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Jane Velez-Mitchell talks addiction to celebrity

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Jane Velez-Mitchell is the host of CNN's ISSUES with Jane Velez-Mitchell and a best-selling author. Her latest book, Addict Nation: An Intervention for America, discusses various addictions suffered in America, including one with celebrities. TheCelebrityCafe.com: I've always considered an extreme attraction to celebrities as an obsession and not an addiction. How is it any different from an addiction to say drugs or alcohol? Jane Velez-Mitchell: One of the interesting things about addiction is it doesn't matter what drugs you use. It's all about the same basic motive to escape, to suppress unpleasant feelings, to avoid dealing with pain. What I like to say is, "Different addicts drive different cars but they are all headed to the same exit of oblivion." Some people will use drugs, some people will use alcohol, some people will use food and some people will use celebrities. There are two types of addictions: consumption and behavioral. Consumption addictions are drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc and behavioral addictions are porn, shopping, gambling … and celebrity is the latest one. The basic question is what's the motivation? Having admiration for a star is a wonderful thing. Many of us have had admiration for great performers, great artists, great writers and great actors. But when it crosses a line into obsession, when you're really living a fantasy on some level – behaving as if you know this person when you don't – then it's a form of escape and you're using it as a drug to numb yourself. I think we have a desire to live on the inside of the velvet rope and not be one of the nameless faces on the outside, so we live vicariously through these people by going onto their websites and staying abreast of every little detail. At some point the mind plays a trick on us and we pretend that we are part of that sphere. TheCelebrityCafe.com: You have one specific case in your book about a three year old obsessed with Justin Bieber. Jane Velez-Mitchell: Right, and it's kind of "out of the mouths of babes." There was a famous Youtube video of a three year old having a fit and crying because she wants to be with Justin Bieber. She's really upset Justin Bieber is not in her life and nobody can console her. Then the phone rings, by coincidence, and suddenly a big smile comes on her face and she says it must be Justin Bieber. That was adorable and it was also very revealing because children don't have the power to dissemble the way adults do so we're seeing here – out of the mouths of babes – the true desire of a human being when it comes to celebrity. They want them to be a part of their lives, they want them to be friends, they want them to call, and the fact is they are never going to call. TheCelebrityCafe.com: And sometimes it can become a scary moment. Jane Velez-Mitchell: Right, with stalkers. This is a very real problem. Anyone in the public eyes knows they have to be extremely careful about interacting. What we're creating with this addiction is two distinct worlds where the more we attempt to have these celebrities part of our world by approaching them and clamoring for them the more remote they become. It's ironic. The celebrity world is virtually impenetrable. There is no real interaction with them, even for minor celebrities. There are mentally unbalanced people who stalk celebrities, but that's an extreme example of our addiction to celebrities just as there are extreme manifestations of other addictions. Alcoholism manifests itself as someone passed out in the gutter. Not every alcoholic behaves that way but that's the extreme manifestation. TheCelebrityCafe.com: You dedicate a section to celebrities we love to hate and use Mel Gibson and Lindsay Lohan as examples. Now it's Charlie Sheen making headlines. Jane Velez-Mitchell: We look for, with addiction, a rush. We want to get a rush, get a hit, get a high. When a celebrity gets into trouble it's more of a rush, a hit, a high. It's a jolt. There are a lot of endorphins that get released when we look at somebody who is rich, famous, gorgeous, and glamorous, they live on the best place on Earth and they've got it all but because of their own character defects or circumstances of fate they are in deep trouble. And we love that. That gives us an extra rush in our celebrity addiction. So what we do is we build people up and we deify them, and then we wait until they start believing their own press, and then we wait for their character defects to manifest. They do something stupid, they say something stupid, and then we take them down. It's a rush. It's an actual adrenaline rush to see somebody who's got it all and lose it all or be profoundly humiliated. It makes us feel better about our mundane lives. It makes us look at them and go, "We'll I'm not gorgeous or rich or famous but it seems like today we got it better than that person." TheCelebrityCafe.com: You've dealt with your own addictions to alcohol, food and money. Is a person ever really recovered from an addiction or is it an ongoing process? Jane Velez-Mitchell: All we get is a daily reprieve. I just celebrated my sixteenth year of sobriety, but I could go off tomorrow if I don't work my program. Addiction is never cured. We just find a way to – as I say – stay on the spiritual being. I fall off numerous times a day but I try to climb back on best I can. That's why I wrote Addict Nation. I didn't write it as a doom-and-gloom book but to give people hope because we live in an addict-genic culture. So many people suffer from addiction. I dare say everybody in America suffers from some kind of addiction. If it's not alcohol, tobacco or illegal or prescription drugs … it's something else. Anything can be an addiction. You can be addicted to food, to tattoos, to texting. So the point of the book is to show people you can deal with your problems without having to drown them in dysfunctional behaviors that ultimately create a lot of wreckage for yourself and people around you.