Did We Accidentally Enable Demi Lovato?

Demi Lovato black and white GIF stay strong hang in there

It’s Demi Lovato‘s birthday today, and for as much as I’ve congratulated and celebrated and lauded her in the past, I have a really serious question — did we accidentally enable her? Is it possible that we were so busy patting her on the back for the person she’s become that we forgot to pay attention to the person she is? I kind of think it might be.

In the past, Demi has struggled with a variety of obstacles including cutting, depression, alcoholism, cocaine abuse, bipolar disorder, and bulimia, to name the ones she’s opened up about in interviews. It was remarkably brave of her to admit she needed treatment for those conditions and then to seek it out, and we’re absolutely right to applaud her for that, but I’m starting to wonder if we’ve taken it too far.

In late 2010, after Demi punched one of her backup dancers and had what she’s referred to as ‘a nervous breakdown’, her family staged an intervention and demanded that she go to rehab. She entered a treatment facility on October 30th, and she stayed for the next three months, until January 28th. When she emerged, she was like a different person. She had different goals, different priorities, a different mindset, and even a different circle of friends. (The old ones peaced out when she could no longer contribute to their partying lifestyle, because humans are the worst.)

She was different, and we treated her that way. We heaped compliments on her, marveling at the amount of wisdom she’d accumulated at such a young age, expressing relief that she’d dodged a bullet, and eagerly accepting all her assurances that that life was behind her. But here’s the thing, guys. Demi was only eighteen years old when she first checked into rehab, and no matter what lessons she’s learned since then, we have to remember that her brain still works the same way.

No matter what kind of image she presents to the public, Demi is in recovery, not cured. But with the way we’ve been treating her progress so far, I’m worried that any attempt to revisit that recovery, maybe even returning to rehab as a pre-emptive measure, would be treated as a step back, or even a failure. It seems to me like she burned through a lot of public goodwill on her childhood mistakes, so there’s a lot of pressure for her to stay on the straight and narrow from now on.

I’m not necessarily saying that she’s gone back to any of her old habits, because I’m not privy to that information, but she is back in the same high-risk situations that pushed her into those behaviors in the first place, so that’s something to consider. All I’m saying is that if she did, I think she’d find it a lot more difficult to ask for help this time around. All of a sudden words like ‘relapse’ and ‘off-the-wagon’ would be being thrown around, and she’d get substantially less sympathy, which isn’t quite fair. After all, for all her maturity, Demi is still a young adult, and she needs to have the space to make choices and mistakes without these paralyzingly high stakes.

For as difficult as it must be to ask for help when you’re at rock bottom, think of how much more impossible it must seem to still be struggling four years later and feel like you’re supposed to have it all together now and be good to go without any assistance from the sidelines. I’m hoping that she’s fine, and that my fears are misplaced, but either way, it’s important for us to remember that Demi is still just twenty-two, and probably (hopefully!) still has a lot of learning to do. We just need to make sure we give her the room to do it.

(Image: imgave)

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    • Sara Steinfeld

      I hope that’s not the case…I think if any kind of relapse were to happen she might feel like she has the support of all the people she’s helped by being open about her own problems. But that’s just my opinion.

      • JenH1986

        You can’t really tell. Some clients find it easier to ask for help again, others more difficult because they were “doing so good” or “i’m sober now I should know better.”