The Treacherous Cycle that is Addiction: The Demi Lovato Story

Demi Lovato performing at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas on September 10, 2016. | 10 September 2016 | Ralph Arvesen | Wikimedia Commons

At the tender age of twenty-five, Demetria “Demi” Lovato has gone through more than most people will in their entire life. Many people face their fair share of difficulties, but Demi is different. She has not had a break since she was five years old. Her father was an addict and he left the family before Demi was five. At five, Demi was diagnosed with depression and it is something she has never been able to fully shake.1 Demi found an outlet for her aching heart in music. Her family realized quickly that she was talented beyond belief, and that she could really be someone. At seven, Demi landed a part in the children’s television series Barney and Friends, and the rest is history.2

“Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato in the Jonas Brothers Live in Concert” | 1 September 2010 | Paige Kaitlyn Concerts | Wikimedia Commons

She did not stop at Barney and Friends. She knew she was destined for more, and she worked every single day to ensure she got that. The Disney Channel proved to be her next big break, and it was Disney that really ignited a fire that never stopped. From her first show, “As the Bell Rings,” to the “Camp Rock” phenomena, and finally, to “Sonny with a Chance,” The Disney Channel seemingly brought Demi nothing but success.3 However, when you look below the surface, her Disney successes may have been the same thing that sent her spiraling downward. It was at seventeen, the peak of her time at Disney, that she first tried cocaine, a highly addictive narcotic, for the first time with friends.4 She shared being terrified at first, but she quickly came to love the feeling.5 She was hooked. She began hiding drugs from her family and her team, and she began indulging whenever she found the time. She did shows while intoxicated, and lived the majority of her young life under the influence. Her moods changed, and she was irritated and angry, and she slept all the time. At first, everyone thought she was just experiencing normal teenage mood swings; it took time before those around her understood the depth of what was going on.6

American Disney Channel Logo | 2002 | The Disney Channel Company | Wikimedia Commons

Demi felt immense pressure from a very young age. She felt the need to please everyone around her while becoming everything she wanted to be. It is not uncommon for young people to have come in to fame to lose themselves along the way. In fact, Demi is far from the only young Disney star to do so. Shake It Up’s Bella Thorne has no shame in showing some, or all of her skin, Jessie’s Debby Ryan was slapped with a DUI, and Lab Rats’ Kelli Berglund was caught with a fake ID.7 While to some, these all sound like typical growing up things. The issue at hand is that it is a recurring pattern in Disney Stars. Walt Disney, the man who can be described as nothing but “guts and goodness,” created the Disney company with nothing but pure intentions and hope for a better future.8 As the issue has become more and more prominent, it has been decided within the company that something had to be done. Disney teaches its young starlets life skills, like how to deal with the brutal world that is social media. These classes are held by pediatricians and child-development experts.7 While no one can pinpoint the exact reason Demi began the path that became addiction, we do know that it had to have something to do with the difficult life she was living due to the fame. She was too young to be ready for all she was enduring and too naïve to know better. Although the Disney Channel cannot be held to blame, it can be said that the company knows it is doing some harm along with the good, as they are now taking protective measures.

Addiction. A nine-letter word that we use lightly every day. We say things like “I’m addicted to chocolate” or “she’s addicted to her phone.” We tend to not realize the gravity of addiction or how life-threatening it can be. Addictions are diseases; they are dependencies on something, requiring that something to live, or at least one believes it is that needed. Addiction ran through Demi’s veins. Some say she was destined to fall into it because of her father’s own additions; others still blamed it on the life she lived. Regardless of why, addiction consumed her. It wasn’t just drugs and alcohol; it was body image as well. Demi was stuck on the idea that thin meant beauty, that skinny was a requirement of fame. So, she developed an eating disorder, Bulimia.  Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that is defined by “repeated, uncontrollable episodes of overeating followed by induced vomiting or laxative abuse to eliminate the undigested food.”10 It was after she was discovered to have Bulimia that the people around her decided it was time that she got treatment. Demi’s behavior was all over the place: “some days she was sweet and enthusiastic, and some days she seemed to brood in darkness.”11 She was sent in for treatment at a rehab center and had to continue with that treatment even when she was able to leave.

Runway Models | goodfreephotos

It is not uncommon to have an obsession with body image in our society. We live in a world where social media is prominent and “skinny is in.” We see runway models and actresses on TV and on the cover of magazines and we cannot help but compare ourselves to them. Today, close to 30 million people in the US are diagnosed with an eating disorder and every 62 seconds one of them dies.12 The disorders range from Bulimia to Anorexia and Binge Eating Disorder. They become a chemical imbalance in someone’s mind that take more than just will power to be lessened.

