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Demi Lovato powerfully reminds us there is no ‘cure’ for addiction

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Kayleigh Dray
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“This illness is not something that disappears or fades with time,” says Demi Lovato.

Demi Lovato has never been afraid to speak up about her mental health battles; since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011, she has been vocal about her struggles with addiction, self-harm, anorexia, and bulimia.

So we weren’t surprised when, just a few weeks after she was hospitalised for a reported drug overdose, the singer decided to reach out to her fans via Instagram.

“I have always been transparent about my journey with addiction,” she wrote, in a deeply personal statement.

“What I’ve learned is that this illness is not something that disappears or fades with time. It is something I must continue to overcome and have not done yet.”

Lovato continued: “I want to thank God for keeping me alive and well.”

Addressing her fans directly, Lovato added that she is “forever grateful for all of your love and support throughout this past week and beyond”.

“Your positive thoughts and prayers have helped me navigate through this difficult time,” she said, going on to thank “my family, my team, and the staff at Cedars-Sinai who have been by side this entire time”.

“Without them I wouldn’t be here writing this letter to all of you,” admitted Lovato.

“And 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.

“I will keep fighting.”

It is not the first time that Lovato has described her day-to-day life as a “work in progress”. Indeed, earlier this year the Skyscraper singer praised her treatment team for being there for her every single step of the way.

“They’re there for me at any moment of the day and will be there to support me throughout my recovery,” Lovato said.

“That relationship is ongoing – it’s not something where you see a therapist once a month, or your psychiatrist once. It’s something you have to maintain to make sure that you want to live with mental illness.

“You have to take care of yourself.”

According to the charity Action on Addiction, one in three of us suffer from an addiction of some kind.

However, while it can seem all too easy to look for reasons or triggers, it is worth remembering that addiction is a chronic brain disease. And, like many illnesses, it has both a genetic and environmental component: in fact, genetic factors account for about half of the likelihood someone will develop an addiction, while environmental factors affect how much influence those genetic factors will have.

Yes, the initial decision to take drugs or that first sip of alcohol is voluntary for most people. After that, though, brain changes occur over time, making it harder for someone already susceptible to addiction to resist the urge to take a drug. Co-occurring disorders are also extremely common — about a third of all people living with mental illnesses and about half of people living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse.

One of the main beliefs behind addiction, then, is that alcoholic or drug dependence is a long-term, progressive illness. That, while it is treatable, there is no quick-fix ‘cure’. That recovery is a lifelong commitment. 

And it is for all these reasons that we should celebrate those in the public eye who are honest and open about their addiction stories – whether they be focused on recovery or relapse.

“Allowing people to speak to their own experience can help reduce the stigma around mental health struggles,” Jamison Monroe Jr., founder and CEO of the Newport Academy (a mental health and addiction treatment centre for young adults), explained to HuffPost US.

Monroe continued: “It’s important for public figures like Demi Lovato to continue to talk about their experiences, good and bad.

“They shine a light on the facts that substance abuse is complicated, that it touches all demographics and that relapse is not uncommon. Reducing stigma around addiction and mental health issues is extremely important in making societal changes.”

If you are struggling with addiction, Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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