"A Chain Reaction of Honesty"

Jane Velez-Mitchell, host of HLN's Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, has had a successful career in television for 20 years. In front of the camera, she seemed to have it all together. She was professional, confident and poised, but in reality her life was falling apart. Her new book, iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life, reveals her struggles with alcoholism and sexual identity.

 

"I think this is a real chronicle of courage and candor," Dr. Phil tells Jane. "I thought this took a lot of guts to write this honestly."

"Well, they say you're only as sick as your secrets, and I decided it was time to get honest," she says. Jane says it all started with a book she wrote called Secrets Can be Murder. "I started to realize how fatal and how toxic secrets are, and then I started to look at myself, and I realized I had a lot of secrets and that maybe by telling my story I might be of service to somebody out there grappling with the same problems. I'm dealing with so many of the same issues that people across America are dealing with: alcoholism, consuming addiction, all of these different addictive behaviors that are really destroying our lives."

Dr. Phil reads a passage in her book that highlights how early it all started for Jane: Growing up, her father would ask her to run errands, like going to the store and picking up cigarettes and booze for him. She would also get a few bottles of wine for herself. "'I was the only teenager that had my own wine closet,'" he reads.

[AD]Jane says she began drinking early, when her parents would throw a cocktail party, and she would walk around and drink the abandoned beverages people left behind. Plus, she says she has a genetic predisposition to alcoholism because her father was an alcoholic. "I liked the taste from day one, and I was off to the races. I'm your classic lush, your garden-variety alcoholic," she says. Jane says she realized she had a problem when she couldn't get through a day without a drink.

Steven is a television producer who has worked for Dr. Phil for years. He was Jane's boyfriend for more than a decade and gives some insight into their relationship:

"When Jane would drink, her personality would absolutely transform to this sort of scary beast," he says. "Jane had gone to Washington D.C. on a story, and when she got back, she said, ‘I really got wasted one night, and we went to a nightclub. I don't remember a lot of it, but I met this other woman there, and actually I made out with her on the dance floor. Jane's reaction: ‘You know, I can't believe I did this.' But what really concerned me was that she was drinking beyond what she should be doing."

[AD]"Pretty true?" Dr. Phil asks when the video ends.

"Yes," she says.

 

Jane shares how getting sober opened the door for her to get honest with herself about her true sexual identity.

Steven explains when he began to realize that Jane was gay and opens up about her leaving him for another woman:

"Jane and I loved to go to a spa near Palm Springs. She would always request a male masseuse. Jane went to get a 90-minute massage and suddenly she's back in about 20 minutes. She said, ‘No, it was a female, and it was horrible. I pretended that I had a headache, and I just got out of there.' It was like a big red-flag moment for me. I was like, ‘Jane, you have to deal with this.' It reminded me of the Shakespearean line, ‘doth protest too much.' 'You're overreacting to something big here.' She said, ‘It's not what you think,' and her actions would continue to be of an affectionate girlfriend.

 

"We were still having fun together," Steven says. "It was several months after that I heard those famous words: ‘We need to talk.' She was very honest and up front and said, ‘I met this woman, and I want to go out with her,' and my reaction was ‘Go for it.' I think that I had to come to this realization that if I really loved her," he says, pausing, his voice growing tremulous, "that I would let her go." Steve pauses to wipe his eyes. "I mean, it sounds like a cliché, but if you really love that person, you let them grow, and you let them go."

[AD]Jane reacts to Steve's interview. "Wow. I wanted to love Steven in a romantic way, like the movies, like Casablanca. And I do love Steven, and I'll always love him. He's an amazing guy, and I want to thank him for giving me the freedom to be myself," she says.

Steven joins the show via telephone. Dr. Phil asks Steven, "You couldn't have been shocked because you saw this coming, right?"

"I totally did, Dr. Phil. I didn't want to. I was probably in denial because we were still having such a great time. Absolutely I was heart-broken, but absolutely I was not shocked," he says.

Dr. Phil introduces the woman Jane left Steven for, Saundra, who is sitting in the audience. They are no longer together but all three remain good friends. Saundra says, "It was a great relationship. We had so much fun, and we were together for years. In fact, Jane influenced me to be sober. I'm about to celebrate my first birthday."

[AD]Jane has been sober for 14-and-a-half years. It took her another 12 years after getting sober to get honest about her sexuality. She explains that it took some time to come to terms with it and then she had to come out to her friends and family members. "What I say about coming out, it's not an event, it's a process," she says.