Cocaine, Casual Sex and the Road to Recovery: 8 Highlights From Demi Lovato's Simply Complicated Documentary

From her breakup with Wilmer Valderrama to her fight with dancer Alex "Shorty" Welch, the singer holds nothing back in her YouTube film

By Zach Johnson Oct 18, 2017 7:00 PMTags

What's wrong with being complicated?

Not a damn thing, according to Demi Lovato. Her 78-minute documentary film, Simply Complicated, premiered on YouTube Tuesday, giving fans a raw look at her road to recovery. Directed by Hannah Lux Davis and filmed over the course of seven months in early 2017, it covers everything from her eating disorder to her sobriety, and even her first major heartbreak.

Here, E! News selects eight highlights from Simply Complicated:

1. Lovato Tried Cocaine for the First Time at Age 17

After being bullied for years in school, a popular student peer pressured Lovato into partying. She first drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, and she tried cocaine around the time she was working for the Disney Channel. Lovato's mom warned her the drug could stop her heart, but the Sonny With a Chance actress says she "did it anyway," explaining, "I loved it. I felt out of control with the coke the first time that I did it." Addiction, sadly, runs in her family. "My dad was an addict and an alcoholic," Lovato says of her biological father. "I guess I always searched for what he found in drugs and alcohol because it fulfilled him and he chose that over a family."

2. The Jonas Brothers Tried to Stage an Intervention

"It was actually the Jonas Brothers waving the flag, and saw Demi veering in a different direction," Lovato's manager, John Taylor, says. In 2010, the singer punched a backup dancer, Alex "Shorty" Welch, on a plane, and entered rehab shortly thereafter. According to Lovato, Welch had tattled on her for throwing a wild hotel party. Lovato, who was high, "manipulated" Kevin Jonas Sr. into identifying Welch. "I remember thinking, 'I'm about to beat this bitch up.'"

Until that point, Nick Jonas thought he had helped Lovato take control of her life—particularly as her relationship with his brother Joe Jonas "had become really complicated." As he explains, "I was playing the bridge...It became really good between she and I for a while, growing closer than we've ever been. I remember thinking in my head I felt a bit of pride about it, like selfishly maybe I was helping her [get] back to being the Demi we know and love. 'She's not going to do anything crazy. She'll be fine,'" he recalls. "And then the episode [involving Welch] happened."


3. Rehab Didn't Work the First Time

Lovato received inpatient treatment for the first time in 2010, but the incident with Welch led to a two-month "bender" when she was "using daily." At 18 years old, she says, "I just came to a breaking point; the next 12 months were extremely difficult." She left rehab with a "glow" that faded fast. "I wasn't working my program. I wasn't ready to get sober. I was sneaking it on planes, sneaking it in bathrooms, sneaking it throughout the night," she says. "Nobody knew."

One night, mixing cocaine and Xanax had near fatal consequences. "I started to choke a little bit, and my heart started racing. I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, I might be overdosing right now,'" she says. Her manager, Phil McIntyre, says she did interviews about her sobriety while high. "She was on air promoting this new way of life," he says. "I was like, 'You're so full of it.'"

Lovato knew she was burning bridges. "I was using while I had a sober companion, and I went through like 20 sober companions. I was either craving drugs or on drugs. I was not easy to work with," the "Heart Attack" singer says. "It's embarrassing to look back at the person I was."

Demi Lovato Through the Years
Watch: "Eric & Jessie" Recap: Season 3, Episode 7

4. She Spent Time in a Psych Ward

While in Palm Springs, Lovato's specialist says the singer had to be hospitalized after locking herself in her bedroom and swallowing pills. "The nurse is checking her in. The bottle of pills is there, she grabs the pills, she then downs all the other pills and says, 'You f--king bitch! If I just tried to kill myself, why would you give me access to pills?'" the specialist recalls. Lovato was admitted to the hospital's psychiatric ward, but refused to get clean. "I didn't feel anything. I didn't feel guilty. I didn't feel embarrassed," she says. Lovato continued to use drugs in secret, and even faked drug tests using other people's urine. "I'd lie straight to their faces," she recalls.

At her lowest, Lovato invited two "random people" to party in her hotel room and got "really, really drunk" with them before a flight in 2012. "I was so drunk, I vomited in the back of the car service on the way to the airport to perform on American Idol," she says. Lovato was hungover for the entire show. "I felt like that was a moment in my career where I didn't care," she admits. "I just knew that I needed to be high to get through whatever I was going through that point."

