Amber Valetta is a world-famous model, actress, entrepreneur and activist. She is also a self-proclaimed addict who has lived with the disease of addiction every day since she was eight years old, when she discovered that smelling ink markers and fingernail polish made her feel better. Valetta remembers sneaking marijuana at a very early age and recalls being high by the time she was 10.
By the time she was 18, the young supermodel had moved to Europe, where she turned to cocaine and alcohol. Although she had a rewarding future ahead, her addiction picked up speed and she put everything – family, friends, career and future – on the line, even showing up at an important job high on cocaine.
Valetta describes herself as a “walking tornado,” and “an addict through and through”, describing her addiction as, “dark, demoralizing and shameful.” She got sober when she was 25 because she believed there had to be something more. “I didn’t want to die.”
Getting well and staying clean, according to Valetta, requires her to be honest and to continually turn inward to look hard at a disease that continually “shape shifts.” Valetta says that prayer and meditation helped find her spiritual compass. By turning inward, Valetta continues to learn how to be a better person, to be of service to others, to live with humility and humor, and to understand what it means to “meet life on life’s terms.”
“The disease is always an arm’s length away,” she says, “but that’s where the growth comes – from pausing, looking within, and asking for help. By telling the truth, I don’t hide in shame, and I get another day sober.” Being honest, Valetta says, allows her to get out of the shadows and darkness of addiction, and back to the light.
Although Valetta grew up in an addictive culture and admits she has a genetic predisposition to addiction, she stresses that she isn’t a victim. She doesn’t blame her parents, noting that other family members growing up in similar situations didn’t become addicted. Valetta says she “was uncomfortable being a human being,” and turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with feelings she couldn’t manage.
“We live in a painful world filled with distraction,” Valetta says, describing a fast-paced culture where it feels uncomfortable to sit still and to be vulnerable – a world in which people have trouble coping with feelings of inadequacy, boredom, loneliness, heartache and confusion. As a result, people turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, shopping, social media, gambling, work, exercise or overeating.
Valetta encourages us to celebrate sobriety. The world, she says, needs more self-love and compassion for others, and more resources, including drug and alcohol treatment centers and rehab for people who are addicted.