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  December 12, 2015      
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Jane Velez-Mitchell

Photo of Jane Velez-Mitchell

"My Story is about Honesty."

My recovery story really is about honesty. Honesty with myself and with those around me. I knew at a very early age - in my teens - I was an alcoholic and my father was, too. I really think that most people have a mentor in alcoholism and I really thought that people did drink a few drinks EVERY night. I didn't know otherwise.

So I got off to a rip-roaring start when I was a teenager. I was a bookwormish kid who didn't fit in and that's where alcohol came into the picture. All of the insecurities of being an only child melted away. It was fabulous. It worked for a while. How we chase that high!

I didn't hit bottom until I was 39. I had made an ass of myself at a party and I woke up the next morning and called a friend who had gotten sober about six months earlier. I told him I really did a humdinger last night and I surrendered. It really was a miracle because my obsession was lifted. April 1, 1995. April Fools' Day. I haven't had a drink since.

When I began hanging out with sober people and working on my recovery with a mentor, it was amazing that some kind of psychic shift occurred that made me say and BELIEVE that I don't have to have a drink today.

In moments when I would have urges to drink, I would do what my mentor recommended: "Live through the feeling. Remember they aren't going to last forever. You can't replace drinking with not drinking. You have to replace it with some other reward." I learned there were a lot of tricks to dealing with unpleasant feelings: Make a hot cup of tea and go watch the sunset. Take a bath of aromatherapy or do a yoga class.

Even before I was a commentator on television, I did a lot of stories that had to do with drug and alcohol abuse. I realized that I could be of service by sharing insights from my own struggle with sobriety. That's why I wrote my book: "iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life."

You have to be honest with yourself. You've got to admit you have a problem and that your life has become unmanageable. It's that same commitment to honesty that I wanted when I came out as a gay woman.

We have a very skewed idea of what alcoholics look like. People need to start acknowledging that their neighbors, co-workers, relatives, friends or the person at the bank are just as likely to be alcoholics as the person you've pictured in your mind as an alcoholic. It's not just a person pushing a shopping cart with a lot of bags in it.

The fact is they look like you and me and that's something I can share with people through my book and my recovery story. Most important is that people realize that it is not a character defect, not a lack of willpower. It's a disease, an illness that is really not in your control.

Today, my life is less self-centered and less toxic. I am still searching for ultimate bliss, but I know for sure what I don't want: alcohol, cigarettes, money, sugar or status symbols. What I want today from my life in recovery is spiritual.

My name is Jane, and my story is about honesty. What's Your Story?

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