Charlie Sheen is just a high-profile example of what is going on in our country, says television journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell, host of HLNs nightly Issues program and coauthor with Sandra Mohr of the new book Addict Nation. In the book, they say that addiction is determining our behavior not only toward drug and alcohol use, but toward food, crime, incarceration, technology, sex, procreation, cleanliness, even war.
Velez-Mitchell claims we are being consumed by overconsumption, sold on biting off more than we can chew, buying more than we can use. The voice in the book is the same voice she uses on her HLN Issues show: probing and people-friendly. But what is unusual is the way Velez-Mitchell, a recovering alcoholic herself, connects the dots between our pursuits of happiness and addiction.
In the housing market alone, the book notes, we can see a cycle of addiction: cravingwanting a house as a symbol of success; bingeingbuying a house we cant afford; remorserealizing the upkeep and expenses of a home are beyond our means at this time; and withdrawalfacing the harsh reality of losing the house in foreclosure.
Passionate about sobriety and a more honest lifestyle, Velez-Mitchell and Mohr suggest steps for a simpler lifestyle from bringing your own bags to the store to cultivating spiritual practices that lead to wholeness rather than an empty hole inside that we try to fill with stuff we dont need.
But what will it take to change our perceptions that consuming and possessing more equals happiness? It will take a popular uprising, says Velez-Mitchell. Consumers can make a tremendous difference in our culture of addiction by exercising healthy choices. Every choice you make is not a personal lifestyle choice, but a political, environmental, economic, and social choice. Ask yourself, she says, whom you are supporting when you spend your money and what the environmental impact might be.Velez-Mitchell admits making changes is not easy. I grapple with it every day. It was so cold in New York the other day that my friend and I stopped to get some tea to warm up. We forgot our cups so had to have a discussion about whether it was worth it to get tea in a carry-out plastic and paper cup. We decided it wasnt. The Issues host tries for progress not perfection in practicing what she preaches. Im bombarded with images of things to buy, too. But she chose not to buy gifts for the holidays (except for kids) in order not to contribute to paper waste, as well as to protest the crass consumerism of the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead she re-gifted. The average American could stop shopping for the rest of their lives and never have to buy anything again, outside of toothpaste and soap, she points out.
The authors hope Addict Nation will spawn a movement to detox the country. Velez-Mitchell herself has changed from the raging alcoholic consumer she was when she lived in Los Angeles. I save a lot of money, she admits. She no longer buys junk or stuffs herself with food for a temporary high. In fact, this high-profile TV personality lives in her moms house in New York in her childhood bedroom in the ultimate model of conservation. I had almost everything I needed to feel comfortable, Velez-Mitchell writes in Addict Nation. What makes a home is not stuff. After reading Addict Nation, Judy Kirkwood is considering becoming vegetarian or vegan.