Jane Velez-Mitchell Honored at the Experience, Strength, and Hope Awards

By John Lavitt 02/27/18

“The ESH awards are crucial for the recovery community in that they provide a fun way for addiction experts to come together and celebrate sobriety while, at the same time, trading ideas and strategies about how best to inspire and promote recovery."

Jane Velez-Mitchell with Pat O'Brien at the Experience, Strength, and Hope Awards
Jane Velez-Mitchell with her award, and Pat O'Brien

At the 9th Annual Experience, Strength and Hope Awards (ESH Awards), Emmy Award-winning journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell was honored for her work in carrying the message of recovery. Orchestrated by Leonard Buschel of Writers In Treatment, the Experience, Strength and Hope Award is given each year in recognition of a memoir that tells the story of a person’s honest journey from addiction to recovery. Jane Velez-Mitchell was recognized for her New York Times best-selling memoir, iWANT: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life.

The Fix was thrilled to be a sponsor for this year’s event. When asked why they chose to participate, editor-in-chief Allison McCabe said, “We are proud to support an organization that recognizes and champions creativity and recovery. Words have transformative power that’s unlike anything else, and memoirs in particular tend to resonate with our community and consequently can create far-reaching change. Jane Velez-Mitchell, with her characteristic enthusiasm, wit, and dedication, is a perfect embodiment of what the Experience, Strength, and Hope Award represents.”

Hosted with a comedic flair by actor and environmental activist Ed Begley Jr., this year's 2018 ESH Awards moved from the Skirball Center to the Writer’s Guild Theater on Doheny Boulevard. The show featured actor Joanna Cassidy acknowledging the sponsors and last year’s honoree Pat O’Brien presenting the award. Spoken word performer Blu Nyle set the tone for the show with a powerful performance about early sobriety that included the line, “I am willing to take direction and swim out of the abyss.”

The miracle of recovery expressed at the ESH Awards begins with willingness. With a foundation of willingness, people with substance use disorders can overcome seemingly hopeless situations and find redemption where there was previously only despair. In her speech upon receiving the 2018 ESH Award, Jane Velez-Mitchell said, “Everything I consumed in massive quantities just made me miserable… Indeed, I did experience incomprehensible demoralization and spiritual bankruptcy… Recovery is about opening the door and taking power away from your toxic secrets… The miracle of sobriety is I didn’t have to rewrite my history or pretend it didn’t happen.”

All the speakers at the 9th annual Experience, Strength and Hope Awards expressed a powerful message of hope and recovery. As Leonard Buschel, the founder of both the this event and the Reel Recovery Film Festival, said from the podium, “I think of this yearly gathering as an opportunity to honor all the underdogs that have overcome this cunning, baffling and powerful contender called addiction. We come together as a testament that recovery works in an ongoing effort to celebrate the underdog.”

After the event, The Fix caught up with Jane-Velez Mitchell to discuss both the impact and importance of the ESH Awards. When asked what it means to receive an award that honors your recovery, she said, “This award feels like another miracle of sobriety. It makes me feel a part of the recovery community. I ran into sober friends I haven't seen for years. It was such a great party, proof that we can have so much more fun in sobriety than when we’re in our disease.”

Indeed, from the opening reception (with excellent food provided by The Fix) to the sidesplitting closing performance by comic Alonzo Bodden, the entire event was characterized by a light and positive fluidity that reflects the best of recovery.

When asked whether or not she feels the ESH Awards are important for the recovery community as a whole, Jane Velez-Mitchell said: “The ESH awards are crucial for the recovery community in that they provide a fun way for addiction experts to come together and celebrate sobriety while, at the same time, trading ideas and strategies about how best to inspire and promote recovery. I walked away with a dozen cards from people doing amazing things in recovery. Meet ups are an important part of any cultural movement.”

Some people criticize the ESH Awards because they believe that such a show emphasizes personalities over principles. In other words, they believe that well-known people should not use their talent and access to express a message of recovery. When Jane Velez-Mitchell was asked to comment on whether fame gets in the way of putting principles before personalities, she responded:

“We should always try to put principles before personalities. In Hollywood, famous personalities are all over the place. But, this powerful, cunning and patient disease doesn't care who you are. Humility is the key to staying sober. Indeed, we have no leaders, only servants. Anonymity keeps it that way.”

The 2018 Experience, Strength and Hope Awards continues to walk a fine line between anonymity and expression. By honoring creative individuals who choose to employ their gifts in the service of recovery, the event raises awareness while also reducing the stigma associated with addiction and alcoholism. These are worthy and meaningful goals that parallel our mission at The Fix.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.