I recently read about pop star, Demi Lovato’s experience with mental illness and addiction. Amidst her candid reveal of self-harm, despair, indulgence, frailty, and self-disgust, her story of endurance and talent welcome us into the pupil’s chair. We learn when we tether ourselves to self-compassion, creativity and whole-person self-care. In other words, innovating a different today, a more approachable tomorrow, is well within the reach of anyone, regardless of trauma, physical pain, self-imposed limits, socially-imposed limits, status, lack of status or, self-perception.
36 year old Lovato did not hide behind her success, she uncovered her experience, strength and hope, reminding us that every beautiful story has cavernous landscapes of agony, affliction.
Shame, guilt and loss leave countless individuals suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. Lovato reflects that the difference between her and other celebrity peers is that she did not let the stereotype or the fame seal her prediction that she was unlikely to make it to age 21. Instead, Lovato tied herself to healing communities: a rehabilitation center for mental illness (specifically, bipolar disorder and bulimia), a recovery home and ongoing Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to address her poly-substance abuse: alcohol, cocaine and opiates. The once Disney star, joined by 43.4 million followers on Instagram, touring to 42 U.S. and Canadian venues on her Future Now tour, explains that insecurities, wrong turns and a genetic predisposition to mental illness and addiction spark a passion to pay her healing forward.
Lovato is not unique in her suffering. Nor, is she unique in her rising. If there is one promise I can pass on to humanity, as we get face to face with fatal illnesses like Lovato is: resurrection from the deaths (plural, as in many) of mental illness and addiction are as much a possibility for us as uninvited feelings that edge in. The challenge is the maintenance. Like anything worthy of our time, celebration or resources, recovery requires diligence. Careful and persistent work or effort. Once the action is in place, new and tolerable feelings percolate, altering perception and relationships.
The best way to follow Lovato’s lead is to join forces with others recovering from mental illness or addiction. Find your tribe. Create your sober community. Consult with professionals. Spend as much time in a sober family as you did chasing, hiding or running away. For many, we find our people in a treatment center, coming face to face with diagnoses that have been veiled, denied or condemned. Recovery homes, Anonymous (i.e., AA, NA, CMA, CA, SLAA) meetings or, Celebrate Recovery are also great places to put together a tribe of 3-5 friends who are committed to healing, peace and the maintenance required for both.
Lovato’s grit teaches us: life serves the engaged, the searching, the untamed, the grimacing – if we adopt the humility to learn, learn, learn again. Every yesterday is filled with gifts for the tethered pupil.