I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
It's About The Fight
You never want to think about yourself or a loved one as an addict.
My dad was an alcoholic who used prescription pills to numb himself further from the physical pain he felt daily as a result of a bad back and the depression he denied for much of his life. He wouldn't discuss it, though he did acknowledge that he came from a long line of addicts without actually saying the words; he would stand up to my grandfather for drinking too much and being a cantankerous old so-and-so, and he was quite honest about one of my uncles and a favorite cousin essentially dying of addiction. While my father was sober for a good many years, his final lapse in sobriety resulted in his death; near as I can figure based on what I've been told, he was unstable one evening as he headed to the washroom and on his way back, he lost his footing, fell and hit his head.
I can talk about his battle with addiction and trying to be sober; I've had to learn to do that as his child in order to actually understand that the disease was effectively out of his control. I wish that he could have discussed it, as I think it would have helped him greatly, but he was of a generation where you could not discuss someone who's addicted, or even your own addictions. It would have been impossible for someone who was as functional as he seemed to be for so many years to breathe a word about it to anyone.
That's why celebrities like Demi Lovato being so open about her own struggles with addiction is incredibly powerful. Certainly, she's not the only one to openly discuss her issues with mental health and her ongoing pursuit of sobriety, but she's the latest to suggest, through her recent release "Sober", that perhaps she had relapsed.
It's through that suggestion of being a flawed, feeling human that Lovato is becoming more empowered. There's a reason why people say that addicts are always "recovering"—I feel it's because a lifetime of sobriety isn't guaranteed, particularly if you've had past struggles with addiction. It's because a relapse into addiction can be triggered with potentially no signal, so it becomes more of a struggle to recover from the addiction, rather than sobriety as a permanent solution.
Lovato is making the struggle to maintain sobriety a discussion that everyone can have. For too long, it's something that people just would not discuss, or would whisper about in the shadows.
As much as I'm sure it was difficult to put herself in the position of being an advocate and role model to keep the discussion going about addiction, sobriety, and mental health, Lovato has become someone to be truly admired for more than just her musical or acting talents. At a fairly young age, she is apparently willing to put herself out there and talk about her own battles with sobriety, and people who share that struggle can possibly consider what she's doing and think that maybe, just maybe, it would be okay to discuss their own struggles, too.
While it's important to discuss the addiction itself and potential underlying causes—and that discussion should occur in a forum where the addict would feel supported—it should be okay to also discuss any lapses in sobriety so that people can come to realize that on occasion, relapses happen and it just means you have to work towards sobriety using the same tools you have been or using some different ones to help you be stronger.
Consider smokers, for instance. While I know a number of individuals who, once they quit smoking, had no issue with never picking up a cigarette again, I also know some who did start smoking again. Sometimes, this lapse can be viewed as a failure by the addicted person, which means it can be even harder to kick the habit again.
I'm not an addict—except perhaps to coffee and exercise. But as the daughter of someone who was an addict throughout much of his adult life, I feel that by discussing the struggles with addiction, as well as the struggles that might come with any lapses in sobriety, there might be greater compassion and understanding for those who struggle with addiction as a disease. I understand that groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, among others, encourage those sorts of discussions to occur, and this is probably the backbone of many group therapy sessions.
However, in stepping forward with a song like "Sober" and in discussing her own work in maintaining her sobriety, Demi Lovato is hopefully encouraging people to no longer relegate topics like sobriety and addiction to the shadows. These are important discussions and the fight that occurs to maintain sobriety needs to be better understood.
The only way to encourage that understanding is by talking about it.