Just months into her recovery, Demi Lovato stumbled onto a hard truth.
Initially, after exiting rehab in early 2011, she felt she held all the answers. Her three months in treatment had led her to believe it was her previously undiagnosed eating and bipolar disorders that were causing her problems.
Sure, she had started drinking as a teen, buoyed by her sudden entry into the cool kids' club, and after trying cocaine at age 17 she had reached a point where she could barely go an hour without a hit. But substance abuse, she thought, wasn't really all that big of an issue for her.
She was only 18, after all, one of the more famous teens running around Hollywood. She should be able to have a little fun. But after a few nights she'd like to forget -- and the untimely exit of some 20 sober companions -- she realized she would need to leave the party early.
"I had to learn the hard way that I can't do parties anymore," she told Refinery29 in 2016. "Some people can go out and not be triggered, but that's not the case for me."
It's a lesson she seemed to forget in recent months. Sources reveal to E! News that 2018 was another year of transition for the beleaguered pop star.
Once again, she was shedding her clean living support system--cutting ties with longtime sober companion Mike Bayer, CEO of CAST Centers, the wellness and addiction treatment center she co-owns, and even members of her management team -- and living life on her own terms.
Those parameters allowed for a few nights out. Though the 25-year-old didn't miss a beat on her Tell Me You Love Me tour, even performing at the California Mid-State Fair just two days before she was rushed to an L.A. hospital, suffering from an apparent overdose, her decision to mix in some pleasure with her business worried friends.
"Demi recently has wanted to be more social and out and about," one source reveals to E! News, "and has been privately partying more with friends."
Publicly, Lovato appeared her same, confident self, hitting all her marks as she criss-crossed the globe from San Diego to Copenhagen.
Between renditions of "Cool for the Summer," "Heart Attack" and "Confident," she remained on message with her unflinching brand of honesty, getting emotional about hitting six years of sobriety while on stage in New York City this March.
"The reason why I became so open about my story is because I know that there are people here tonight that need to ask for help and I want them to know that it's OK," she told the crowd. "Mental health is something that we all need to talk about and we need to take the stigma away from it. So let's raise the awareness. Let's let everybody know it's OK to have a mental illness and addiction problem."
Even after she confessed to a relapse, eloquently sharing her pain with her June release "Sober, she appeared to have a firm grip on her recovery.
"Friends wished Demi well after the singer announced she was no longer sober," says one source, "but conversations with Demi lead them to believe that after her public admissions that she was using again, she was taking the necessary steps needed to become sober once again."
At a July 19 Post-Prime Day Celebration for Amazon employees, "She sounded amazing," one concertgoer tells E! News. "Her onstage presence was strong and she put on a great show." Echoes another onlooker, "You never would have known something was amiss with her."
The only sign that something could possibly be a little off was when she bumbled a bit over the lyrics in one of her songs, says the onlooker, "But she got back on track fairly quickly." A somewhat common occurrence for artists, what with constant performances and the pressure to deliver perfection to fans, a momentary memory lapse didn't seem all that notable.
Even when it happened again at her July 22 show -- after bungling the lyrics to, off all things, "Sober," she announced to the crowd, "F--k, I forgot the words!"--it didn't feel like a huge cause for concern. She had a demanding schedule, after all, with another show slated for July 26 in Atlantic City and a slew of concerts in Latin America kicking off in September.
In retrospect, it was her increasingly frequent forays back into the social scene that should have been viewed as troubling.
When fans questioned her new extracurriculars -- say the time she was seen holding a cup filled with yellow liquid while hanging with fellow Disney Channel alum Cole Sprouse, Matthew Scott Montgomery, Debby Ryan and Alyson Stoner, celebrating Hayley Kiyoko's new album release -- she was quick to deliver one of her signature clapbacks.
"I don't have to defend anything," she tweeted, "but it was red bull."
But caffeine was hardly her biggest vice. One source tells E! News that in recent weeks she'd been imbibing alcohol and other substances. Adds another, "She's been heavily using and her friends have been very worried that this was going to happen."
While Lovato managed to keep up outward appearances as she busied herself with the day-to-day responsibilities of her tour, says a third confidant, "She has definitely been having her ups and downs. She has had really good days where she is perfectly okay and on track and really bad days where her team and friends have been very concerned. Everyone has been urging her to get help with her life coach, and to seek treatment again, but Demi thought she could handle it on her own."
Steering her own ship, she decided to go out with friends on Monday night, a birthday celebration for her choreographer that led them to West Hollywood's Saddle Ranch. At the Western-themed spot, a blend of steak dinners and mechanical bull rides, the large group ordered round after round of a party classic.
"Demi was taking shots with her friends," says an onlooker. And while the singer "wasn't super sloppy or wasted," notes the witness, "she was definitely drinking. Her friend were cheering her on when she took a shot."
An odd move, egging on a recovering alcoholic to to imbibe liquor, but this wasn't her normal crowd, insists a confidant: "She's been hanging out with the wrong mix of friends who didn't have her best interest."
Slamming their last batch before the 2 a.m. close, Lovato's crew realized they weren't keen to let the night end. So the "Sorry Not Sorry" singer led a contingent back to her Hollywood Hills pad, a four-bedroom cliffside spread that's become known as the after-party spot amongst her circle.
There, says another source, they continued the festivities for 12 straight hours. Quite simply, says the source, "She slipped up and thought she could handle it."
Her system clearly couldn't. While it's unclear what substance led to the frantic 911 call -- an insider confirms it wasn't heroin as was erroneously reported, but Lovato allegedly refused to divulge details to police and first responders -- the naloxone that was administered is an opioid-overdose antidote.
With the life-saving substance in her system, she was rushed to the hospital, her loved ones, including mom Dianna De La Garza, 16-year-old sister Madison De La Garza and 30-year-old sister Dallas Lovato scrambling to reach her bedside.
Their relief to see the Grammy nominee and five-time People's Choice Awards honoree "awake," as her representative reported to E! News in a statement Tuesday night, was matched only by her own. "This is obviously a huge wake up call," says the source. "Demi doesn't want to die and she's very grateful to be alive."
Now, she's ready to go back to work. The insider says that once she's discharged, "She will be leaving the hospital and heading straight to rehab. Her family has been by her side supporting her and is getting her the help she needs."
While this is obviously one of Lovato's scarier slips, it's nothing that she can't handle.
"It's a daily journey and it's definitely going to be a struggle that I'll have to deal with for the rest of my life," she told E! News in 2011, while discussing her single, "Skyscraper", a track dripping with metaphors about her rise from rock bottom. "Sometimes I think, 'Why couldn't I have been normal?'"
Instead, she'll have to settle with being your standard, fallible human, albeit one with a powerful message and the power to influence.
"I'm not going to be perfect," she told E! News, "but...if I can make it through the day, that's all that matters."