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Demi Lovato’s Comeback: She’s ‘California Sober’ and Calling People Out

Demi Lovato made headlines again last week after getting involved in a feud with a Los Angeles frozen yogurt shop. Lovato, who slowly has been returning to the public eye after her near-fatal 2018 overdose, has made a major ‘comeback’ recently with the release of her latest album Dancing with the Devil…the Art of Starting Over and its accompanying documentary. She spilled all the tea in the four-part YouTube Original film (watch here). With some shocking revelations and a controversial update on her current sobriety, Demi certainly seems to be as honest as she’s ever been. But, let’s flashback to 2018, where one accidental overdose changed the trajectory of Demi’s life forever.

After six years of sobriety, Demi Lovato fell back into old habits, quickly leading to a severe overdose in July 2018. She recounts the night in her Dancing with the Devil documentary, and the effects of her near-death experience are much more extensive than most people think. That night, Demi had three strokes, a heart attack, and organ failure; she also suffered from pneumonia and brain damage. At the time she became legally blind, and while she can see now, she still suffers from lasting vision issues and permanent brain damage. Her powerful song I.C.U. recounts the experience of waking up blind and not being able to see her little sister Madison right in front of her. Demi also revealed in her documentary that she was sexaully assaulted by her drug dealer and left for dead the night of her overdose. The traumatic night left more than physical wounds, and Demi was left to grapple with her mental health issues and her addiction in the wake of it. Her interviews in Dancing with the Devil are some of the most open she has ever been, and she admits to several times in the past when she was not honest with the public about her addiction, her eating disorder, and her mental health, among other personal issues. She even expresses a newfound “queerness,” as she explores her sexuality in new ways. As a viewer and a long-time follower of Demi’s, it is hard to take her at word after she has been untruthful with her fans so many times in the past – it is even reiterated throughout the documentary how Demi is a very talented liar and deceiver. That being said, she takes accountability for the pain and suffering she inflicted on herself and her loved ones and appears to be the most genuine version of herself yet.

The album itself, Dancing with the Devil…the Art of Starting Over, is in my opinion, some of her best work yet. There is no doubt Demi’s vocals are unparalleled, but the emotion and vulnerability she brings to this piece of work shine through. One song, “California Sober,” has elicited some backlash and controversy. She discussed this approach to recovery in the documentary as well: while traditional sobriety requires abstaining from drugs and alcohol, being “California sober” means to use certain drugs in moderation. Demi opened up about how she has turned to marijuana and limited amounts of alcohol as a replacement for opioids and harder drugs. Many people have conflicting opinions about this, including Lovato’s mentor Elton John, who appeared in the documentary. Elton, who has been sober himself for over 30 years, simply stated: “moderation does not work.” Many others agreed and criticized Demi for promoting this approach to addiction. On the other hand, many people applauded her for finding the method that works for her rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Only time will tell if the “California Sober” approach will work for Ms. Lovato.

The controversial documentary and album would have been enough to keep the public buzzing about Demi Lovato, but she has also made headlines recently for starting a feud with a frozen yogurt shop. Via Instagram stories, Lovato called out the L.A.-based frozen yogurt store, The Bigg Chill, for their sugar-free cookies and other diet foods that promote “harmful messaging.” During recovery from her own eating disorders, Lovato has been outspoken about body positivity and the harmful diet culture pervading our society. The items the store was selling, Demi argued, triggered her and made it difficult for her to simply enjoy her yogurt.

The Bigg Chill defended itself on Instagram, claiming that their products were intended for those with Celiac disease, diabetes, and other health needs, which Lovato came back saying that this was unclear. Many criticized Demi for attacking a business in the restaurant industry, which has already suffered tremendously during the pandemic – nothing like a major celebrity calling you out to ruin a business. Demi has since apologized to The Bigg Chill, but continued to explain her stance in an Instagram video, arguing that she had to “stand up for anyone who struggles in LA.” Coming from Demi’s perspective as someone who suffered from eating disorders, I absolutely think her feelings and opinion are valid. However, whether calling the business out on Instagram was the right thing to do with her massive platform is questionable.

Regardless of whether Demi was “right” or not, it is clear that she is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. As she says in one of her album title tracks: “I guess I’m mastering the art of starting over.” This is the new Demi – and regardless of our opinions on these controversial topics – I think we all should wish her the best during recovery and finding peace in her journey of self-discovery.

Molly is the Vice President and a contributing writer for Her Campus UConn. A junior at the University of Connecticut, she is currently studying Communication with minors in English and Political Science. She enjoys writing, movies, art, dogs, and anything fall-related.
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