Why Demi Lovato's honesty about her relapse in new song 'Sober' is so important

Demi Lovato performing in Barcelona this month (Photo: Getty Images)
Demi Lovato performing in Barcelona this month (Photo: Getty Images)

Demi Lovato made a surprising revelation on Thursday, just days after she celebrated six years of sobriety: She suffered a relapse.

Lovato shared the news in a heartbreaking new single that’s simply called “Sober.”

“To the ones who never left me, we’ve been down the road before. I’m so sorry. I’m not sober anymore,” she sings in the song. “I’m sorry that I’m here again. I promise I’ll get help.” The singer shared the single on Twitter with this message:

Lovato has been candid about struggling with substance abuse in the past, including with cocaine and alcohol. In her 2017 documentary, Simply Complicated, Lovato said that she was using drugs in 2012 while publicly saying she was sober. “I wasn’t working my program, I wasn’t ready to get sober. I was sneaking [cocaine] on planes, I was sneaking it in bathrooms, sneaking it throughout the night. … I went on a bender of like, two months where I was using daily,” she said. “There was one night when I used a bunch of coke and I popped a few Xanax bars, and I began to choke a little bit. My heart started racing, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I might be overdosing right now.’”

Lovato also said in the documentary that she was tempted to relapse at the 2016 Met Gala. “This one celebrity was a complete bitch and was miserable to be around. It was very cliquey. I remember being so uncomfortable that I wanted to drink,” she said. “I changed my clothes, but I still had my diamonds on — millions of dollars of diamonds on in an AA meeting, and I related more to the homeless people in that meeting who struggled with the same struggles that I deal with than the people at the Met Gala.”

Fans have come out in support of Lovato on social media after she shared “Sober”:

Lovato’s public confession and the support she received from fans is incredibly important, William Moyers, vice president of public affairs at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and author of Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s a moment for her to put an accurate face on the reality that addiction can and often does include recurrences of use. And, if it can happen to her, it can happen to anybody.”

The fact of so many people publicly supporting Lovato, Moyers says, sends a message to other people who are struggling that it’s OK to be honest about the struggle with addiction, which may include relapse.

Too often, people who relapse will have a sense of shame and failure, and that could lead to a downward spiral, says Jed Magen, associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Michigan State University. “This is a kind of vicious circle in which they beat themselves up and feel worse, and, in part, treat that with more drugs/alcohol,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Alcoholic Anonymous can be valuable in helping people change that attitude and remove some of the guilt, Magen says, adding, “There is so much stigma around this issue. The culture in general sees this as a failure of will and a moral failing, creating, of course, more guilt.”

It’s important for people to understand that relapse can provide many people with a teachable moment and an opportunity to understand what’s at stake and what counts, Moyers says. “What counts in the end is not so much the relapse, but the willingness of the afflicted person to get back up and keep moving in a healthy direction,” he notes.

To support a friend or loved one who has broken their sobriety, Moyers recommends simply being there for them. “Say ‘Thank you for sharing, how can I help you? What do you need?’” he suggests. “Encourage them. ‘Relapse’ is not a dirty word.” It’s also important to ask if your loved one has thought about ending their life.

We know that large numbers of people who [commit] suicide have substance use issues in the period immediately prior to the suicide,” Magen says. “Although people fear that asking will in some way stimulate thoughts about this, this is absolutely not true.”

Lovato seems to be trying to send a message to her fans that she’s OK now. She posted a selfie on Instagram on Wednesday alongside the message, “Happy and free.”

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:

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Why Chloë Moretz is focusing on a relationship with herself: ‘You can give so much of yourself to other people’
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