Dianna de la Garza, Demi Lovato's Mom, Discusses Memoir About Family's Mental Illness and Addiction

Dianna de la Garza signs a copy of her new memoir, Falling with Wings: A Mother's Story, about her family's experiences with mental illness and domestic abuse.
Dianna de la Garza signs a copy of her new memoir, Falling with Wings: A Mother's Story, about her family's experiences with mental illness and domestic abuse. Danny Gallagher
click to enlarge Dianna de la Garza signs a copy of her new memoir, Falling with Wings: A Mother's Story, about her family's experiences with mental illness and domestic abuse. - DANNY GALLAGHER
Dianna de la Garza signs a copy of her new memoir, Falling with Wings: A Mother's Story, about her family's experiences with mental illness and domestic abuse.
Danny Gallagher
Writing a memoir about your family that holds nothing back sounds like a perfect way to make every Thanksgiving awkward for the rest of your life. But Dianna de la Garza, the mother of Demi Lovato, says the pop singer, as well as her other daughters, Dallas Lovato and Madison de la Garza, encouraged her to write the truth about their experiences with mental illness and addiction.

"Demi was very open and vocal about her struggles, so when I started writing my book, I thought that I want to be a part of helping people, too," Dianna de la Garza said after a recent book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Southlake. "She was kind of my inspiration for that."

With tabloids following Demi Lovato and publishing rumors about mental health concerns and drug addiction, her experiences were already public. De la Garza, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and country singer, wanted to set the record straight and encourage others to seek help with her new memoir, Falling with Wings: A Mother's Story.

"I want people to see that if you're willing to get help as a family together, and all get help and create sort of a safe place in your home for everyone, that you can get through anything because you have each other," she said. "Other than that, I do want people to see my story and our story and to just know that they're not alone. You're not out there by yourself suffering, and it's OK to ask for help however you can."

De la Garza said she's wanted to be an author for most of her life.

"I really wanted to be a country music star, but writing was something I enjoyed doing and was very passionate about," she says. "About seven years ago, I went through treatment after two of my daughters had gone through treatment, and I wanted to write a memoir of our journey as a family together. After I started writing, I started to realize there was a deeper story to tell."

courtesy Dianna de la Garza
The only real challenge was being as honest as possible about painful memories, De la Garza said.

"When I first started writing the book, I thought, 'Oh, it's a memoir,'" she said. "Then my amazing co-writer, Vickie McIntyre — she was the one who started encouraging me as I was writing it. She was the one who started encouraging me to tell the truth and tell everything and how it's going to help more people when you do that."

The memoir opens during a stop on the Camp Rock 2 tour in 2010, when Demi Lovato struck one of her backup dancers and went rehab for the first time. Lovato said in her YouTube documentary, Simply Complicated, that her drug addiction and bipolar disorder led to the incident. De la Garza said it was a difficult moment for her to revisit.

"It was such a traumatic thing when we went through it, but it was the catalyst that said to us, 'We're going to have to get her help,'" de la Garza says. "'No matter what happens to her career or us, it's more important that she get help right now.'"

De la Garza said her oldest daughter, Dallas Lovato, was the first member of the family to undergo mental health treatments related to drug and alcohol abuse.

"She was suffering from issues with drugs and alcohol, and she went to treatment first and was there for six weeks, which was, at the time, all I could afford," de la Garza said. "Insurance wouldn't pay for it, so I had to pay cash. Dallas came out so much happier and healthier than I had seen her in a long time."

While writing, de la Garza said, she recognized signs that her family might need help — like when Dallas Lovato told her that Demi Lovato was searching the Internet for anorexia and bulimia treatment websites on the family computer.

"I passed it off because as a parent, you don't want to believe your child is doing something like that, and I made an excuse and said, 'Oh, she just happened on those by mistake,'" de la Garza said. "Looking back on it now, I should have taken it more seriously because that's when she started having a lot of trouble."

Positive reactions to her story poured in from readers on social media who had similar experiences, she said.

"A lot of people put out messages for me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and the general consensus from everybody has been, 'Thank you for talking about this and showing me I'm not alone,'" she said. "I didn't know that was going to be the most fulfilling thing for me until I got to this point. Just knowing that it's helping people, that's made me the happiest of all."

De la Garza says she's not sure what the next step in her life will be, but she wants to do something that makes to improve access to and quality of mental health care in America. A study published in 2016 in the scientific journal Health Affairs showed that mental disorders cost Americans an estimated $201 billion in direct health care costs in 2013, the most for any medical condition.

"When I tried to get my Dallas into treatment, I never thought to look at my insurance, and by then, it was too late," De la Garza said. "I had to pay for everything."

She said she's spent so much money on ongoing treatments for herself and her children that she couldn't even estimate how much it has cost.

Families shouldn't have to go broke or have a multimillion-dollar recording artist and pop icon to be able to afford quality mental health care, and de la Garza said she wants to do something to change the situation for people all over the country.

"There's no reason for anyone in America to not get mental health care, period," de la Garza said. "This is America, and I hope to one day help change that, whether it's with another book or just to raise more awareness. It's become my passion to help change that. People need it. We all do."
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.