5 of the most extraordinary revelations from Demi Lovato’s must-see documentary
Dancing With the Devil, the singer's most brutally frank documentary about the perils of addiction, is an extraordinary watch.
Singer Demi Lovato is no stranger to the documentary form; it began with 2012’s Stay Strong, and then again in 2017 with Simply Complicated. Both offered a glimpse into her and her struggles around alcohol and addiction and her attempts to overcome them. For all we learnt and thought we knew of her, Dancing With the Devil is Demi at her most autobiographical. She relives the night of her near-fatal 2018 overdose in painstaking detail, and speaks candidly on how years of micromanaging her recovery led to a breaking point with various other traumas alongside this.
There was a lot even her most ardent fans were unaware of. Throughout it all, she remains humble and painstakingly self-aware. Her openness will be a tonic to those who have ever gone through the same. Crucially, each episode ends with an exhortation to speak to someone, to seek help. Whoever you are, she says, you are not alone.
A trigger warning, below details about drug addiction, eating disorders and sexual assault which some may find distressing; we’ve listed some support networks here and below.
Despite what we saw on the surface, Lovato was frequently struggling
The star has battled an eating disorder since age 8, and prior to her 2018 relapse, employed a team of assistants and therapists to help her. Her eating issues persisted and friends and team members said they needed to be careful about what they ate around her. “There were times where I had to spend the night because she ate a cookie,” recalls Jordan Jackson, her former assistant. Her friend Matthew Scott Montgomery believes her team was put in place to help her avoid relapsing, but it “it totally backfired” as a result. “The control and the restriction was way too toxic for her and she was miserable,” he said. “I feel like decisions have been made for me, more so than I’ve made decisions for myself,” Lovato said of the situation.
She relapsed after six years sober
Around April 2018, Lovato explained she picked up a bottle of red wine after a concert and within 30 minutes called someone whom she knew she could get drugs off. “I remember being at a photoshoot and just thinking to myself, ‘I don’t even remember why I’m sober anymore. I’m so miserable. I’m not happy,’” she said. “That night I did drugs I’d never done before,” Demi recalls, saying that alone could have killed her.
No one around her knew about the drugs the night of her overdose
She explained she did not make anyone aware she was using hard drugs, admitting she “manipulated” those closest to her so they wouldn’t find out. On July 24, 2018, after her friend Dani Vitale’s birthday party she invited her friends back to her house to continue, but they declined. While she told them she was going to bed, she really ended up calling her drug dealer. Vitale then said she felt uneasy about leaving Demi’s home. “We were halfway away from the house and we pulled over, and I look at my friend Janelle and I said, ‘Do you feel weird, and she says, I feel weird. Should we have stayed? And I’m like, What is she going to do? She’s going to go to bed. No, she’s fine.’”
She was “on the brink of death” when her assistant found her
Following the overdose, she suffered three strokes, a heart attack, and brain damage from the strokes with pneumonia and multiple organ failure. “I’m really lucky to be alive. My doctors said I had five to 10 more minutes and had my assistant not come in, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said. Her brain damage affected her vision centre to the point that Lovato woke up legally blind and remained that way for the next two months – and though she regained some sight back, she can no longer drive and still experiences blind spots in her vision. “Sometimes when I go to pour a glass of water, I totally miss the cup because I can’t see it anymore,” she said.
She was a victim of sexual assault
Distressingly, the singer said she lost her virginity to rape when she was a teenager working on shows for Disney. “I really beat myself up for years, which is also why I had a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that it was a rape when it happened,” Lovato said. “We were hooking up, but I said, ‘Hey, this is not going any further. I’m a virgin, and I don’t want to lose it this way.’ And that didn’t matter to them. And I internalized it, and I told myself that it was my fault.” She also said she was assaulted the night of her overdose, allegedly by her drug dealer. “I said yes… It actually wasn’t until maybe a month after my overdose that I realised, ‘Hey, you weren’t in any state of mind to make a consensual decision.’ That kind of trauma doesn’t go away overnight.”
Despite all that she has endured, she says she feels like she now can begin again. “It feels like such a fresh start. I feel like I am the freest I’ve ever been. It feels great to live in my truth fearlessly.I feel proud, but I also know I’m not hanging my hat up yet.”
If you are affected by any of the content above, you can reach out to the following support networks:
The Eating Disorders Association of Ireland: bodywhys.ie
Women’s Aid Ireland: womensaid.ie
Alcohol Support Services: hse.ie