Amber Valletta has opened up about her life-long battle with drug and alcohol addiction.
The American supermodel, who featured in campaigns for Calvin Klein and Versace, says she "put everything on the line" for her addiction.
In a live talk for MindBodyGreen.com Valletta told the audience she was constantly high on drugs and drunk at the height of her career.
"I had a multi-million dollar deal and I showed up the first day of the campaign high and drunk. I didn't care," she confessed.
"I sort of started trying to get out of myself at a very early age," says the 40 year old, adding she believes she is genetically predisposed to addiction.
"Once you feed the monster, there's a switch and it takes hold."
Valletta, who was raised by her single mother, says her upbringing is not at all to blame for her problems.
"I don't blame my parents, I don't blame my family and I don't blame anything that happened to me that was negative," says Valletta.
The supermodel, who has graced the cover of Vogue 16 times, says she's an addict because she feels uncomfortable as a person.
"I know for certain that I am an addict through and through and that even if I'd had this blessed and amazing childhood I'd still want to get higher, I'd still want to get out of myself."
Valletta says she first started searching for a buzz when she was just eight years old, sniffing markers, nail polish and glue.
She admitted she'd probably been high by the age of 10, and when she moved to Europe at 18 she discovered cocaine and alcohol.
The supermodel says drugs and alcohol were widely used in the industry and, as a "socially inept kid" from Oklahoma in a sophisticated world, they provided the perfect escape.
Valletta, who is married to Olympic volleyball player Chip McCaw, described her experience as a using addict as a journey "to the worst places".
"It's demoralising, it's shameful, it's dark, and it thrives on all of those things," says Valletta.
Even though she's been sober for 15 years now, she says the battle is still very real.
"My disease is only an arm's length away from me," says the mother of one.
Throughout her struggles with addiction, Valletta says focusing her attention on herself during quiet times really helps her understand what she needs.
"I continually turn inward. I continually look at my disease because my disease shape-shifts."
The model and actress says she's tried a number of different programs and support groups during her sobriety, but one of the hardest things was admitting to people that she was an addict.
"There's a lot of shame in addiction," says Valletta.
"I had to be willing to lift the veil off the shame and say 'I'm an addict, I can't do this alone. I don't want to do this alone, I don't feel comfortable, can you help me?'"
The aim of publicly admitting her disease, says Valletta, is to help other people admit they need help too.
"My hope is that someone, somewhere ... will hear something that will help them and perhaps get them out of the shadows and darkness of addiction and bring them into the light."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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