Amber Valletta: A Model of Recovery

by Scarlet Barber

By age eighteen, Amber Valletta made the front cover of American Vogue and since has graced its cover fifteen more times. She has worked with high-end fashion designers such as Chanel and Versace, most recently, she dosed the Atelier Versace Spring/Summer 2016 fashion show. Amber has also appeared in numerous roles in movies and on television, most recently starring in ABC’s primetime drama, Blood & Oil. But from the time she was eight years old, Amber was looking for ways to get high. She sniffed markers, glue, fingernail polish, or anything that would give her an escape from difficult feelings or circumstances.

Now, with over fifteen years of sobriety, Amber Valletta has come to Paradigm Treatment to share her own experience, strength, and hope with residents. She did so as a featured participant in the Paradigm Speaker Series, where community leaders and public figure donate their time and energy to impact the lives of youth. Amber explains, “I’m always happy to be of service to the community. It’s a pleasure and honor to come [to Paradigm] and share with [the residents.] Hopefully my story resonated with at least one young person.” And resonate, it does.

As a teenager, Amber moved to Europe to model and was rapidly immersed in a world where dabbling in drugs and alcohol was considered the norm. Growing up in Oklahoma and then suddenly being submerged in the unfamiliarity of the fashion world, she was unsure of how to cope with feelings of uncertainty, which further catalyzed her desire for an escape from her emotions. Dabbling quickly led to addiction. Shortly into her career, Amber put everything in jeopardy, including friends, family, and a multi-million dollar modeling deal when she arrived intoxicated on the first day of a shoot. Despite this, it wasn’t until some seven years later, at the age of twenty-five that she was able to find sobriety, and ultimately, serenity. “I finally realized the truth,” she states. “If I kept drinking and using, I wouldn’t survive the consequences.”

Chronicling her struggles with the residents at Paradigm, Amber Valletta shared feelings of being lost, scared, sad, and lonely. “I know very well how intense and overwhelming those emotions can be,” Amber shared while speaking to the residents as a group. She then took the time to speak with each of them one-on-one, listening to their stories, and offering support. Commenting on the teen participants, she said, “I’m so moved by their openness and courage. Addiction, depression, and anxiety can seem nearly impossible to overcome, and resolving to escape through taking drugs may seem like the only way out, but it’s not. Knowing that you don’t have to have all the answers, but that there is a path out there, and that others will help you down that path, can mean everything.”

Amber Valletta also brought along her fifteen-year-old son to participate in the experience. He offered his own stories and thoughts and served as a remarkable bridge between Amber and the other youth. Regarding her son and his generation, Amber added, the world today is a different and more complicated place than it was when I was growing up. It’s much harder to navigate. Young people deserve respect for being able to get up each day and take it on.” She goes on to say, “I think adults forget that while being a teenager can be fun, you can feel like there’s a lot ahead of you, and it’s scary—especially now. Everything moves really fast.”

Amber was so moved by the life-changing force she witnessed at Paradigm Treatment, she decided to join the Paradigm Advisory Board to continue helping the teens in any way that she can. Touching on Amber’s commitment, Cecilia Muniz, Director of Paradigm’s Meadows program, said, “Amber is not only a fashion model, she is a role model; modeling transparency, authenticity, and rigorous honesty. She possesses and shares all of the qualities necessary for meaningful and sustainable recovery.” She added, “By telling her truth, she impacts young lives in multiple ways. Youth see that a life that they may have fantasized about living—modeling, fame, fortune—does not make the emotional pain disappear, or make anyone less vulnerable to the consequences of negative coping styles, or make them immune to addiction. Also, they see that all of these issues can be worked through, and that amazing lives are possible and waiting for them. They get the message that they are important enough for a public figure to take the time to reach out to them and help them on their journeys.”

When asked why she decided to join the board, Amber explained, “When you’re in recovery, being of service is important. I can’t think of a group that I would be more excited about being of service to.” She also indicated that she is committed to eradicating the stigma of being in treatment. “Nobody should feel shame for seeking help. People should feel proud of themselves for taking difficult steps to change what they know isn’t working. I know that I couldn’t be prouder of these young people.”