Interview: Jane Velez-Mitchell
GO's exclusive interview with the Emmy award-winning television news journalist and host of HLNís Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell
In her new memoir, I Want: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Emmy award-winning television news journalist and host of HLN’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, doles out heavy doses of honesty, emotions and inspiration. She recounts her personal evolution through recovery using the Twelve Steps, taking the reader from her addictions to alcohol, co-dependency, sugar, and overconsumption to sobriety, balance and coming out with writing that conveys a raw honesty rarely portrayed in celebrity self-discovery memoirs. “Not until I became physically and emotionally sober could I make decisions based on good intentions. Honesty is an option, even when you don’t think it is," she told GO during a recent interview at the HLN studios in New York, where she talked about her new book, her dedication to animal rights and her coming out story.
GO: This is the first book you have written about yourself, correct?
JVM: Yes, this the first book about myself. I wrote one other book, Secrets Can Be Murder, which was a psychological analysis of crime and how it relates to ordinary individuals and how we share some of the same toxic secrets that criminals kill over.
So why did you finally decide to write your story?
Well, it actually sort of evolved like most things in life. It came about as a result of this Over-consumers Anonymous Meeting I did with some of my friends. At first it was “oh, another kooky idea that Jane has.” But then they started sharing about how they felt about their own over-consumption and people became really emotional. We realized that we felt revulsion, guilt and helplessness – a lot of the same feelings alcoholics go through. So I realized that there is an addictive component to over-consumption. So I pitched the book idea that we could use the 12 Steps to help America solve its over-consumption crisis.
How did it feel to put the magnifying glass on yourself in exploring your own life story? Something you do so often to others.
Exactly! It was very interesting because I signed the contract for this book right before I started my show here on HLN. So I didn’t have a lot of time to censor myself or ponder for hours whether I wanted to reveal this or that. I put it out there and then when I got it back in book form I said, “Oh, I said that?” It was kind of funny. At the end of the day it is better to be honest. During this time, I also had a bout with breast cancer. I am completely fine now. But it made me shift my priorities and made me realize we aren’t here forever. So when I look at what I reveal in the book I say, “why not take your experience and do something positive to help people who are struggling with the same issues.” I think in the past I was more reticence and concerned with appearances. It really shifted my psyche.
In the book, you talk about reflecting on how unhappy you were during the worst parts of your addiction. Were you cognizant of your unhappiness as you were going through these times?
I had some fun and hilarious times during that time. There are other ways to have fun without that toxic fallout. And I learned that by getting sober. I think there are various levels of happiness. I was lucky that I didn’t get hurt and no one got hurt because of my drinking. But the fact is that when you are drinking to excess or using any substance to excess you are trying to escape from something unpleasant. I think the dichotomy of alcoholics is that the happier they act, the more depressed they really are.
Tell me about the time you hit bottom.
I was at a friend’s house in the Hollywood Hills, partying. It started out very fun but at a certain point, I blacked out. And I had no recollection of what happened. I was told the next day that I tried to kiss the host and I knocked him down a flight of stairs. My boyfriend, at the time, said if you do this again I am breaking up with you. I was very demoralized the next day and realized that this whole thing was ugly. I called my best friend from college, who had recently gotten sober, and I said, “Okay, I am willing to do whatever you suggest to get sober.” And that is when I began a program of recovery. Honestly it was amazing -- the obsession was lifted as soon as I walked into the first meeting. I experienced this convergence by looking at a room of sober people and realizing, “I don’t have to drink.” I describe it as a miracle and I don’t use that word lightly. In one day everything changed.
So how did becoming sober help you with your coming out?
As long as I could drink I didn’t have to deal with it - my sexual orientation. When I became sober I started working on self-honesty because that is the key to staying sober. That is part of the process -- you have to be real about what you are really feeling inside and deal with life on life’s terms. I had admitted to my therapist that I am gay, but had not done anything about it. But I met someone who turned out to be my first girlfriend. When I had this relationship with Sandra, I realized wow, this is what romance is supposed to be like.
How did you meet Sandra?
I met Sandra in 2002 at a Farm Sanctuary Gala at The Beverly Hills Hotel. She was shooting video for the organization and she tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could interview me. I looked at her and something happened to me. Farm Sanctuary then asked us to shoot a video together. And she is an animal rights activist, like me. She is a vegetarian and I am a vegan. And we got really close working together and we fell in love. I was still with my boyfriend but he understood. He is a great guy and we had a great relationship, but until I met Sandra I didn’t know what I was missing.
You talk a lot about your youth in the book. Did you know you were gay when you were younger?
I was a real tomboy. I didn’t like to play with Barbies and girly toys. I was into the Ranger Rick Club, prisms, and tops. I had all sorts of other non-traditional girl toys. I can look back and say my natural inclination was to be gay. But it never crossed my mind when I was younger. I knew I had a certain discomfort around girls and then women. And I wanted to get as far away from that as possible. I think there are a lot of people who are still struggling with coming out. But I think the culture has changed so much. There are options now that didn’t exist then.
Are you surprised by the reaction people are having toward your story?
I am surprised that so many people have related. Every single person that has read it and has called me, has said “I really related to this.” Maybe not every single aspect but some aspect. And that is great because for me why waste a problem if you can be sharing it and helping people get over their issues.
You also talk a lot about your animal rights work, veganism and going green. Tell me about those things.
I also talk about going Vegan because it is something that is important and is really my passion. People can realize that they don’t have to eat the way they do. And what happened was once I got sober, I saw a lot of videos where animals are tortured in factory farms. I started looking at this and as a good person couldn’t condone this. As long as I am sober and as long as I am a Vegan I am a winner. It is better for my health, better for the animals and better for the planet. Meat production is the biggest cause of global warming.
You say that you have not found your ultimate bliss yet. Explain what finding your ultimate bliss is to you.
[Laughs]. I want to be able to play guitar and speak French. Two things I have wanted to do since I was a kid. I saw the Beatles air guitar game. I will struggle with if that is a “kindness inventory purchase” (a test that helps to eliminate cruelty and environmental waste when considering a purchase) or not. But the idea of playing the Beatles is very appealing to me. I would like to do things that I am not capable of doing. Achieving some fun things would be good.
Is there a special woman in your life now?
I am dating someone who is a fabulous person. She is out in LA, so we are doing the long-distance thing. And we are doing great!
You can read more about her book and purchase it here!