Addict Nation? An Interview with Jane Velez-Mitchell

Award winning television journalist and author Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tandem with Sandra Mohr, has written a cultural study entitled Addict Nation: An Intervention for America, about Americans’ addiction to a myriad of things, from food to alcohol, from sex to procreation (the last of which is my pet peeve).

Addict Nation’s book-jacket offers the following synopsis: “Americans are being lured into addiction. And what we’re hooked on isn’t necessarily illegal or even hard to come by. Prescription medications are making us high. Fast food is making us fat. The Internet keeps us constantly distracted with everything from gambling and porn to compulsive social networking. Television bombards us with glamorized violence. From billboards, to online pop ups, to commercials. . . we’re seduced into buying more stuff we don’t need while we drown in growing debt. Massive profits fill the pockets of a handful of ‘pushers’ at the expense of everyone else. Corporations, government, and the media are creating the illusion that the more we have, the better we are, and so we crave whatever they’re selling and become addicted to their products in the process. Americans are being seduced into self-destructive behavior on a mass scale. It’s time to take our power back. In her trademark no-holds-barred style, Jane Velez-Mitchell asks, ‘Do you really want to be a slave, existing just to make someone else rich and powerful?’ If the answer is no, then read this book. Addict Nation is our blueprint for change, but first we must see what is really going on. This is an intervention!”

Addict Nation is a quick and compelling read; the prose style is simple, yet in its simplicity Velez-Mitchell’s lucid words carry an emotional urgency. Throughout each chapter, she examines a prevalent (American) cultural form of addiction, while continually reiterating the overarching argument of the book: on the level of ethics, our addictions are destroying our lives; on an interpersonal, political level, our addictions are destroying our society and our collective capability to be compassionate and to care for each other.

You can find Velez-Mitchell on her HLN show, “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell,” or as a commentator on high-profile cases for CNN, TruTV, E!, in addition to other national cable TV shows. Velez-Mitchell is an “out” lesbian, animal protection advocate, vegan, and recovering alcoholic with over 15 years of sobriety.

I recently chatted with Jane about some of the more powerful and provocative arguments of her book. Below is the transcript of our discussion.

CherryGRRL (CG): Hi Jane, thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

Jane Velez-Mitchell (JVM): Thank you for doing the interview.

CG: What compelled or motivated you to write this book?

JVM: I’m a recovering alcoholic, and I’ll have sixteen years of sobriety come April 1st. After a few years of sobriety, I started looking around a noticing that a lot of my friends and neighbors, who weren’t alcoholics, had other forms of addiction, [whether it was] hanging on to those prescription drugs too long, or shopping too much and accumulating beyond what [they] needed…. So I called my friends and said, “let’s have a Consumer’s Anonymous” meeting at my house, and, when we started talking and sharing, all this shame, guilt, and really heavy-duty emotion started coming out from people about how their lives were being destroyed by all this over-consumption. [This over-consumption] is a binge followed by remorse, and, after the feeling of remorse wears off, there is a feeling of withdrawal….

CG: Ok…You have a working definition of “addiction” in your book; do you think that addiction is linked to an idea of excess and is recognized through feelings of shame? You seem to be linking addiction very much to this idea of shame.

JVM: Well, I think that the shame is linked to all sorts of other examples, as an effect [of addiction].

(continued on next page)

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