Everything we learned from Demi Lovato's docuseries Dancing With the Devil
Demi Lovato has spent half her life in the public eye, from her days on the Disney Channel to her transition to global pop star. But there's a lot she's been holding back — and she's finally letting it out in Dancing With the Devil.
The singer's unflinchingly honest four-part YouTube docuseries, helmed by Michael D. Ratner (produced by OBB Pictures and SB Projects), covers not only Lovato's near-fatal overdose but also previously untold traumas that led to her addiction. The harrowing footage is a stark contrast to Lovato's scrapped 2018 documentary, which was shelved after she landed in the hospital. "I was allowing the cameras to see the tip of the iceberg," she says. "I wasn't showing them what I was doing behind closed doors."
Now she's busting them wide open for all to see. Here's a quick rundown on the shocking revelations she shares.
Her first relapse with drugs and alcohol
One month after a show where she celebrated being six years sober, Lovato relapsed. The experience began after she ran into her old drug dealer at a party and "went on a shopping spree...That night I did drugs that I'd never done before. I tried meth. I mixed it with molly, with coke, weed, alcohol, oxycodone. And that alone should have killed me... It was only two weeks before I was introduced to heroin and crack cocaine."
Lovato hid what she was doing at the time from everyone in her life, but her former sober companion Sara Elizabeth Mitchell (also known as Sirah) noticed "so many red flags" when their friends had a casual game night and she found Lovato smoking something with tinfoil in the bathroom. "She didn't even notice I was there," Mitchell says. "I stayed there and just made sure she didn't kill herself the next day. I just told her, I said, 'You need to go get help, I can't do this anymore.'"
Lovato went on a trip to Bali a few weeks later, which is when she realized she had become addicted to heroin. That moment inspired her to write "Sober." She then went on tour in Europe and "stayed clean, kind of," but was "drinking a lot." When she got home, she "picked up where [she] had left off." In a chilling bit of foreshadowing, the day before her near-fatal overdose, she was performing "Sober" at the California Mid State Fair but "forgot the words." She just laughed and walked off stage with a shrug.
The overdose was worse than anyone knew
While Lovato's July 2018 overdose and hospitalization were widely reported on at the time, details about its severity were kept private until now. "I actually don't think people realize how bad it actually was," she says. "I had three strokes. I had a heart attack. I suffered brain damage from the strokes. I can't drive anymore. And I have blind spots in my vision so sometimes when I go to pour a glass of water, I'll totally miss the cup because I can't see it. I also had pneumonia because I asphyxiated and had multiple organ failure...I'm really lucky to be alive. 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."
Dani Vitale was initially blamed for the overdose, but had nothing to do with it
The night of her overdose, Lovato was out celebrating the birthday of her former creative director Dani Vitale. Around midnight, Lovato invited everyone back to her home, and Vitale remembers that the singer offered everyone sparkling waters. Lovato wanted people to sleep over, but as everyone left, Vitale and another friend had a "weird" feeling like they needed to stay, but decided Lovato would be fine. "The reality was I had called my dealer over," Lovato says.
Vitale was later blamed for the pop singer's overdose by fans, receiving thousands of death threats and hate messages every day for over a year. "I lost all my teaching jobs," she says. "No one wanted to bring their kid to an apparent 'heroin dealer teacher'... I had to rethink my whole future. All because of someone else's decision." That's why Lovato wanted Vitale to be included in the docuseries, so she could clear her name. "I just want the truth to be told because you deserve that," Lovato says to Vitale.
Lovato's multiple sexual traumas
"What people don't realize about that night for me is that I didn't just overdose, I also was taken advantage of [by my drug dealer]," reveals Lovato. "I've had my fair share of sexual trauma, throughout childhood, teenage years, and when they found me, I was naked. I was blue. I was literally left for dead after he took advantage of me." Lovato remembers waking up in the hospital and being asked if she'd had consensual sex. "And it actually wasn't until maybe a month after my overdose that I realized, hey, you weren't in any state of mind to make a consensual decision," she says.
Lovato goes on to reveal that she was 15 the first time she was sexually assaulted. "I lost my virginity in a rape," she says. "I called that person back a month later and tried to make it right by being in control. And all it did was just make me feel worse." She also says she "had a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that it was a rape when it happened."
"We were hooking up but I said, 'Hey, this is not going any farther. I'm a virgin and I don't want to lose it this way,'" she says. "And that didn't matter to them. They did it anyways. And I internalized it and I told myself it was my fault because I still went in the room with him, I still hooked up with him ... And then I had to see this person all the time. And so I stopped eating and coped in other ways, cutting, throwing up, whatever."
Lovato's complicated relationship with her father
Lovato has previously spoken about her late father, Patrick Lovato, in terms of the songs she wrote about him. But the docuseries finds her opening up for the first time in detail about his own struggles with addiction. "I longed for that relationship with him and then I resented him because he was an addict and an alcoholic and was abusive to my mom," she says. Lovato feels guilt over never reaching out to help him, and reveals she doesn't even know the exact day he died in 2013 from an overdose, because his body had been lying for a week and a half before the authorities found him.
Her short-lived engagement
In July 2020, Lovato announced her engagement to actor Max Ehrich, but called it off only months later. "I realized as time went on that I didn't actually know the person that I was engaged to…Honestly, it was false advertising," she says. "The hardest part of the breakup was mourning the person that I thought he was."
She's also come to the realization that she's "too queer" in her life right now to marry a man. "I'm not willing to put a label on it right this second, and I think I will get there. But there's a lot of things I have to do for myself first. I want to allow myself the ability to live my life in the most authentic form possible."
Her sobriety plan is now "moderation"
Even after her near-fatal overdose, Lovato reveals she actually relapsed with the same drugs again. "I wish I could say the last night that I ever touched heroin was the night of my overdose but it wasn't," she says. "I had just done a week-long intensive trauma retreat. The night that I came back from that retreat, I called [the same dealer as before]. I wanted to rewrite his choice of violating me. I wanted it now to be my choice. And he also had something that I wanted, which were drugs. And yeah, I ended up getting high. I thought, how did I pick up the same drugs that put me in the hospital? I was mortified at my decisions...Realizing the high I wanted would kill me was what I needed to get me clean for good."
She has since decided to forgo total sobriety and practice "moderation" instead. "I know I'm done with the stuff that's going to kill me, right?" She currently smokes weed and drinks alcohol. She also receives regular Vivitrol injections, which blocks opiate receptors, making it so she physically can't get high. "Do I ever want to touch heroin again? No. Do I think I will? Absolutely not," she says. "But I still get [the shots] just because at least for a few years it can't hurt me... I have full faith that you're not going to open up TMZ and see another overdose headline. But I also say this with humility that this is a very powerful disease and I'm not going to pretend like I'm invincible. I have to work every day to make sure I'm in a good place."
The first two episodes of Dancing With the Devil are now streaming on YouTube.