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When Demi hit rock bottom, her traumas came flooding back. Instead of breaking her down completely, they helped her change course and heal.

There is no way to foresee the biggest mistake of your life. 

Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s marriage was celebrated as a milestone in the mid-2000s: a May-December romance that reversed gender conventions and helped destigmatize an older woman’s sexuality. There’s nothing whatsoever groundbreaking about a woman coupling up with a younger male partner — it has been happening since time immemorial — but there was something about the way Demi and Ashton were reported by the press that made the whole phenomenon feel both momentous and scandalous. 

Upon reflecting, we can confidently say that their marriage was a veritable disaster. It involved cheating, extramarital affairs, miscarriages, fertility issues, alcoholism, substance abuse, addiction to prescription drugs, and everything in between. 

However, there is a silver lining to every calamity, and in this case, her divorce from Ashton allowed her to develop a new lease on life. 

Demi Moore’s memoir, Inside Out, released in 2019, is as forthcoming and vivid as any account you’ll find of the actress’s journey. 

The divorce brought back memories of a “devastating” childhood

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

She’s been through hell and back but still maintains an unflinching honesty about everything that’s happened in her life so far. In the book, she recounted how she turned to Vicodin and alcohol to cope with her divorce; it soon became a dependency so disruptive that her daughters stopped speaking to her. Estranged from her children and support system, she had to muster an unimaginable level of willpower to claw back to the surface and recover her sanity. She and her daughters have reconciled in recent years, but the shame associated with her past behavior still hangs over her head like a ghost. 

The 59-year old said the divorce didn’t just uncover many of her vulnerabilities within the relationship; it dredged up horrendous insecurities from her childhood. Her career may seem like the pinnacle of Hollywood glamour, but like any success story, it is underpinned by an immeasurable layer of pain and trauma. These traumas lie dormant in your underbelly, waiting to pounce on you when you’re at your lowest. That’s exactly what happened to Demi; she was reeling from Ashton’s extramarital affair – news she discovered on Twitter of all places — but before she could even process the betrayal, she had to deal with these intrusive memories emerging from the deepest crevices of her mind. “A level of devastating for me that wasn’t really just about that relationship. It was really about my whole life,” she said about her split. The situation reminded her of when she’d been a scared two-year-old, yearning for love and structure. She felt unlovable and unworthy as a child and spent her entire life getting away from those negative emotions; however, they came flooding back at the most inopportune time. 

It was really about my whole life. It was about being the two-year-old who wasn’t safe. This really represented that I’m not lovable, that I’m not deserving. And, that’s not about him; that’s all just about me. 

Demi Moore to ABC News

A rough upbringing with a suicide attempt, rape, and abandonment

It’s no surprise, really. Her childhood had been chaotic and even disturbing on many occasions. Demi’s mother, Virginia, tried to attempt suicide when her daughter was only twelve; young Demi had to dig pills out of her mother’s mouth to save her life. Then, Demi’s dad, Dan Guynes, separated from her mother and left the family to fend for themselves; she later found out he wasn’t her biological father. At 15, Demi was raped at home by a man her mother reportedly knew. “It was rape and a devastating betrayal, revealed by the man’s cruel question, ‘How does it feel to be whored by your mother for $500?” she said in her memoir. 

Naturally, Ashton’s infidelity crippled her and forced her to confront the memories she’d tried so hard to bury; she spiraled out of control and let her impulses get into the driver’s seat. There’s a history of addiction in her life; Demi had basically grown up seeing her mother give into those compulsions time and again, so when she found herself in a similar position, she fell into the same trap. Addiction is a very complicated matter. It’s not just about exercising restraint and resisting temptation; it is about instituting healthy practices you know you can fulfill in the long term. It’s about taking care of yourself and your mental health and being aware of the triggers that can destabilize you. When you’ve hit bottom, you’re merely trying to survive and feel; stability is the last thought in your head. 

The long process of healing that continues to date

Demi happened upon the same realization while fighting her demons. She needed to break the trend that had destroyed her mother’s life and came so terrifyingly close to ending her own. She needed to re-establish her self-worth and feel like she was worthy of being loved. This isn’t an easy affirmation to make; you have to do a considerable bit of work to reset and reframe your mind and essentially transform your values. “I think it says that the thing that got me here—this incredible toughness—was almost the thing that did me in,” said Demi. She’d become used to fluctuating between two extremes; sometimes, she would break, and sometimes she would bend. 

I know that sounds like the perfect life. But as I would soon find out, if you carry a well of shame and unresolved trauma inside of you, no amount of money, no measure of success or celebrity, can fill it.

Demi Moore in Inside Out

The Ghost star also learned, perhaps the hard way, about the cost of hanging onto “unresolved trauma.” No matter your success or your money, it will find a way to activate itself and inflict more pain. Once she was able to address and slowly heal herself, things did start looking up. Her family started speaking to her again; she was able to achieve sobriety, she found time in her calendar to nurture her hobbies and get in touch with her inner self – something she’d failed to do in the years prior. Her childhood may have been a mess but her future is shining bright. 

Be in touch with your emotions

Simply put, your emotion at any given time shapes your experience and outlook of your life. It can make or break every single moment. If you’re holding onto pain you know you should address, you need to understand that it will hurt you sooner or later. As long as you can get ahead of your crises and have the emotional strength to cope with their fallout, you will live to fight another day. That’s why it’s critical to be in touch with your emotions and recognize them for what they are. It will give you the ability to withstand whatever comes your way and help you build yourself up for when the storm passes. It’s what drives us every waking moment, so let’s get to know and take care of them.