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 her humanity underneath the gloss. She is a pop superstar, a mental health advocate, a businesswoman. She is a collection of so many impressive, admirable things that it is easy to forget that she is also someone who deals and struggles with bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, and self-injury.
It is not her fault that we miss this fact—that she is human. She is 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 her job well. She shows up, she puts on excellent shows, she gives to her fans through her music and her activism, and despite the many reasons she had to not speak out publicly, she continues to remind people that she is not perfect.
The stigma surrounding mental illness remains. She could have easily lost fans and contracts and money by being honest and upfront with her struggles. For all we know, she very well may have.
But still, she never stayed silent. She stayed strong. She stayed loud. She stayed front and center and showed us who she was.
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 her recovery for years, but just last month she revealed in a new single, “Sober,” that she 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 her condition—reportedly stable—there were countless posts and comments across social media criticizing her.
Calling her weak.
Making it seem as if her struggles were a choice.
All but saying she didn’t deserve help, that she was 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.