The pressures of fame are hard on celebrities, but being a child star adds weight that some celebs are never able to relieve from their shoulders. Disney stars, in particular, often have a hard time coming out from Mickey Mouse’s shadow and into adulthood. Many actors who have appeared on the channel as children have gotten in trouble with the law for everything from driving under the influence to armed robbery to hit and run incidents.
Demi Lovato is one of the most famous stars to break away from her Disney roots and onto more widespread popularity. While she’s never been directly in trouble with the law, she’s always been open about the difficulties she’s overcome in her life in hopes that sharing her story will help someone else. But Lovato’s life has been infused with tragedy from a young age and as of 2020, her battle scars keep growing. We’re rooting for her to make it to the other side of all of this sadness and find true happiness. For now, let’s take a look at the tragic details of Demi Lovato’s life.
Demi Lovato’s late father Patrick was abusive
Throughout adulthood, Demi Lovato’s been open about the fact that her biological father, Patrick Lovato, was abusive and had substance abuse issues. Lovato’s mother, Dianna De La Garza, was a victim of physical abuse by Patrick’s hand, and she wrote about it in the 2018 memoir, Falling With Wings: A Mother’s Story. As De La Garza said in her book (via People), one night, Patrick was so full of rage that he slammed the door on her finger so hard that she lost it. She left Patrick when Demi was 18-months-old. “I thought I could change him, and I think victims of domestic abuse often feel the same way,” De La Garza said. “There may come a point where your love for that person may not be enough to keep you safe,” she warns fellow domestic abuse victims.
As De La Garza went on, “I always encouraged my girls [Demi and older sister Dallas] to have a relationship with [Patrick],” as long as she felt it was safe. People reported that De La Garza believes her late ex-husband lived with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Patrick died of cancer in 2013, and Demi Lovato admitted she had complicated feelings about his death in a video about the song “Father” on her 2015 album, Confident. “I was very conflicted when he passed because he was abusive,” she said. “He was mean, but he wanted to be a good person.”
The incident that led to her bipolar diagnosis
While on tour with the Jonas Brothers in 2010, Demi Lovato went out partying with friends, per People. When she found out that someone had told tour managers and her stepfather, Eddie De La Garza, she confronted the dancer she thought broke her trust, which, according to a source, ended up with “a short, physical altercation,” that was allegedly “one-sided.” Lovato regretted her actions and “decided to seek medical care for her physical and emotional issues at a treatment center,” the insider continued. “She is not in drug rehab.”
The singer revealed she stayed at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, which specializes in treating eating disorders as well as many drug additions, according to its website. Lovato was treated for eating disorders and subsequently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which is classified as a “co-occurring disorder” per the Timberline Knolls site. According to the National Institute Of Mental Health, bipolar disorder is “a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.”
“Sometimes I felt invincible, and it was these moments when my mind would go all over the place,” Lovato told Women’s Health. “When you don’t know what’s happening, why you’re feeling certain ways … people tend to self-medicate, which is exactly what I did.” She admitted, “It was a great feeling to find out that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I just had a mental illness.”
Demi Lovato first tried cocaine when she was 17
In the 2017 YouTube documentary, Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated, Demi Lovato admitted that she started using drugs and alcohol at a young age because she was bullied, with her “popular” friend telling her that partying was the best way to make friends. She was introduced to cocaine at 17 by some friends when she was still one of the darlings of the Disney Channel. “I was scared because my mom always told me that your heart could just burst if you do it,” the “Skyscraper” singer said. “But I did it anyways, and I loved it.”
According to Lovato, the damage her father did to her by choosing drugs over his family was a reason why she experimented with substances. “I felt out of control with the coke the first time that I did it,” she continued. “My dad was an addict and an alcoholic, and I guess I always searched for what he found in drugs and alcohol because it fulfilled him, and he chose that over a family.”
Demi Lovato began self-harming behavior as a child
Demi Lovato entered Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center in 2010 primarily (or at least publicly) to treat her bulimia nervosa and food restricting behavior. In 2011 she told Robin Roberts for ABC News, “I was compulsively overeating when I was eight years old,” explaining that she began her unhealthy relationship with food because bullies told her she was fat. Lovato told Roberts that she began cutting herself at 11 years old. “It was a way of expressing my own shame, of myself, on my own body,” she said. “I was matching the inside to the outside. And there were some times where my emotions were just so built up, I didn’t know what to do. The only way that I could get instant gratification was through an immediate release on myself.”
She explained the behaviors that led her to her breaking point on her 2010 tour with the Jonas Brothers. “I was performing concerts on an empty stomach,” she said. “I was losing my voice from purging. I was self-medicating.” Lovato recalled her first meal at Timberline Knolls in MTV’s 2012 documentary Demi Lovato: Stay Strong, saying she could only eat “two or three” bites of chicken on a plate full of food. When the staff confronted her about finishing it — she refused. “That’s when I kind of realized ‘Maybe I do belong here, ’cause I can’t finish a meal.'”
She may struggle with her mental health for a lifetime
Since going public about her addiction and mental health struggles, Demi Lovato has been clear that hers is a lifelong struggle. “There’s no day off in recovery,” the “I Love Me” singer said at an event for Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health, reported on by Elle in 2015. She later told the site she takes her recovery “day by day, sometimes hour by hour.”
In 2011, after being released from treatment for the first time, Lovato told Seventeen, “Yes, there have been times when I definitely have been tempted to get rid of my dinner. But I will deal with it for the rest of my life because it’s a life-long disease. I don’t think there’s going to be a day when I don’t think about food or my body, but I’m living with it, and I wish I could tell young girls to find their safe place and stay with it.”
The “Warrior” singer had a similar message at the 2019 Teen Vogue Summit. “To be honest, I don’t always feel positive about my body. Sometimes I do not like what I see,” she said. “I don’t sit there and dwell on it. I also don’t lie to myself.” Lovato’s health is what’s most important to her now, and she tries to be grateful for that on tough days.
Demi Lovato’s lost loves
Demi Lovato has an eclectic dating history and has been linked to all varieties of entertainers, from MMA fighters to former Bachelorette contestants. One of her most public relationships and breakups was with Joe Jonas. She told ABC News’ Nightline she was “really mad at him” when he broke her heart, but now, the Jonas Brothers are “literally family.” She confessed she and Joe “may not be as close as we used to be, but that’s OK.”
Her most devastating heartbreak was probably the one she endured with her beau of six years, Wilmer Valderrama. “I’ve never loved anybody like I loved Wilmer,” the “Heart Attack” singer confessed in Simply Complicated. “I still love Wilmer.” They began dating when Lovato was 18, and Valderrama was 29. “We connected on a level that I’ve never connected with anybody before. He was just my rock.” The singer said that the couple decided they were “better as friends.” At the time, Lovato confessed that at night when she’s lonely, she wonders if she made the right choice. But in 2020, she told Harper’s Bazaar, “We’re not in each other’s lives, haven’t spoken in a long time,” adding, “I think I needed that because I needed to learn to be okay on my own.”