BY Laurie Green
September 14 2009 8:00 AM ET
Jane Velez-Mitchell got the call from CNN’s newly renamed sister network HLN (formerly Headline News) about the same time she sat down to write her memoir. Rather than leisurely penning the book last fall in her beach-adjacent condo in Los Angeles’s Venice neighborhood, she would have to churn it out while moving to New York and starting a job as host of the weeknight current affairs program Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell.
Due to the looming deadline, “there was not a lot of time to obsess about it,” Velez-Mitchell, 53, recalls before taking a seat in the anchor chair for her evening news-and-views panel show, which leads into Nancy Grace. “I put it all on the page, and when I was reading it back, I said to myself, Ooh. Ouch. I said that?”
Velez-Mitchell casts her father as a social-climbing alcoholic who dabbled in Scientology, and she recalls colleagues who called it a calculated career move when she added her Puerto Rican mother’s maiden name, Velez, to her sign-off. Her harshest words, though, are for herself in iWant: My Journey From Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life (HCI, $24.95). “I was a blackout drinker who did many bizarre things while under the influence,” she writes. One can’t help but laugh at the time she delivered the news in a bikini and a T-shirt after getting bombed (she had been drinking on a boat before heading to work but nonetheless delivered the goods), but her tales of growing up gay and confused aren’t the chucklefest of, say, Simon Doonan’s musings; iWant is a cautionary tale.
Although nothing dramatic led Velez-Mitchell toa 12-step program in 1995 -- no car crash, no reprimands by bosses in her nicely progressing career -- the road to sobriety was nevertheless full of land mines. In therapy and a the program, she discovered she was not just an alcoholic but also a workaholic, an overeater, a compulsive shopper, and a codependent drama queen.