The actress joined Demi Lovato on her YouTube show 4D with Demi Lovato and opened up about her experience as a child star in Hollywood.

By Faith Brar
June 02, 2021
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Despite being decades apart in age, Demi Lovato and Drew Barrymore can relate to one another on a myriad of levels — after all both are recovering child stars (in addition to many other things). Sure, the two have chatted about the, in Lovato's words, "parallels between [their] lives" before (see: April 13 episode of The Drew Barrymore Show). But the duo just took their candid convo a step further during Wednesday's debut episode of the YouTube show, 4D with Demi Lovato, giving viewers an intimate look into both of their experiences with addiction, being institutionalized, and growing up as a kid actor.

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Credit: Getty Images

"I've read that you have to reconstruct the past so that you can deconstruct its meaning," says Lovato as she kicks off the episode. "So today I'm exploring my childhood story, how I've grown and how I've healed and who I am now, alongside someone who has had a fascinating life of her own." (Related: Demi Lovato Just Opened Up About Her Struggle to Stay Sober)

ICYDK both Lovato and Barrymore became a part of the entertainment industry before the age of 10. Lovato starred on Barney & Friends when she was just 8 and Barrymore landed her iconic role in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial when she was 7. Reaching stardom at such a young age wasn't easy for either woman, both of whom later dealt with addictions that left them in treatment.

"I got sober when I was 13 because I had to," says Barrymore. "My mom put me in an institution. She didn't know what to do with me. She had created a monster. I was so upset about having my freedom taken away like that, that I thought it would screw me up for life." (Related: How Taking Painkillers for My Basketball Injury Spiraled Into a Heroin Addiction)

Barrymore went on to share that her rehab experience was the furthest thing from cushy. In fact, she says she was in "hardcore" psychiatric treatment (very much unlike the picturesque "30-day Malibu treatment centers" that are typically associated with celebrities, she jokes). "If you acted out, you were thrown into the stretcher restraints or put into the solitary confinement room — and that was the better of the two choices," she says.

As an adult, Barrymore says that she's found a lot of solace from sharing her story on her eponymous talk show and connecting with others with similar stories and backgrounds. However, she emphasizes that the narrative that rehab and psychiatric treatment can "fix" you is far from the truth. "I think it takes a long time," says Barrymore. "I think it would be so nice for the storytelling aspect of it [to change] from, 'I screwed up, I got fixed, and now I'm fixed.' That isn't how it works at all."

Social media wasn't a thing in the 90s. So while the media definitely caught on to some of Barrymore's struggles, she was able to live out her life pretty privately, which was both a blessing and a curse, according to the 46-year-old star. "I got a really harsh sentence and then a free ride," she reveals. Lovato, on the other hand, wasn't entitled to, what Barrymore jokes were, "good days." Instead, the singer's battle with addiction practically played out in real-time thanks to social media. (Related: Demi Lovato Called Out Social Media Filters for Being "Dangerous")

It wasn't until Barrymore turned 19-years-old that she finally found her footing and re-entered Hollywood after being "blacklisted" for years. Looking back, despite all the struggles, Barrymore says she's happy that things turned out the way that they did. "I just wouldn't change a thing," she shares. "That younger person really got an understanding how it can really all go 'poof.' I'm so happy, and loved, and scared of my life being any different."

"That question is so popular like, 'what would you tell your younger self?' And I'm like, 'nothing! She wouldn't have listened,'" says Barrymore. "If everything hadn't happened the way it was and you took one thing out of the Jenga game maybe you wouldn't [have] come out the other side." (Related: Demi Lovato Revealed She Had 3 Strokes and a Heart Attack After Her Nearly-Fatal Overdose)

Before signing off, Barrymore makes a point to commend Lovato for how much she's lived an authentic life after dealing with addiction, identifying her sexuality, and growing up as a child star in Hollywood. "You told your truths so bravely, so beautifully, [and] so disarmed," says Barrymore. "You took off the armor piece by piece."

As a message to other recovering addicts and those who experienced childhoods, Barrymore says that it does get better. "What I didn't know when I was a kid and in that institution is that I was convinced that would be my narrative forever," she explains. "It's nice to know, years later, that the book keeps being written, the chapters keep evolving, there are different focuses, different lessons, [and] different experiences."

For more information on drug addiction or to get help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a free, confidential 24-hour hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)