Demi Lovato Opens Up About Drug Addiction, Mental Health, and the Challenges of Recovery in New Documentary, “Simply Complicated”

demi lovato simply complicated

Demi Lovato’s rise to fame didn’t come without complications. In fact, there were several obstacles in the young star’s life that almost ended her stardom before it truly began. These are all detailed in her new YouTube documentary, “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated,” which was released just last month.

“Simply Complicated” is an honest, candid, raw look at Demi Lovato’s life and her road to recovery—recovery from depression, from bipolar disorder, from an eating disorder, and from drug addiction.

Turnbridge first wrote about Demi Lovato’s drug addiction a few years ago, when she had just started her recovery journey. The 25-year-old is now five-years sober and using her story to encourage others struggling with substance abuse. The documentary “Simply Complicated” is one real, unconventional way to do so. Here is we took away from Demi Lovato’s addiction and recovery story.

1.  Recovery is in fact a journey, and relapse is often a part of the recovery process.

Demi Lovato didn’t “get sober” overnight, or even after her first stint in drug rehab. Rather, it took the star time to learn how to live sober, and to embrace that sober lifestyle.

What many don’t know about Demi Lovato is that, back in 2011 when she completed her first treatment program and was promoting a sober lifestyle to the public, there were still demons she was trying to fight. She wasn’t ready or fully willing to change. Even after rehab, she was either craving drugs or on drugs. In “Simply Complicated,” she fully discloses:

“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.” The “bender” Demi refers to here is what eventually led her to her “breaking point”— an overdose scare in which she mixed the stimulant cocaine with the depressant Xanax. It was then, she believes, she first realized something had to change.

2.  Drug addiction often stems from other underlying, mental health disorders.

When Demi Lovato first went to treatment, she was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder—a brain disorder characterized by unusual shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. Someone with bipolar disorder might experience periods of intense depression alternating with episodes of high energy or mania. This emotional instability makes those with bipolar disorder more likely to become addicted to drugs – 56 percent more likely, to be exact.

In addition to facing addiction and bipolar disorder, Demi Lovato also struggled with an eating disorder called bulimia. Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon among young women today, with 62 percent of teenage girls already having body image issues and trying to lose weight. Yet eating disorders, as we can see with Demi Lovato, also pose greater risk for substance abuse. Those with eating disorders are five times likelier to abuse substances than the general population.

Mental health disorders, like eating disorders and bipolar disorder, too often go hand-in-hand with drug abuse. Clinical professionals call these “co-occurring disorders” or dual diagnosis – in which both a substance use disorder and a psychiatric disorder is present. For a person like Demi Lovato, who struggles with her body image and episodes of depression, it can be easy to look to alcohol or drugs to “numb” or “escape” the pain. On the other hand, drug abuse can escalate the symptoms of a mental health disorder. Effective drug treatment, therefore, involves treating all disorders simultaneously, in an integrated dual diagnosis program.

3.  Teen drug use isn’t always “just a phase.”

Many parents want to assume that their teens are just “acting out” when they drink alcohol or try a drug like marijuana. Many parents want to blame experimentation or other peers at school. As we learn in “Simply Complicated,” many people in Demi Lovato’s life felt this way at first, and went to the easy answer—that she was being a teenager, that she was being dramatic, that she was acting out. Then Demi’s drug use became a larger problem, and others started to grow affected by it. Her anger issues were exacerbated by her drug use, as with her depression and bi-polarity.

It’s important for parents to never overlook their child’s substance use, whether it be alcohol, marijuana, party drugs, or something else. Teenagers, because of their age and brain development, are highly susceptible to substance addiction. If you suspect your teen is using drugs, communicate with your child and express your concerns. Make them aware of the dangers of teen drug use. Most importantly, get help from an outside, clinical professional if you notice any signs of drug addiction.

4.  Everyone has their own path in recovery.

Recovery does not happen the same way for everyone, and we learn this through Demi Lovato’s story. Some people do well in short-term treatment programs. Some require a long-term drug treatment plan. Some find an outlet through exercise and healthy eating. Others find it through hobbies like art and music, or holistic activities like yoga and meditation. Everyone has their own healing process, and that is exactly what Demi Lovato aimed to portray in her “Simply Complicated” documentary:

“Everybody has their own path in recovery. For me, it's about going to therapy, working my program, and having an honest relationship with myself and the other people around me.”

Recovery is a process, but it is without a doubt achievable. Demi Lovato found sobriety through a sober living program, a newfound passion for fitness, a loving, supportive network of friends and family, and a full commitment to recovery. She admits that she still faces obstacles from time to time with her eating disorder, but is learning how to love herself and be an independent, healthy, drug-free young woman.

If you or a loved one is battling substance addiction, you are not alone. Addiction can happen to anyone, of any age, gender, background, upbringing, socioeconomic status, educational level. More than 21 million people in America need help for a substance use disorder, yet only 10 percent get the help they need. Find the help that you deserve. Call Turnbridge today at 877-581-1793 to learn about our drug treatment programs for young women and men.