Dear Demi Lovato – A letter of hope from a fellow recovering addict

Like Demi Lovato, the singer with a history of drug and alcohol abuse who was hospitalized Tuesday in Los Angeles for a reported drug overdose, I am a recovering addict. As an alcoholic who struggles every day to stay sober and has managed to do so for almost 27 years, here’s my message to Demi:

Dear Demi,

The good news is that in 12-step recovery, we don’t shoot the wounded. You still are welcome at the table at every Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meeting around Los Angeles and around the planet.

We never give up on each other, and as a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous I can only hope that you never give up on yourself.

For you, of course, being a sober celebrity is an added burden, but you can’t let it keep you from recovering. Nobody’s judging you. Don’t cheat yourself out of the compassion that awaits your return to a healthy life.

They say that if you really want to find out what love is, be a member of a 12-step program for recovery – then get drunk or high and come back to a meeting. Then you’ll feel true love.

Don’t think you’ve let your fans down, because you don’t owe us anything. Strip away the fame and you’re just one of us – a person who struggles with a brutal disease (and, admittedly, much more). We don’t need you to be Superwoman.  We just need you, in the argot of the program, to come back and fill a seat.

Most people don’t know that when you tour that you put on free, pre-concert events for 300 fans in each city, where local recovery experts lead discussions about addiction. And you do this all at your own expense.

You’re serious about helping people, and we love and admire you for doing this.

But now you can’t let your fame keep you from helping yourself. You can’t say to yourself, “How can I face the people in my meetings? They’ll all know who I am and what I’ve done!”

Yes, they’ll know, but all they care about is that you came back. As the Japanese proverb says: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

You’ll walk into the room, people will glance at you, and I’ll tell you exactly what they’ll be thinking. It isn’t, “what’s wrong with her?” Instead, it’s “thank God she’s back.”

One of the smart things I’ve learned in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is to stop asking questions that have no meaning. The natural tendency after a slip is for an addict or alcoholic to ask: “Why did I do that?” and then go through paroxysms of guilt and shame, reliving the events that led up to the return to alcohol or drugs.

Why did we fall back? Because we’re addicts, and using drugs and drinking is what addicts do. No big mystery there.

The better question my sponsor taught me is this: “Now that I’m back, what can I do differently?” As in, should I be going to more meetings? Be in regular touch with my sponsor? Be actively engaged in the 12-step program and one-on-one service to other recovering addicts and alcoholics? And where else can I step up my game?

That’s the only thing that matters – embracing the actions we can take going forward to solidify our recovery. Chapter 6 of “The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous” is called “Into Action,” not “Into Thinking” or “Into Guilt And Shame” or “Into Recrimination.”

And the “Big Book” says: “There is action and more action. …Faith without works is dead.’” 

You look online today and Twitter is alive with celebrities and fans wishing you love, health and a full recovery. But at some point soon, the media circus will move on, and then it will be the moment you have to face the woman in the mirror.

I know that mirror well. I counted days eight times over a 25-month period before I found my footing in recovery, and it’s been almost 27 years, a day at a time, since I’ve had a drink or a drug.

Once all the shouting stops, you’ll have that moment of decision in which you can choose to rejoin whichever 12-step program you prefer. I pray that you make that self-caring, self-loving choice.

I also know that you have obstacles that many of us in recovery can’t imagine – you’ve spoken openly about your bipolar, eating, and self-mutilation disorders. What guts it must have taken to push these issues to the fore instead of keeping them locked away.

As a result, you are a hero to millions – not just because of your music and acting but because of your courage and advocacy in the public eye.

But now it’s time for Demi … to take care of Demi. And the key is to ignore the voices inside that say, “You’ve blown it for good. You can’t come back from this. You’re a fraud.”

Demi, we addicts and alcoholics all hear that voice when we drink or use. It’s the voice of our disease, and our disease wants us to be alone and hopeless, so it can kill us. Don’t buy the lie. Don’t hesitate to do what you know you can and must do to save your own life.

Don’t get caught up in the ego trip of how many days or years you have. Like all other living addicts and alcoholics, you have the most precious day of all – today. I hope you make the most of it. May God bless you and give you strength.