Demi Lovato is still a part of that 30 million, and it is something she has to deal with every day. She fights her urges with different things, like working out. Anything that can take her mind off of her problems, she says, is a blessing.13 The stability of having a specific gym with specific trainers has helped her a lot, and she is working her way up to a black belt in jiu-jitsu.

Nineteen was her year. Demi’s nineteenth year of life was her first year sober. It seemed as though all the rehab and all the struggle had paid off. Her life was taking a turn for the better, she was a judge on X Factor, broke up with her long-term boyfriend to “conquer issues she couldn’t conquer if she was relying on someone else,” and had found her sound.14 Her music career was booming, and her team couldn’t be happier with the progress. Everything was falling into place.

At twenty-five, her six years of sobriety had come to a screeching halt. On July 28, 2018, paramedics rushed to the young singer’s house. The night before, she had gone out to celebrate a backup dancer’s birthday, and the next morning she was found lying unconscious in her house. 15

About a month before the overdose, Demi Lovato had come out with a new song, “Sober.”16 Her music had always been emotional and honest. She had talked about her issues before, and about her love life, but this was different. In “Sober,” Demi admitted to having relapsed from her six-year sobriety. Upsetting and tragic, but to many, not surprising. Everyone hoped for the best for her, but feared the worst as they heard the news of her unconsciousness.

While sad, a relapse in addiction is not extremely uncommon. Recently, there has been a lot of research done on relapses in order to better understand them. They differ from random slips in strength because they are recurring during a certain period of time. Despite research, relapses are still hard to understand as they vary from person to person. Some people do a better job of controlling their urges than others, some give in quickly, and some can last long periods of times. What they have come to the decision on, however, is that relapses are not a failure of the treatment, but a consequence of the attempts to change a chronic behavior.17 Some people overcome addiction and never turn back, others fall back again and again and never get to live again.

Eventually, she woke up. She refused to cooperate with authorities or reveal exactly what drugs she was on, but she was alive.18 Demi lived through her relapse but is now back at square one. She has to now find a way to deal with her age-old demons and rebuild her life. She went again to rehab, and is working every day to make sure the cycle doesn’t continue.

That’s exactly what is, a cycle, a never-ending cycle. People fall into addiction, go to rehab, become sober, fall back into addiction, go back to rehab, and so on. Some people find ways to break the cycle, others succumb to its brutal turning. The treacherous cycle causes many people to lose hope, to lose their glow, but not Demi. She lives by the motto of “you get what you put out in the world. Put out positivity and you will receive it,” and she will never stop fighting.19

  1. Demi Lovato, Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated – Official Documentary, Phillymack Productions (2017; Los Angeles), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTlL_w8cRA.
  2. Demi Lovato, Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated – Official Documentary, Phillymack Productions (2017; Los Angeles), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTlL_w8cRA.
  3. Demi Lovato, Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated – Official Documentary, Phillymack Productions (2017; Los Angeles), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTlL_w8cRA.
  4.  Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health, 2015, s.v. “Cocaine,” Justin D. Garcia, PhD.
  5. Demi Lovato, Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated – Official Documentary, Phillymack Productions (2017; Los Angeles), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTlL_w8cRA.
  6. Demi Lovato, Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated – Official Documentary, Phillymack Productions (2017; Los Angeles), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTlL_w8cRA.
  7. “Disney Damsels IN DISTRESS!,” New Weekly Magazine, April 3, 2017, 38-41.
  8. Neal Gabler, Walt Disney, The Triumph of the American Imagination (Vintage Books, 2006), 44.
  9. “Disney Damsels IN DISTRESS!,” New Weekly Magazine, April 3, 2017, 38-41.
  10.  Magill’s Medical Guide, 2013, s.v. “Bulimia,” Alvin K. Benson, PhD and Leanna DeAngelo, PhD.
  11. Dianna de la Garza and Vicky Mckintyre, Falling with Wings: A Mother’s Story (Fewer & Friends, 2018), 247.
  12. “Eating Disorder Statistics,” National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, (2018), accessed November 29, 2018, http://www.anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/.
  13. Demi Lovato, Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated – Official Documentary, Phillymack Productions (2017; Los Angeles), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTlL_w8cRA.
  14. Demi Lovato, Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated – Official Documentary, Phillymack Productions (2017; Los Angeles), Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTlL_w8cRA.
  15. Melody Chiu, et al., “The Fight to Save Demi Lovato,” People, August 13, 2018, 48.
  16. “Demi’s Tragic Relapse: ‘I’m Grateful to Be Alive,’” 2018. New Weekly Magazine 26 (32): 22.
  17.  Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health, 2014, s.v. “Addiction Relapse,” Ruth M. Colwill.
  18. Melody Chiu, et al., “The Fight to Save Demi Lovato,” People, August 13, 2018, 48.
  19. Demi Lovato, Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year (Macmillan Publishers, 2013), 43.
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