Demi Lovato is as famous for confronting personal issues as for music, which is theoretically great. If it makes people uncomfortable, well … more people probably need to be uncomfortable. Life is sloppy cake and smearing pretty frosting on top just makes a bigger mess when the oven explodes.
That’s a weird analogy. You had to be there.
Lovato is the topic of a new documentary on YouTube, “Dancing with the Devil,” which details her descent and supposed recovery from substance abuse, including a near fatal overdose in 2018.
I say “supposed” because Lovato made clear this week she doesn’t accurately grasp the concept of “recovery.” Of course, how we define a concept is our choice – except for when we apply cute catchphrases to things from which members of the audience suffer frequently awful, life-altering consequences. Then the definer should expect some pushback, which she’s getting.
The 28-year-old singer has admirably been upfront for years about her substance struggles. But as much as we all shove each other out of the way to congratulate Demi Lovato for her bravery, I’ve also occasionally heard her say nonsensical things beyond the normal hum of celebrity self-importance.
This past week Lovato appeared on CBS Sunday Morning and, when asked about her approach to sobriety–which, turns out, isn’t exactly sobriety–she said:
“Yeah. I think the term that I best identify with is ‘California sober.’ I really don’t feel comfortable explaining the parameters of my recovery to people, because I don’t want anyone to look at my parameters of safety and think that’s what works for them, because it might not.
“I am cautious to say that, just like I feel the complete abstinent method isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody, I don’t think that this journey of moderation is a one-size-fits-all solution for everybody, too.”
It took two whole words to undo so much of her supposed good work. Because that’s just stupid. She called it her “recovery.” But that’s not recovery. It’s flicking matches at gasoline, expecting it not to explode.
I’m not saying Lovato isn’t a victim of substance abuse. But she’s nowhere near pulling it off as well as she thinks and, like it or not, using a cute term that would fit nicely behind a hashtag isn’t just stupid. It’s dangerous.
There’s no “had” when it comes to substance issue. You either have them or you don’t. There’s never any going back to moderation, though plenty of people die trying. Take me (please), for example. I can avoid alcohol for a year. If my memory fades and I decide to go back to allowing alcohol to make me funny, smart, fearless, and handsome (no, really) all at once, well … bad things happen quickly.
Remember cousin Eddie in “Christmas Vacation” describing how, when Catherine turns on the microwave, the metal plate in his head makes him piss his pants and forget who he is? Magnify that into zombie Bigfoot trying to speak a dead Nordic language while simultaneously hosting a game show.
Yeah, really. So, without spilling too many details (buy the book), trust me. I’m pretty well versed on the subject, because it eluded me for decades. It may again, but only if I try.
Lovato isn’t totally wrong. “Complete abstinence” isn’t for everyone; it’s only for people who aren’t addicts. There’s no degree to abstinence. It’s like pregnancy, Either you are or you’re not.
Of course there are different roads to get there. I don’t buy the bumper stickers and don’t know the secret handshake. Everyone’s solution is different.
My problem here is a high-profile 28-year-old singer selling her ability to be a role model while not understanding what she supposedly conquered. She really might want to help others, but should first spend more time understanding her supposed problem before dropping cute terms like “California sober.” I got sober living in California. There’s no special mitigating factor here. Addiction is messy everywhere.
If Lovato is still indulging to any degree, her problems aren’t over. That’s her business … until she starts going public with her supposed feel-good comeback story. That’s wrong. I get it. Not going back to the good old days sometimes totally sucks. I miss it. But the stuff changes our brains. There’s a million ways to recovery but never any way back once you’ve arrived (addicts never really arrive, being in a constant state of being one bad decision away from burning down their lives in a matter of days).
There’s no dabbling in something so frequently deadly for the dabbler. Demi Lovato hasn’t figured that out and should stop talking about it until she does.
Follow music critic Tony Hicks at Twitter.com/TonyBaloney1967.