I had the pleasure of meeting Demi Lovato a few years ago and have always found her vulnerability and honesty about her recovery to be incredibly inspiring.
When I first came across her latest song 'Sober', I was immediately struck again by her her powerful authenticity and played it to some of the families I work with who are struggling with addiction in their family members. The gorgeous lyrics show a side of addiction and relapse we often neglect to consider when dealing with a loved one who is battling with this disease.
Recently it has been reported that Demi has been in hospital and it is speculated that drugs and alcohol are a part of this story, which is really saddening as it comes after a recent celebration of six years of sobriety.
'Sober' invokes incredibly powerful feelings of shame and sadness that are forcefully communicated in a voice that is both soulful and strong, while sparkling with fragility. She manages to capture the emotions that are prevalent in anyone who knows that the struggle with relapse or addiction is, in a way that is understandable to all.
In my experience as a therapist, and working with addiction, these feelings of shame and sadness she communicates often come up when talking about using and relapsing. These same feelings often hinder treatment and recovery if they're not handled with care and compassion by family members and friends.
Shame is, in my opinion, the aspect of addiction we don't discuss enough, but is the topic we must consider most when talking about addiction to someone who is struggling.
Shame is the feeling that will stop a loved one from asking you for help.
Shame becomes an internalized experience and even becomes part of our identity.
A shame-based addict feels flawed and defective in their very being.
Shame is the feeling that will keep someone from returning to an AA meeting, if they feel judged.
Shame is the feeling that keeps you reaching for that substance.
The stigma around being 'an addict', is often hard for someone in recovery to carry around in the world, it's not something we talk about openly in society. A new friend of mine told me that he went home over the holidays and told a relative he was sober for three years. This relative frowned before saying, 'oh, I'm so sorry- you poor thing'.
He contrasted that story with my excited reaction when he first told me of "Congratulations! How did you celebrate?"
One reaction implies there's something wrong with addiction and might trigger feelings of shame and rejection. The other implies there's something to be celebrated about recovery.
Our reactions when talking to someone with addiction, shouldn't be forced or calculated, but it is often helpful to consider the struggle and any potential feelings around being powerless, desperate and scared of rejection that might not be apparent.
There has been an out pouring of love and support for Demi Lovato since this news broke which show how supportive we can be:
Lady Gaga "We should all wrap our arms of love around Demi Lovato. I am so happy you’re alive. Thank God. If I know my monsters as well as I believe I do, we all wish you self-compassion and inner peace. And may you receive the love so many have for you. #ImConfidentInDemi Demi, I love you"
Ellen: "I love @DDLovato so much. It breaks my heart that she is going through this. She is a light in this world, and I am sending my love to her and her family.
Demi Lovato's willingness to share her struggles, deep and heart-wrenching though they are, is utterly admirable. At the end of her song she offers hope, and promises to “get help” and admits, “It wasn’t my intention” to be caught in addiction.
No one intends to be caught up in addiction, to overdose, or to relapse. As frustrating as it may be to friends and family, know that our words can help, and harm.
Group Therapy for Addiction and Recovery in Los Angeles
If you're in Los Angeles and looking for affordable help with addiction and recovery, please consider individual or group therapy.
Most people living with addiction problems present with 'developmental trauma' - a term which captures the clinical presentation of children and adolescents exposed to chronic interpersonal trauma such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, households filled with rage, alcohol abuse or neglect.
It is believed that such a childhood creates a psychological vulnerability as an adult, making these people far more likely to attach to substances or addictive processes such as gambling or eating than nourishing human relationships. Subsequently, it is difficult, if not impossible, for an alcoholic or addict successfully to negotiate the challenges of healthy interpersonal relationships.
A primary goal of long-term process groups is to help clients develop trust in others so that they can create healing attachment bonds to each other , rather than substances, chemicals and process addictions. Group members are encouraged to work through family of origin issues as unconscious family dynamics and traumatic experiences are often reenacted in the group. Members learn to invest in intimate relationships rather than seek relief and escape or pleasure in while burying overwhelming feelings.
Oliver Drakeford is a family therapist and sees individuals and groups for adult and adolescent counseling. His therapy office is located in Los Angeles close to West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist #LFMT104987