Demi Lovato took to the stage at the 2020 Grammy Awards with a moving rendition of her song Anyone. On stage with only a piano, Lovato put forth a stunning vocal and emotional performance. All the more powerful, Anyone is a song that was recorded four days before her most recent relapse and overdose. Within minutes of her performance sober sites around the world lit up with praise for her raw, intimate execution, this song that she personally identifies writing as a cry for help. Lovato is not the only famous person to “come out” with their recovery recently. From Brad Pitt to Jessica Simpson, sobriety might appear to be en vogue. Yet why can an artist or celebrity sober journey become so meaningful to us? There are three very meaningful ways to create meaning; connection, breaking barriers and the power of being heard.
It seems to be common knowledge that the opposite of addiction is connection. It is also common sense that deep connection can often be illusive in our technology laden society.
A person who is sober might have to work harder to make healthy connections. From sobriety support groups, a fulfilling career, or engaging hobbies each of us has a unique way to join with others. We know in order to thrive we need to engage, love, and become vulnerable. Although we might not personally know celebrities like Lovato, we can be deeply moved by their stories. It brings the healthy reality of struggle along with hard healing work necessary to the forefront of our minds. Hearing an individual’s struggle enjoins us to a universal reality. It is the power of the message, the hope and inspiration of the survivor that literally lights up our brain’s frontal lobe, stimulating a chemical response that we are indeed not alone.
The power of being heard needs little explanation. From the time we are born we cry out. To be heard is to be understood. An individual with a large platform can open up doors of understanding for those stepping through them. Being heard is the antithesis to the loneliness and isolation that can keep people stuck in self destructive patterns. Sharing who we are is an act of generosity that engages meaningful human connection.
Another benefit to celebrities sharing their stories of overcoming addiction are that they are breaking the barriers of stigma. An interesting fact is that anxiety linked with positive energy equals change while anxiety engaged with negative energy results in dread. Stigma can create not only anxiety but such shame that a person becomes immobilized and unable to create change, not only by their own volition, but by the ideas that society has placed around what it means to be addicted. Shame keeps us stuck in an endless cycle of self-loathing that actually prevents change. Breaking the barriers of stigma decreases the perpetuation of shame and can help those who are currently suffering seek the help they need.
Why Does Making Meaning Matter?
When a person of stature reveals their story, it may seem trite to some yet being able to openly and honestly share our stories without the shame and stigma society has attached to addiction is necessary. Not having to live a life compartmentalized, hiding one’s personal journey for fear of rejection, judgment or even retribution can be an agonizing juggling act that does not allow one to fully live into the truth of who they are, the dark and the light. When people have a platform to share the complexities of their inner life, it helps us all take a step forward and live into our truth. In the age of manufactured internet perfection, we could all use a little vulnerability. Actually, we could use a lot. If there is a takeaway from the example Demi Lovato gave to us on that stage it is to live into our vulnerability, share with abandon and break down the barriers of shame. Whether you are on day one or day 1001 you story has meaning. Whether you are still pulling yourself out of the ashes your story can take flight and it matters. In order to break down barriers we must share our story, become vulnerable and live a life where messiness and mistakes are seen as opportunities for meaningful growth and connection.