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Authors: Jane Velez-Mitchell,Sandra Mohr

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Addict Nation

BOOK: Addict Nation
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New York Times
Bestselling Author
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

AND
SANDRA MOHR

ADDICT

NATION

AN INTERVENTION FOR AMERICA

Health Communications, Inc.
Deerfield Beach, Florida

www.hcibooks.com

The Library of Congress has catalogued the printed edition as follows:

Velez-Mitchell, Jane.

Addict nation : an intervention for America / Jane Velez-Mitchell and Sandra Mohr.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references.

ISBN-13: 978-0-7573-1545-9
ISBN-10: 0-7573-1545-3
1. Compulsive behavior. I. Mohr, Sandra. II. Title.

RC533.V45 2010
362.196'85227—dc22

2010046514

© 2011 Jane Velez-Mitchell and Sandra Mohr

eISBN-13: 978-0-7573-9192-7
eISBN-10: 0-7573-9192-3

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher.

HCI, its logos, and marks are trademarks of Health Communications, Inc.

Publisher:
 Health Communications, Inc.
 
 3201 S.W. 15th Street
 
 Deerfield Beach, FL 33442-8190

Cover design: Liz Bolwell
Hair and makeup stylist: Jill DeVito
Cover photographer: Andrew Brucker
Photo stylist: Jannette Patterson
Interior design and formatting by Dawn Von Strolley Grove

For

Ingrid Newkirk

whose limitless compassion and tireless campaigning

for the world’s most oppressed creatures

is a beacon of hope that

evolution toward kindness is possible.

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Why This Book Will Change Your Life

1. The Stuffers: Addicted to Consumption

2. The Pharmers: Addicted to Pharmaceuticals

3. The Cybers: Addicted to Tech

4. The Stargazers: Addicted to Celebrity

5. The Players: Addicted to Sex

6. The Bloodlusters: Addicted to Crime

7. The Punishers: Addicted to Incarceration

8. The Breeders: Addicted to Procreation

9. The Gluttons: Addicted to Food

10. The Scrubbers: Addicted to Cleanliness

11. The Mongers: Addicted to War

12. The Sobers: Emotional Sobriety

Endnotes & Interviews

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

W
orking with Carol Rosenberg, HCI’s editor extraordinaire, has been a true gift. With enormous skill and understanding, she has guided Sandra and me through the process of making a complex premise relatable. We are also forever grateful to HCI president and publisher Peter Vegso for his confidence in our ideas and his willingness to give us a dynamic platform to express them. The entire HCI team, especially Kim Weiss, deserve kudos for getting the word out about this project. Our literary agent, Sharlene Martin, is a fierce champion of our ideas who encouraged us to tell this story. My news agent Carole Cooper has always been there for me as a friend and wise mentor.

Thanks also to the amazing team at HLN for the very rare and precious opportunity to express opinions that are fresh and controversial before a worldwide audience. I will always be in gratitude to Ken Jautz, executive vice president of CNN, who gave me my big break by hiring me for the HLN show
Issues
. I am also thrilled to be working for Scot Safon, executive vice president for CNN Worldwide in charge of HLN, who has encouraged me to give voice to my passions. My thanks as well to Bill Galvin, HLN senior vice president, who has being a real champion. My executive producer Stephanie Todd is not only a dynamic leader but a friend who has given me the confidence to take risks. I am in debt to the entire
Issues
team, especially Jennifer Williams, Rob Beck, Emily Barsh, Kaylin Rocco, Sarah Carden, Katy Rogers, Annette Smith, Amy Doyle, Cameron Baird, Alicia Johnson, Amanda Sloane, and Jackie Taurianen. They all use their considerable expertise to bring my rough ideas into sharp focus. Carolyn Disbrow of CNN public relations has also been incredibly supportive. Nancy Grace and her EP Dean Sicoli have also always been there for me. Finally, Liz Bolwell has been a true rock for Sandra and me as we navigated our way through the minefields of America’s addictive habits. Her patience, wisdom, and humor are extraordinary.

“The most exquisite paradox . . .
as soon as you give it all up,
you can have it all.”

—Ram Dass

INTRODUCTION:
Why This Book Will Change Your Life

T
he other night I went to a charity event at a sprawling private home in the hills of Los Angeles. I parked in front of a house down the block, got out of the car, and found myself staring at a distinctive front door. With a start, I realized, “Hey, that’s the place I hit bottom fifteen years ago.” Yep, it was through that fancy door that I was carried out of that house over someone’s shoulder . . . in an alcoholic blackout. I remembered the house only because a friend of mine had lived there and I had visited it often . . . until that wild, out-of-control night.

