What We Can All Learn From Demi Lovato’s Relapse

Pop singer Demi Lovato’s story is common. She was six years sober before she overdosed in her home on July 24. She was revived with naloxone and transported to the hospital. Relapse is often part of the lifelong recovery journey and should not be viewed as a failure. In fact, between 40 to 60 percent of people relapse.

Lovato rose to fame with starring roles on various Disney Channel television shows and movies, before branching out to focus on her music. She has been open about her struggles with addiction in documentaries and her song lyrics. Notably, both Stone Cold Sober and Sober chronicle her battles with alcoholism and drug use.

In two of Lovato’s documentaries that highlight her substance use disorder, she described herself as a “party girl” who drank from a young age and ingested cocaine and OxyContin. Even when she was living in a sober home, she was drinking heavily and concealing her drug use, according to CNN.

“I had all the help in the world, but I didn’t want it,” Lovato said in her documentary, Simply Complicated.

She eventually accepted treatment and achieved recovery. But even after many years of working with a sobriety coach, living in sober homes and surrounding herself with good influences, relapse sometimes happens. Living in active recovery takes tireless work – each and every day people must consciously make the right choices, and a myriad of factors can contribute to a slip.

Dr. Romas Buivydas, our VP of Clinical Development, spoke to WebMD about what relapse means for Lovato and others struggling with starting over after a relapse.

“Even though you are doing the right thing, exercising, taking your medication, you can still relapse,” said Dr. Buivydas.

What caused her to relapse? According to Dr. Buivydas, her relapse may have stemmed from fear.

“Fear of losing control. Fear of losing a good feeling. In the majority of relapses, the trigger is often a fear of something, when you boil it all down,” he said to WebMD. “Some say, ‘Hey I am feeling well, someday I may not.’ It may be fear of losing a career, a loved one, status, or fear of losing control.”

Other triggers for relapse can be exposing yourself to negative influences.

“There are folks who have been clean and sober for 20 years and have relapses,” Dr. Buivydas continues. “A trigger could also be seeing someone who had a relapse themselves. Or you get fired. Or your status changes. For some it could be an emotional trigger. It could be anger as a trigger.”

As Lovato heads off to rehab after her hospital stay, here’s what her fans and everyone can learn from her relapse.

  • Seek out a therapist. A good therapist will help you identify your triggers and teach you the skills to cope when faced with them.
  • Create a crisis plan with your therapist or clinician. Have a list of supportive people handy if you feel you might relapse. If your sponsor is unavailable, who will be your next call?

For Dr Buivydas’ full interview with WebMD, visit their website.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Spectrum Health Systems and the New England Recovery Center are here to help. For more information about our wide-range of treatment options, call us anytime at (800) 366-7732 for inpatient care or (800) 464-9555 for outpatient services.

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