Image Source: Getty / Jon Kopaloff
Even from across the metaverse, Joey Sasso and Chloe Veitch radiate star power. As reality-TV personalities, they’ve shed tears, built friendships, and been catfished before our very eyes. But with this new age of reality television, most recently seen through the lens of Netflix’s “Perfect Match,” comes immense pressure to maintain a televised persona. Falter once, and risk cutting the never-ending party short. These impossible expectations can normalize destructive behavior and addictive tendencies, which is why Sasso and Veitch supported each other in their sobriety while behind the scenes of “Perfect Match.”
Sasso, an aspiring actor from upstate New York, won the very first season of “The Circle,” with his charming all-or-nothing attitude. Meanwhile, Veitch clinched a “Too Hot to Handle” joint win, meeting Sasso on the same season of “The Circle,” where she was eventually named fan favorite. On “Perfect Match,” the two paired up with other hopeful singles in a dramatic quest for love, completing “compatibility challenges” and navigating all the familiar faces who entered the villa.
Image Source: Netflix
On screen, both Sasso and Veitch are highly energetic individuals with bubbly personalities to match. But as Sasso tells POPSUGAR in a March 2 “We Have Thoughts” Twitter Space, there was often much more going on beneath the surface. “For a long period of my life, I was in complete denial about being an addict, and I was not in a good place,” he says. “I was a struggling actor in LA, slinging drinks, trying to get by, and was severely depressed in my personal life.”
“I knew if I didn’t get clean, I was going to die.”
Sasso’s win on “The Circle” only exacerbated these existing struggles, eventually pushing him to his breaking point. “It was a time in my life where I was being applauded for so much, but [I] had so many internal demons that I was struggling with, and I really hit rock bottom and sunk lower than I ever thought I would,” he says. “I knew if I didn’t get clean, I was going to die. And if I were to relapse, I’m going to die. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
After coming to this conclusion, Sasso didn’t swear off reality TV entirely, but he knew he had to do “Perfect Match” completely sober. He credits Veitch (and sugar-free Red Bulls) for being a huge part of his staying sober were filming in Panama. “Another thing that made [filming] so easy for me was having Chloe there, because Chloe’s been on that sober journey with me,” he says. On the day he shares this story, Sasso is 829 days sober.
“I’m so proud of you, Joey, honestly,” Veitch says, adding that she’s about 19 months sober herself. In fact, Veitch is the CEO of a nonprofit organization called STAND Recovery, which she opened with her dad last year to help families dealing with addiction. “I lost my brother through addiction. He was in his 20s. So it hits home,” she shares.
“When people know and see people on reality TV, it’s so easy to judge. And we are real people. And when you think of Chloe Veitch, I don’t just want people to think, ‘Oh, she’s that ditzy girl on Netflix.’ There’s substance to me, and there’s substance to Joey,” Veitch points out. “We work extremely hard to be sober in this industry. It’s not an easy industry to be sober in.”
Image Source: Netflix
The two also remember how sobriety affected their experience on “Perfect Match,” with Sasso saying he was finally able to make decisions with “absolute clarity.” Veitch agrees, adding that the absence of alcohol actually allowed her to be more authentic. “I think on the show, I was so emotional because I wasn’t bottling that emotion up with drink. I was able to fully express myself and my emotions,” she says. Ultimately, while reality television can serve as an escape, binge-drinking and addiction shouldn’t have to be a quintessential part of the experience. “Reality shows should be fun, and they should be escapism from your normal life. But I do think there is something to be said for seeing a person you can identify with and saying, ‘They’re going through the same sh*t I’m going through, and they’re kicking ass and they’re taking life by the balls,'” Sasso says.
“Coming through this experience and not relapsing, not giving into temptation, and being able to say still, a year after filming it, that Chloe and I are both still sitting here sober, is a real accomplishment.”