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Whether it’s through music or social media, Demi Lovato has long practiced transparency about her sobriety journey. Like many people recovering from substance use disorder, a very honest part of her healing includes experiencing relapses.

“I hate the binary of relapse because it suggests relapse is a failure,” says Katie Witkiewitz, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology at the University of New Mexico. “I see relapse as a learning opportunity and an expected part of the process.”

The reality is that after periods of sobriety and/or institutionalization, people still have highs and lows and may experience a relapse. Sentiments of loneliness, sadness, and numbness that they felt while using may return. Demi’s openness about her relapses is a clear example of healing being a nonlinear, uncomfortable, and sometimes ugly system — a welcome message for those recovering from substance use disorder out of the limelight.

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