In 2018, Demi Lovato was hospitalized for an overdose after six years of sobriety. The details surrounding the overdose were unclear. TMZ initially reported an apparent heroin overdose but later said that a “source connected to the singer” claimed that was false. At the time, it didn’t seem like fans would ever know all of the facts, but Lovato has made a career of telling her truth, so it isn’t shocking that her documentary Dancing with the Devil functions like a tell-all. The new YouTube Original premiered Tuesday night and includes unreleased footage of the months leading up to her overdose from her 2018 Tell Me You Love Me tour and present-day interviews.
Over the years, Lovato became a mental health advocate and has appeared to be pretty transparent about her sobriety, but Dancing With the Devil exposes how little we knew about the 28-year-old’s private life. Lovato refers to the pressures of recovering from an eating disorder and substance abuse while embarking on a world tour as “the tip of the iceberg.” For fans who have grown up with Lovato, the shocking details of how close she was to death may seem unbelievable, and even hyperbolic at times, but the docuseries removes the veil; She and her team attempted to control the narrative until it spun out of control, and now she is being totally candid about what happened that night. Here are some of the most surprising takeaways from the first two episodes.
The lack of control in her life became her undoing
After Lovato was checked into a rehabilitation center in 2013, her professional life was tightly controlled in order to help her manage her eating disorder. Her immediate team had to be drug tested, and her best friends, along with her former choreographer, claim they also felt the pressure to watch what they ate around her.
“My team has consisted of assistants, a wellness coach, a dietician, a nutritionist, a therapist,” said Lovato in an interview from the 2018 tour footage. “I’ve had all these people in and out of my life. I feel like decisions have been made for me, more so than I’ve made decisions for myself.”
Every detail of her life was decided for by others, which led to an unhealthy relationship to food. In 2018, she found herself excessively exercising and extreme dieting while on the Tell Me You Love Me tour and she wanted to reclaim control of something, even if it was just food. “I was miserable, and I snapped.” Last year, the singer said on Ashley Graham’s podcast that she believed her unresolved issues with food were a false sense of recovery, one that led to her relapse with substances.
Dancing With the Devil even shows footage from her tour stop at the Barclays Center with DJ Khaled praising her for celebrating her sixth year of sobriety. According to Lovato, the pressure to be a role model for sobriety became too much. Three months later, she relapsed with drugs and alcohol.
Realizing she was unhappy, she questioned her sobriety. In June, she drank a glass of red wine and ran into her former drug dealer at a party she went to. “That night I did things I had never done before,” she said. “I had never done meth before. I tried meth. I mixed it with molly, coke, with weed, alcohol, and oxycontin. That alone should’ve killed me.”
She was good at keeping her habits a secret
She told her best friends that she decided to start drinking again, but they had no clue what happened the night she relapsed. “I think in terms of her friends and family, we didn’t really know about the drugs,” said Sirah, one of Lovato’s best friends who appears throughout the documentary as talking heads.
Two weeks after relapsing, Lovato called a dealer for the cocaine and Xanax cocktail she had used six years prior. All he had was heroin and crack cocaine, so she tried it. In June 2018, she released “Sober,” an emotional ballad apologizing for relapsing, but still thought she could use heroin recreationally while on tour. Lovato’s old tour footage is so extensive that it even includes a clip of the singer performing “Sober” where she stumbles on her words the night before her overdose in July. “I’m sorry that I’m here again,” she sings before she realizes she’s forgotten the words. It’s a harrowing scene considering that the next line is “I promise I’ll get help.” The next day, Lovato would be fighting for her life.
“I went out to a friend’s party and none of my friends knew what I was using,” she said. “I kept it very hidden from everyone. That is one thing that I was very good at—hiding the fact that I was addicted to crack and heroin.”
She's honest about what happened that night
Lovato and her team attempted to control the narrative, but the severity of the situation made it impossible. On July 23, she was getting ready to hang with some friends and expressed that she wanted to try sobriety in moderation.
“I had told some friends, Hey, I’ve been sober since I was 19. I want to try this drinking, smoking thing. I just want to see if I can handle it,” she said, recalling the night of her overdose. But her friends had no idea that she was already addicted to heroin and crack. After a night of bar hopping, she called her dealer when everyone went home.
“At around 5:30 in the morning, I said I was going to bed, but the reality was I called one of my dealers over.” Her assistant Jordan Jackson found her unresponsive the next morning. Once most of Lovato’s team arrived, Jackson says she snuck downstairs to call for help. “I didn’t want to get in trouble for calling 911,” she said. “When I was on the call, someone told me to tell the operator no sirens.” But because of the medical severity of Lovato’s condition, sirens were non-negotiable.
“There was one point where she turned blue,” said Jackson. “Her whole body completely turned blue. I was just like, she’s dead for sure.”
If Jackson had called 911 five to 10 minutes later, Lovato could have died
When Lovato’s family found out, they weren’t receiving any real answers about her condition. They said the hospital told them the next 24 hours were crucial as to whether or not she'd live. Her brain was operating at 70 percent oxygen and declining, and she was hooked up to a machine that filtered her blood and recirculated it back into her body.
“I actually don’t think people realize how bad it actually was,” she said. “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. I also had pneumonia and multiple organ failure.”
When she woke up, she had lost her eyesight temporarily, but she hadn't realized it would be possible to overdose. “I was so shocked when I woke up in the hospital,” she said. “I was like, I’m not injecting it, I can’t overdose on it. At the end of the day, if you do too much of anything, it’s going to kill you.”
She says she was taken advantage of that night
“What people don’t realize is that night I didn’t just overdose,” she said. “I was also taken advantage of.”
Lovato says that the drugs she received that night were laced with fentanyl, a drug responsible for the deaths of Mac Miller and Lil Peep, which she was unaware of at the time. But the mismarketing of what she was sold wasn’t the only way the singer suggests her dealer took advantage of her.
“When I woke up in the hospital, they asked if I had had consensual sex and there was one flash I had of him on top of me,” she said. “I saw that flash, and I said yes. 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. That kind of trauma doesn’t go away overnight.”
Kristin Corry is a Senior Staff Writer for VICE.