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The Harmful Misconception About Demi Lovato’s Drug Overdose We Need to Stop Believing

I think it’s easy for many people to look at Demi Lovato right now, who sadly is in the hospital right now due to an alleged overdose (and is thankfully reported stable), and think, “Oh, just another celebrity.” It’s easy for people to not take this seriously because they see this celebrity who, in their eyes, is far-removed and not relatable. Reality shows a different side though, because in 2014, about 21.5 million Americans ages 12 and older struggled with a substance use disorder.

It’s easy for people to remove themselves from uncomfortable situations, but we need to talk about this. Not everyone talks about mental health, and not everyone treats people struggling with understanding, so it makes sense that maybe we feel we can’t relate, or maybe we’re scared. Substance abuse is a massive problem happening right now though and if we ever want to change that, it needs to start with us. I’ve been seeing really awful comments making fun of Demi’s struggles all over the Internet today. I urge everyone to have some more compassion. As one of my friends put so eloquently, “We cannot treat brokenness, addiction or shame without compassion and vulnerability.”

The biggest misconception I’ve seen repeated all day is that Demi chose this struggle with addiction. The thing is though, it never has and never will work that way. We’re talking about mood-altering substances that seem like a good coping mechanism in the moment, but ultimately manipulate one’s ability to cope and function at all. Sobriety is not an act of willpower. Sobriety is very much dependent on the person’s will to get help, but even beyond that, their brain and body’s ability to find reasons (that they can buy into) to stop using and find healthy coping mechanisms to replace the destructive ones.

You also don’t just “stop using.” Abruptly stopping the use of drugs or alcohol can be just as life-threatening as overdosing. Your body and mind can become very dependent on the drug of choice. People go through very nasty withdrawals trying to recover. The physical recovery is just as real as the mental and emotional ones. So, no, it’s not an easy road. It’s not black and white. These struggles are very complex. Drug and alcohol addiction requires very intensive treatment.

Last month, Demi came out with the heart-wrenching song called “Sober.” The lyrics suggested they relapsed recently. As a fan of Demi, I’ve also noticed that it doesn’t seem like they’ve taken a break from the public eye. And that’s perfectly OK. However, it worries me greatly because recovering from mental illness and/or addiction doesn’t have to do with how strong and brave a person is. What it ultimately comes down to is choosing recovery again and again and again — even in hard moments. As a fan, I’ve been concerned about them because I think anyone struggling with addiction needs to receive long-term support. Relapse is the nature of the beast. Those urges and cravings do not just go away overnight.

I commend Demi for always being so honest and open about her struggles. At the same time, I also want to give Demi permission to recover in their own time. As a fan, I couldn’t possibly know what Demi’s life looks like, but I do know they’ve continued performing. They were even supposed to have a concert near me later this week. And it’s so admirable that they keep conveying this inspiring message of “staying strong,” but I really hope they recognize that it’s OK to take time for herself to get better. Healing doesn’t have a time limit, but also, I don’t think anyone anywhere could possibly heal from such traumatic struggles in just a month or two. You are never alone in your struggles. You are worth saving. I’m sending everyone out there hurting so much love and healing thoughts.

And to Demi, we all know you’re so strong, but please know you are stronger for getting help. You are stronger in your vulnerability. What makes you a warrior isn’t what you’ve been through. What makes you a warrior is that you keep getting back up despite the hard times. You may feel like you lost a lot of fans and friends. You haven’t lost me. You haven’t lost your family. You haven’t lost the ones who have never left you. This is not your fault.

This post was originally published to The Mighty and is now viewable on Yahoo. This post has been updated with Demi’s pronouns, which were announced in May of 2021.