Warning: The following article contains potentially triggering material relating to sexual assault and violence. If you are a victim of sexual assault, call RAINN at 1-800-656-4673. If you’re dealing with substance abuse issues, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline in the United States at 1-800-662-4357.
At just 28 years old, Demi Lovato has already been through a lifetime of trauma and addiction. Her new documentary, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil, goes into harrowing detail about the circumstances surrounding her near-fatal overdose in 2018 — but it doesn’t stop there. According to USA Today, in the film the pop singer reveals she was raped both as a teen and on the morning of her overdose. Lovato also admits she is no longer sober, further explaining why she chooses to smoke weed and drink alcohol in moderation in a New York Times interview.
“I lost my virginity in a rape,” Lovato candidly reveals in the documentary. “We were hooking up but I said, ‘Hey, this is not going any farther, I’m a virgin and I don’t want to lose it this way.’ And that didn’t matter to them, they did it anyways.”
Lovato explains that several factors — including her wholesome Disney image and the public victim-blaming Rihanna for being assaulted by Chris Brown — made her feel like she had to stay quiet. “My Me Too story is me telling somebody that someone did this to me, and they never got in trouble for it,” she added. “They never got taken out of the movie they were in.”
Unfortunately, Lovato’s sexual trauma didn’t end there. Shortly after the 2018 overdose, she realized she was taken advantage of that night. “When they found me, I was naked, I was blue. I was literally left for dead after he took advantage of me,” she recalled. “It wasn’t until a month after my overdose when I realized, ‘Hey, you weren’t in any state of mind to make a consensual decision.’ That kind of trauma doesn’t go away overnight.”
The overdose occurred after Lovato relapsed following six years of sobriety, during which she felt increasingly pressured by managers to stay on track. This led to the heroin and crack cocaine addiction that precluded her overdose on oxycodone, which she now believes was laced with fentanyl.
While in the hospital from the overdose, Lovato suffered three strokes and a heart attack, leading to brain damage and lingering eyesight problems. According to The New York Times, it took her two months to recover after waking up legally blind. She can no longer drive as a result of the lasting effects.
Realizing the cold turkey approach doesn’t work for her, Lovato is currently taking an unconventional approach to her recovery. “I realized if I don’t allow myself some wiggle room, I go to the hard shit,” she explained, after revealing she hasn’t been “by-the-book sober” since the summer of 2019.
“Allowing myself to eat a Mexican pizza from Taco Bell, I found freedom in my eating disorder,” she told The New York Times. “But it was so all-or-nothing and dogmatic with sobriety that I was just like, I don’t know how to live in total balance of my life.”
Although this approach worries people like her manager, Scooter Braun, and her mentor, Elton John, Lovato maintains in the documentary that she is working hard to make sure she doesn’t overdose again.
“I have full faith you’re not going to open up TMZ and see another overdose headline,” she says. “I have to work every day to make sure that I’m in a good place so I don’t go to those things. Time and trust is the only thing that will work for people, and over time you’ll see that I’m good.”
Hopefully, Lovato’s faith in herself is rewarded. The first two episodes of Dancing with the Devil premiere on YouTube on March 23rd, with the following two parts airing the next two Tuesdays. Read our glowing SXSW review here. She is also releasing a new album, Dancing with the Devil… The Art of Starting Over, on April 2nd.