By Dana Hall.
In November, 2010, Demi Lovato an announcement no one saw coming: she was going to rehab. The news came as a surprise to fans and news outlets alike: Lovato was considered by many to be one of the few child stars who had managed to stay out of trouble. As audiences would soon learn, this could not have been farther from the truth. It was then revealed that Lovato was suffering from an eating disorder, substance abuse, and self-harm. Entering rehab thinking that these were her only issues, Lovato was preparing herself to face it all. Little did she know, there was more.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Lovato found the spotlight at a young age. Starring in Barney & Friends at just seven years old alongside Selena Gomez, Lovato says she was experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder even then.
“When I was four years old, I remember looking in the mirror and running my fingers over my stomach and thinking that I was fat,” she says in MTV’s documentary, Stay Strong. “I was constantly feeling guilty about my weight.”
In 2008, Lovato was propelled to stardom with Disney’s Camp Rock, singing and acting alongside the Jonas Brothers. The instant success quickly exposed her to fame and life in the public eye.
On the surface, everything looked good: Lovato had money, fans, a career and merchandise with her name on it. Beneath it all, things were unravelling. She was letting negative press get to her, she started believing naysayers that picked at her confidence, and the public perception that she was a role model felt false. She quickly began self-medicating with drugs and cutting herself in an attempt to alleviate the stress. Before she knew it, cutting had become habitual and she had developed dependencies on alcohol and cocaine. Knowing she was spiraling out of control, Lovato was still hesitant to admit there was a problem.
Her first wakeup call came in October 2010, when she punched one of her backup dancers, Alex Welch, during an altercation on a plane. Later taking full responsibility for her actions, Lovato says the incident made her aware of her issues and that she might need help. Deciding it was finally time to come forward with her issues, she came clean. She went public with what she was going through and promptly checked herself into a 30-day treatment program at CAST Centers in Los Angeles.
Sitting down for her first meal in rehab, Lovato recounts eating just a few bites of her meal before setting her fork down and insisting she was done. It was in this moment that she truly admitted she needed help.
“That’s when I realized, ‘okay, maybe I do belong here, because I can’t finish a meal,’” she says in Stay Strong.
As she began working through her various problems, Lovato found herself faced with a new diagnosis: she was bipolar. While the news was upsetting, she describes finding out about the disorder as almost relieving. “There were times where I was playing for thousands of people, and then I’d get on my tour bus, like, ‘Why can’t you just be happy? What the fuck is wrong with you?’” she told Rolling Stone in a 2013 interview, “It was a relief to be like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s not me, it’s my brain.'”
The thirty day treatment program turned into a three month stay, meaning that Lovato would spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in rehab. Fighting to stay positive, Lovato quickly had to make the distinction between short and long term happiness. While she was unhappy in the moment, she was working towards something better. After three long months of treatment, Lovato left the rehab center and moved into a sober living home to keep her newly developed lifestyle intact.
Five years later, Lovato is still going strong. She has released three albums since leaving rehab. Unbroken (2011), Demi (2013), and Confident (2015), all broke the top five on the US Billboard 200. She is one of the most prominent celebrity spokespeople on issues surrounding depression, bipolar and eating disorder awareness. Never shying away from answering a question about her past, she is proudly outspoken and remains as candid as she did when she first opened up to the world and told us she wasn’t perfect. In 2015, Lovato celebrated three years of sobriety.
“It’s definitely changed my life in every singly way possible,” she said in an interview with the Today Show.” Yes, I went through a lot of stuff when I was young, but I’m so glad that I did so that I can live a longer, happier, healthy life sooner rather than later.”
In 2016, Lovato reveals that she now co-owns CAST Centers, the rehab facility that helped her through her most difficult journey.
Falling down seven times and rising up eight is no mystery to Demi Lovato. An eating disorder took over her life at a young age. Her insecurities and mental health problems intensified as fame took over, causing her to self-medicate and spiral out of control. Eventually, Lovato was able to admit she needed help to not only her friends and family, but to the world. Instead of sinking into the shadows never to be seen again, Lovato embraced her story and used it to become the role model she’d never thought she was. Since leaving rehab, she has become a force in advocating for mental health and body image. Recently, Lovato announced that she would be taking a hiatus starting in 2017, stating on Twitter that “I am not meant for this business and the media”. Whether or not she decides to continue with show business in the future, Lovato’s story and message live on to motivate and inspire others.
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