Model Amber Valletta faces down addiction history

It's easy to look at the stunning model and actress Amber Valletta and assume that her life has been charmed.

But just this summer, Valletta admitted that during her rise to fame in the 1990s, she was a drug and alcohol addict.

"I hit my bottom when I was 25. I hit my bottom, and I remember it very well," Valletta told CBS News correspondent Lee Woodruff. "I think when you come to a point and you look in the mirror, and you can't say anything nice to yourself, that's a real problem."

At 25 years old, Amber Valletta's career had hit a high. But behind the glamour and makeup, she was keeping a serious secret.

"The first time I tried cocaine I was, I was in it, first time," she said. "And the last time I used I had-- let me just put it this way. I hadn't slept in a while, and I ended up going to St. Vincent's alone and walking home alone after they released me the next day. And that is not a good feeling."

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Versace

But that's not where it began. Discovered by a Tulsa modeling agency at 15, Valetta was swept up in the heyday of 1990s fashion. She landed a Vogue cover at 17, and by 18, she had moved to Europe, where she ran around with a high society party crowd.

"It was like being in a sorority," she said. "You know, we were like college age and having a great time and a lot of fun."

Appearances on MTV's House of Style catapulted Valletta into the pop culture stratosphere.

The money and access began to flow, and so did the drugs and alcohol.

"Nobody really came out to me directly [about my substance abuse problem] except my mom," Valletta said. "She was the only one who really came out and said, you know, she really, she gave me a pretty strong lecture. I think my friends, my real friends were just over it, and they were far and few anyway."

It wasn't uncommon for Valletta to show up high for a million-dollar photo shoots; she soon sought help. And in 2000, after living sober for just one year, gave birth to her son Auden.

Valletta has lived in recovery for the past 15 years; turning 40 this year prompted her to share her story.

"I believe that addiction is still considered something shameful, and that if you had the willpower you could fix it. And that's just not true," Valletta said. "It's time to lift the veil. I've guarded it so privately in the public. So it was like kind of really exposing myself; this is really who Amber Valletta is."

Since day one, she has been honest with her son; addiction runs in the family, and this mom acknowledges her boy is headed into the vulnerable adolescent years.

"I mean, I know he's gonna experiment," Valletta said. "I mean, I kinda hope he doesn't but just because he has such-- he has such intense information about it, and he's seen it really up close. But I also don't want to be like that crazy parent that's like, you know, hovering and watching and not giving him his space, because I'm afraid if I don't allow him to do and make mistakes, he will also push against me."

As far as what she would tell her younger self, Valetta said "don't be afraid to be strong, bold. Care less about what people think."

Despite 16 covers of Vogue and her status as a fashion icon, bringing attention to addiction as a disease is the thing she is most proud of.

"I want to tell people they have nothing to be ashamed of. Come out of the darkness. Come into the light. You can recover from this disease, and you don't have to be a prisoner to something."

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