A powerful voice for many suffering from substance abuse and mental health disorders, actress and singer Demi Lovato has been an advocate for recovery for over six years.
Lovato personally found sobriety before even entering her twenties. Her battles with mental illness, an eating disorder, and substance addiction caused chaos in her teen years which led to professional treatment in 2011, followed by a year-long stay in a sober living environment.
After six years in the spotlight—both in her career and in her sobriety—Lovato has released a heartbreaking new song that reveals she has experienced a relapse.
Consistently candid about her journey in sobriety, Lovato’s latest music and subsequent comments to her fans have been no exception. The song, titled “Sober,” is achingly raw, with direct callouts to Lovato’s parents and others who have tirelessly supported her in her fight.
Lovato references withdrawal symptoms in the opening lines of the song, citing “cold sweats” and “shakes.” Her frustration and exhaustion at this point in her journey are apparent, repeatedly stating throughout the chorus, “Sometimes I just wanna cave and I don’t wanna fight.”
Lovato’s lyric video for the song begins with a montage of empty liquor bottles and other fragments, followed by shots of Lovato’s successful moments and photographs of her family. She expresses deep regret, singing that while she longs to be a role model to her fans she is also “only human.”
“I’m sorry that I’m here again. I promise I’ll get help / It wasn’t my intention / I’m sorry to myself,” she croons in “Sober.”
While Lovato has not publicly discussed the particular nature of her relapse, she posted the lyric video to her Instagram account, with the caption “My truth.”
With a star like Lovato speaking openly about her continued struggles with addiction and relapse, others in recovery feel the familiarity of her words. While Lovato had reached significant milestones in her recovery, her relapse reminds us of the powerful nature of addiction, and that no matter our circumstances, we are all human.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that as many as 40 to 60 percent of patients treated for drug addiction will relapse within the first year of completing treatment. As the agency reports, one might believe that such an intense risk of relapse signifies the ineffectiveness of substance abuse treatment; though as with any chronic disease, the relapse often signifies a need to restart or readjust the person’s treatment.
Relapse does not equal failure in recovery. The complexity of addiction means that neither treatment nor day to day management of the disease can be one-size-fits-all. Setbacks in sobriety are no reason to be ashamed; accepting the help you need to overcome a setback is a feat of bravery.
Lovato is to be applauded for her candor, and for sharing her story with the millions who struggle with the ongoing battle of addiction on a daily basis.
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