The tidal wave of compassion and support for Demi Lovato in the wake of her apparent drug overdose last month is indicative of society’s long overdue, shifting views on addiction. Social media platforms have been inundated since the singer’s hospitalization with comments acknowledging her strength and admiring her courage. Instead of finger-pointing, demeaning or judging her, Lovato’s fans and fellow entertainers are showering her with love, and her friends and family are standing firmly by her side. We are, in essence, offering her a giant group hug.
All of this is encouraging. However, we have a lot of work to do as a society when it comes to applying this inclusive, compassionate approach to non-celebrity, everyday Americans and families dealing with addiction.
Why? Because isolation kills. As Johann Hari writes in his seminal book, Chasing the Scream, “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it’s connection.” Yet we continue to look the other way and deny the obvious truth: Our children, our friends and our family members are being rejected, judged and shamed for the same struggles that celebrities receive endless support for ― and they are dying alone, desperate and afraid. 
And no one is immune. In my small corner of Los Angeles over the past four years, a total of nine kids and young adults I’ve known and loved have died of accidental overdoses. Each one, likely driven by shame and self-loathing, was alone at the time of their deaths ― isolated from their families, sober living communities and those who loved them.
I can’t know exactly how Lovato’s friends and family felt when they got word of her hospitalization, but I can relate to their experience. A few years ago, my then 20-year-old son began waging his own addiction battle. An