Editor's Note: The following article includes details about assault and addiction that may be triggering. Please proceed thoughtfully.
Demi Lovato has worked as a successful singer and actress since she was 7-years-old. Her new YouTube documentary series Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil, however, delves into the darker period that ran parallel to her acclaim — a time in which she contended with mental illness, substance addiction, and an overdose that nearly cost Lovato her life.
The series, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival on March 17 and will hit YouTube on March 23, is Lovato’s third documentary following Stay Strong (2012) and Simply Complicated (2017), and seems to have delivered on its promise of being her most vulnerable and honest yet. One of the most devastating moments of Dancing with the Devil is hearing the 28-year-old recount her July 2018 overdose. It was an incident whose aftereffects Lovato physically feels to this day, especially considering that she revealed that during same night, she claims she was sexually assaulted by her drug dealer.
Nobody in Lovato's life knew that she had relapsed after being sober for nearly six years. She began using methamphetamine and cocaine, and ultimately became addicted to heroin. On July 23, 2018, Lovato had called her drug dealer and overdosed on a mixture of heroin and fentanyl-laced Oxycodone. However, Lovato said in the series that she "didn't just overdose. I was taken advantage of." Sirah Mitchell, a friend of Lovato's, added: "He ended up getting her really high and leaving her for dead."
When Lovato's assistant Jordan Jackson found the singer the next morning, she was "naked" and "completely blue." Jackson immediately called the head of security and 911, who transported the unconscious Lovato to Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles. She came down with pneumonia after asphyxiating, entered multiple organ failure, and suffered three strokes and a heart attack, which caused permanent brain damage and blind spots in her vision that make her unable to drive to this day.
“I’m really lucky to be alive,” Lovato shared. “My doctors said that like I had five to 10 more minutes, and had my assistant not come in, I wouldn’t be here today.”
It took a few weeks for Lovato to realize the full extent of what had happened to her that night. "When I woke up in the hospital, they asked if [Lovato and her drug dealer] had had consensual sex," Lovato said. "There was one flash that I had of him on top of me. I saw that flash and I said yes. It wasn't until a month after the overdose that I realized, 'You weren't in any state of mind to make a consensual decision.'"
It's a lot to take in, but Lovato asserts that her difficult experiences have set her on a better path, and hopes her candidness in her series will help others who struggle with some of the same issues. “Everything had to happen in order for me to learn the lessons that I learned," she explained at the documentary's recent Television Critics Association panel in February. "It was a painful journey, and I look back and sometimes I get sad when I think of the pain that I had to endure to overcome what I have, but I don't regret anything."
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).