causes that put her in the hospital. That’s what makes her recurrence a teachable moment for Hollywood. We all have a responsibility to talk about addiction honestly — without glamorizing it or demonizing the people who struggle with it. Demi has chosen to become a face and a voice for the recovery movement. She’s an example of how Hollywood can respond to addiction in a positive, progressive way.
Substance use disorder is potentially fatal, and the amount of time someone has in remission doesn’t equal lifelong immunity. Just as there is no guarantee that someone who’s recovered from cancer will never have a recurrence of their illness, substance use disorder is a relapsing illness. Whether the person has 20 days or 20 years of sobriety, relapse is a risk.
We don’t talk about pulling funding for cancer research because someone’s tumor came back. We don’t criticize a cancer survivor’s moral fiber, or gossip about how their poor life choices made them sick. We don’t say they deserve to die. We rally behind our loved ones and support them as they recover. We run in 5K races, throw fundraisers and wear pink to show that they matter to us. We should show people who struggle with addiction the same compassion and love.