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How Demi Lovato Is Changing the Conversation About Addiction

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How Demi Lovato Is Changing the Conversation About Addiction

How Demi Lovato Is Changing the Conversation About Addiction

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By Irina Gonzalez for Glamour:

On Sunday Demi Lovato released a statement on her Instagram account addressing her relapse and recent hospitalization following a reported overdose. It was her first time speaking out since she was rushed to the hospital on July 24, and she characteristically didn't hold back from talking about her addiction. "I have always been transparent about my journey with addiction," she wrote. "What I've learned is that this illness is not something that disappears or fades with time."

She added, "I now need time to heal and focus on my sobriety and road to recovery. The love you have all shown me will never be forgotten, and I look forward to the day where I can say I came out on the other side."

Lovato also thanked God for keeping her "alive and well," as well as her family, her team, and the hospital staff who were by her side. But most of all, she thanks her fans for their continued support. "I am forever grateful for all of your love and support throughout this past week and beyond," she wrote. "Your positive thoughts and prayers have helped me navigate this difficult time." There are over 250,000 comments on the post from well-wishing celebrities and Lovatics alike.

This may not seem hugely significant to most—it's natural for people to send thoughts and prayers after a hospital stay, right?—but as an addict myself, this feels like a turning point in how our society views addiction.

It wasn't that long ago that Hollywood largely ignored or, worse yet, openly mocked famous female addicts. Women like Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, and Lindsay Lohan, who has been to rehab facilities several times, were largely painted as tragic figures and stereotypical "hot messes."

This may not seem hugely significant to most—it's natural for people to send thoughts and prayers after a hospital stay, right?—but as an addict myself, this feels like a turning point in how our society views addiction.

It wasn't that long ago that Hollywood largely ignored or, worse yet, openly mocked famous female addicts. Women like Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, and Lindsay Lohan, who has been to rehab facilities several times, were largely painted as tragic figures and stereotypical "hot messes."

Back then, the conversations around addiction were largely based on the false assumption that it could be cured simply by having more willpower. People couldn't understand why these women would "squander" their talent. But addiction is—and has always been—a disease.

When I first went into treatment, I was ashamed to admit to my loved ones what was happening. It took years of problematic drinking that steadily increased until I was blacking out almost every weekend. Eventually, I lost my dream job before I could admit that I had a problem. I was deeply ashamed, and it got worse when I relapsed five times after my stint in rehab.

But like Lovato, I couldn't hide that I needed help again. A month before her relapse and hospitalization, Lovato released a new single, "Sober," inwhich she admits to relapsing. It's a powerful song, especially when she apologizes to family and fans for no longer being sober. When the song came out, I remember thinking how brave she was to admit all of this when so many of us addicts hide our relapse for as long as possible, fearing rejection from loved ones who may see it as weakness or be disappointed, in our disease and in us.

Lovato had just celebrated six years of sobriety, but here she was admitting to the world her truth. Her latest Instagram is just as powerful as she reminds us, "Illness is not something that disappears or fades with time. It’s something I must continue to overcome and have not done yet."

The transparency about Lovato's journey with addiction has shined a much-needed spotlight on addiction. Most of all, it's finally changing the conversation. In the past, she might have been written off as a troubled party girl; now Lovato has brought awareness to the cycle of sobriety and relapse that all addicts face. She's been an advocate for recovery, and her honesty has allowed Hollywood, and our culture, to slowly change.

There was a time, even just a couple of years ago, when I was going through early recovery, when massive support toward an addict was unthinkable. Now, though, it's an open, honest conversation. “Sending love Demi,” wrote Macklemore in the comments of Lovato’s recent Instagram post. “I’ve relapsed many times. The recovery community has always welcomed me back with infinite love and support.”

But it's not just the recovery community that's sending infinite love and support. Her fans, famous and nonfamous, are recognizing the disease of addiction and standing by her. I wish I had known this kind of support was possible when I was going through my darkest time, but I'm glad to know it exists now. It's precisely love and support that we addicts need in order to continue fighting against our disease.

Perhaps Lovato put it best: "The love you have all shown me will never be forgotten…I will keep fighting."

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