It was great to be confronted by that memory because it put in sharp relief how much better my life has become in the decade and a half that I’ve been sober. Standing there in the near darkness, those crazy years when my drinking was out of control sped through my mind like a movie stuck in fast forward.

As I walked away and headed toward the party where a chic Hollywood crowd was gathering, I felt immense gratitude. I no longer had to worry about what inappropriate thing I might do or say as the night wore on. I knew that the next day I would remember everything that happened at the party. I knew I would not have to phone anyone the next morning for a “damage assessment,” nor would I have to apologize for anything I did or said. There would be no embarrassment or remorse or worry. In other words, I felt completely free. More than anything else, that’s what sobriety is: FREEDOM!

Why am I telling you this? Because I want
you
to experience that same freedom! Right now you might be thinking,
The nerve of that
Jane, to assume whoever’s reading this book is an alcoholic!
No, I’m not jumping to that conclusion, but I am making a pretty safe bet that you
are
an addict. Why? Because virtually everyone in America is hooked on something. We are a nation of addicts! In
Addict Nation,
you’ll learn how you and I, and other Americans, are being lured into a slew of addictions that are supremely self-destructive. They’re making us high. They’re making us overweight. They’re keeping us constantly distracted. They’re trivializing our most important relationships. They’re putting us in debt. And they’re destroying our natural world. We’re all becoming slaves to our worst impulses. We are giving up our freedoms.

Sadly, what’s happening is the exact opposite of what our Founding Fathers had in mind. The United States of America was created precisely to celebrate “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Freedom of choice is the underlying premise of our society. That means we get to decide how we live our lives, how we spend our money, what we eat and wear, and how we relax in our “free” time.

I love the freedoms I have as an American, and I never take them for granted. In fact, that’s why I’ve written this book. It’s crucial that we Americans confront the huge addiction epidemic that is robbing us of our ability to make rational choices in our own true self-interest.

Enslavement comes in many different forms. It’s not always someone pointing a gun at you or building a wall to keep you where you are. There is also psychological and emotional bondage. If you know intellectually that you are on the verge of making a bad choice, and, still, you cannot stop yourself, then you are just as enslaved as if somebody were pointing a gun at you. Either way, you do not have what it takes to say no to self-defeating behavior.

Addiction Is Determining Our Behavior

We’re all familiar with the obvious addictions: drugs and alcohol. Those obsessions have been with us since Adam first met Eve. They plucked their first grapes and discovered the mind-altering beverage that resulted from the fermentation process. There’s even the occasional reference to alcoholism in the Bible. Addictions have gone forth and multiplied since biblical times. We now have many more temptations to seduce us into dangerous and even deadly choices. Symbolically, the snake may have first starred in the role of pusher by beguiling Eve into eating the apple, who passed it to Adam, getting them both thrown out of Eden. Today, there are many complex forces, not unlike that serpent, which beguile us into bad behavior for their own purposes—usually for profit and power.

Increasingly, almost everything being presented to us as a “free choice” is being packaged and sold in a way that’s designed to get us hooked in order to guarantee that we keep coming back for more. To offer just one obvious example, there’s increasing evidence that fast food is addictive, which would go a long way toward explaining our obesity crisis. The psychologically addictive component is the constant drumbeat of advertizing to encourage fast food consumption, combined with its easy availability. The physically addictive component is fast food’s high levels of sugar, salt, and fat, ingredients now being tied to compulsive consumption.
1

For another example, one need look no further than our current foreclosure mess. Mortgages were offered to millions of people who really couldn’t afford them. Predatory mortgage brokers got their cut and didn’t seem to care what happened to the house or the homeowner after they sealed the deal. These seductive lending policies triggered an addictive binge of spending and overconsumption as people who bought homes above their means proceeded to furnish them using high-interest-rate credit cards. Eventually the house of (easy credit) cards crumbled. We were culturally intoxicated on a cocktail of complex lies, and now we’re all reeling from the hangover. All except the very rich, that is. They just keep getting richer, as America’s wealth divide continues to widen. In almost every case, there is huge money to be made on seducing you into addictive behavior. Ask yourself,
Do I really want to be a slave, existing just to
make someone else rich and powerful?
No, you say? Well, then, read on.

Freedom of choice implies that you have the free will to make a rational choice. Freedom of choice implies you are capable of deciding what is in your true self-interest. Addiction messes with that equation. Addiction, by definition, is being powerless to say no to a particular substance or behavior that generally gives you a quick hit of pleasure, but which often results in long-term pain or other negative consequences.

The Big Issue Is Addiction

Virtually every story I cover on my HLN TV show
Issues with
Jane Velez-Mitchell
is, in some way, shape, or form about addiction. Let’s examine some of the biggest stories of our time. In each case, the BIG ISSUE is addiction.

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