Mike Bayer, Lovato's personal-development coach, says he noticed a shift in Lovato after her management team threatened to fire her if she didn't get sober. "The most important fear to Demi is losing people—losing people who she cares about and who love her," he says. "That's the most important thing to Demi." As Lovato herself says in the documentary, "It wasn't a matter of if they're going to leave; it was they're leaving. 'There's nothing more we can do for you.'" Taking her specialist's advice, she turned over her cell phone to cut off access to drug dealers. But first, she smashed it on a plate and threw it in a vase of water. Her manager still has the destroyed device. "It was the beginning of the process of surrendering," Lovato says.

Courtesy: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images for Topshop Topman

5. She Still Loves Ex-Boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama

It's no secret actor Wilmer Valderrama was Lovato's first true love. "I met him on Jan. 11, 2010. I thought, 'I have to have him,' but I was only 17 and he was like, 'Get away from me,'" the singer says. "When I turned 18 we started dating. I think it was love at first sight. We connected on a level that I've never connected with anybody before. He was just my rock, my everything."

"I've never loved anybody like I loved Wilmer and I still love him," she continues. But, after nearly six years together, the couple announced they had broken up in June 2016. "The sparks never faded, but there are issues that I haven't conquered yet that I know I won't conquer if I'm relying on somebody else to take care of the loneliness. I just wasn't ready and there was so much in my life that I hadn't explored yet...That was one of the reasons why we broke up, because I've never been alone," the "Give Your Heart a Break" singer explains. "It had nothing to do with falling out of love. We decided together that we just probably are better as friends."

At times, she has regrets. "I do have moments where it's late at night, I'm lonely and I wonder if I made the right decision, because love is a gamble," she says. "I don't know if I'll lose him for the rest of my life. I think my heart is always with Wilmer. I think it was with Wilmer. I think it is with Wilmer. I think it will be, because you don't share six years with somebody and not give them a piece of your heart, and vice versa. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to meet anybody that compares to him, but I'm trying to keep an open heart and open mind when it comes to that."

6. She Doesn't Identify as Straight

During a fitting, Lovato tells stylist Avo Yermagyan she has been using the invite-only dating app Raya. "I am on a dating app with both men and girls. I am open to human connection, so whether that's through a male or female, it doesn't matter to me," she says. She's doesn't have a type, per se, but she is attracted to athletes. "There is something sexy about someone putting in all of their physical strength into their passion," she says. And when it comes to getting down and dirty, the singer says, "There's a certain stigma around women having casual sex and for me, I feel it's my body, it's my choice, it's exciting, it's a connection with somebody and it's fun."

Lovato isn't afraid to embrace her sensual side, either. "When I'm comfortable in my own skin, I feel confident," she teases. "When I feel confident, I feel sexy, and when I feel sexy, watch out!"

7. She Is Still Battling an Eating Disorder

"When I was in a relationship with Wilmer I went three years without purging, and when we broke up, that's one of the first things I did," Lovato confesses to McIntyre. "The less I have to think about food, the easier it is to go about having a normal life, and I don't want to let anybody down, so when I do have moments when I slip up, I feel very ashamed. What started the relapse was missing Wilmer. When I feel lonely my heart feels hungry and I end up binging."

Lovato adds, "I don't know how to figure out how to be alone."

The bingeing began at age 8, after Madison de la Garza was born. "A lot of the attention was taken off me and onto my little sister," she says of actress. "I had started working at that time and was under a lot of stress, so I would bake cookies for my family. I would eat all of them and nobody would have any to eat. That was my first memory of food being that medicine for me."

Lovato believes her eating disorder began after she was subjected to intense bullying as a child, when a group of "pure f--king evil" classmates started a campaign urging her to commit suicide. "Food is still the biggest challenge in my life," she tells a trainer. "I don't want to give it the power to say it controls my every thought, but it's something I'm constantly thinking about."

Food makes Lovato think of "body image, what I wish I could be eating, what I wish I could be eating next, what I wish I didn't eat," she admits. "It's constant. I get envious towards people who don't struggle with an eating disorder, because I think my life would be so much easier."


8. She Doesn't Want to Keep Any More Secrets

"Looking back, it was hard on anyone," Lovato says of being a child star, "let alone a kid."

In hindsight, McIntyre says, "I could connect the dots and see there was an immense amount of pressure. She was living two lives. Here she was, squeaky clean on the Disney Channel, all types of moral clauses, and just intense [scrutiny] around behavior. Once the camera stops rolling, she's living another life, and she couldn't really be herself. She couldn't be a normal teenager."

Now, for the first time in her life, Lovato isn't afraid to share her truth. "The last decade has taught me a lifetime of lessons. I've learned that secrets make you sick. I'm learning how to be a voice and not a victim. I've learned sex is natural. I've learned that love is necessary, heartbreak is unavoidable and loneliness is brutal," the 25-year-old pop star says in the documentary. "I've learned that the key to being happy is to tell your truth and be OK without all the answers."