Monday, July 30, 2012
The Gift Of GUTS: Kristen Johnston
Image: David Khinda
She has made us ALL LAUGH with her acting chops, her insanely hilarious physical comedy line delivery and now has used her own words and GUTS to give an honest glimpse into her private life of success and substance abuse. Turns out Kristen Johnston is not only an Emmy award winning actress and a statuesque stunner but she is also a wonderful author and an addict in recovery. Her New York Times best selling book "GUTS, the endless follies and tiny triumphs of a giant disaster" candidly and comically chronicles her road to fame, addiction and recovery. What I appreciated about the book was not only it's clever title GUTS which has a double meaning in both a figurative and literal sense but Kristen shines a light on the fact that we are ALL in this together and addicted to something. Also every word was penned by Kristen herself. It is a memoir about HER life in HER own words which in a literary sea saturated with celeb bio's and books is extremely unique and RARE. No ghost writer here and I have it on good authority that she is one of the only celebs to pen her own memoir for which she immediately has my respect. She and I share the belief that only brutal honestly, accountability and sheer GUTS is the only way to heal and evolve. Let's be honest WE are ALL on the path to recovery on some level.
Book Cover & Me in bed w GUTS
I had the sincere pleasure of having a candid conversation with Kristen recently. She had me laughing, crying and then laughing some more. I can relate to her in several ways and strangely felt like I was talking to an old friend.
LG: What has been the most challenging/difficult part of the writing process?
KJO: "Interestingly enough it was the introduction. Which I literally wrote and re-wrote hundreds of times up until the last minute. I knew that it had to set the stage tonally for the book. First and foremost I know there are a lot of celebrity addiction memoirs so I was like, god I can't be another one of those. I also know that because I have been out of the public eye for so long, who knows what they thought of me at the time. They have not seen me for a long time, they probably think all celebrities are fed grapes and have a manni/peddi every morning. The bottom line is I'm just a hard working actress. I don't have a posse and I don't have handlers. My goal with the introduction was to introduce me as who I am, without saying HI I'm Kristen (Laughs). I wanted to get everybody on the same playing field regarding addition. I really wanted people to understand that I'm not just talking to them as some actress in Hollywood. Some spoiled bitch who is so bored she has to take drugs. I'm talking to them as their sister, their cousin, their mailman, as their boss, everybody who has addiction. We are all the same."
LG: Are you surprised with the amount of feedback you have received?
KJO: "90% of the response has been really great. The coolest part about GUTS for me is the feedback that is on the GUTS website, go to the Q&A section and see what I'm talking about. A lot of the feedback is from people who have a loved one who is an addict and that they have never understood addiction until they read my book. I'm surprised with the level of interaction and how much I care and I really do. I have to remember as an addict that I don't have all the answers. It is ok that when someone reaches out to me in desperate straights it is ok to say I don't know how to help you"
Image: David Khinda
LG: How has writing the book helped YOU?
KJO: "It has changed everything for me. It has certainly changed my whole view on life, on people, on sobriety. My understanding of sobriety was that you are either with AA or against AA. Now I have this great understanding about it does not have to be like counting the days of sobriety and the pressure it puts on you that if you have a relapse you have to start over. Can you imagine having four years of sobriety and then you fuck up and go out and drink, or you cut, or you eat .. whatever your thing is, and have to start over - DAY 1. It is deflating and it is debilitating and I think it keeps people sick. I have also been very vocal about the second A - anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous was developed in the 30's when it was socially unacceptable to be honest. My point is; look if you want to keep it quiet, keep it quiet dude, non of my business but as I say at the end of the book - talk about it. Tell your boss you are struggling, it needs to become like "I have cancer" and it still isn't."
We talked a lot about honesty and gave her my two cents on how society does not encourage people to live by the truth but instead to shroud themselves with lies. She wholeheartedly agreed and went on to say "Everybody is a liar. We are taught that it is better to lie. People don't want to hear about it (truth/addiction), they would rather we keep quiet and stay in church basements and have our little cold Styrofoam coffee cup and walk down the block without eye contact .. FUCK THAT, I'm not going to do that anymore. Why should I be ashamed of seeking help?"
Image: David Khinda
She read me a story and letter to me from a 22 year old addict who's counsellor gave him GUTS to read in rehab after all other methods of treatments are unsuccessful. It changed his life and perspective and gave him hope that he could get well and that he was worth something. He said "Thank you Miss Johnston, you don't know me but you may have just saved my life". It literally left me in tears and was so moving.
LG: What do you tell someone who asks how to approach or help their loved one who is an addict?
KJO: I wrote an article for TheFixx.com called "I ain't No Miss Sobriety" which will totally answer your question.
She is working a project called SLAM (Sobriety, Learning and Motivation) to bring a "Sober School" to NYC and is 5 years into the process. There are currently over 30 sober high schools in the US (4 of which are in Boston) but nothing like it in New York. A lot of road blocks and hurdles ahead but Kristen and her team are on the road to getting this school opened. The statistics were unbelievable. Kristen shared "ONE in every THREE teenagers meet the medical criteria for addiction". According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration 1 out of every 70 teens are admitted to rehab but when put back into a regular school post-treatment 80% will relapse in the first 90 days. Kristen feels like this stat is realistically more like 90% or higher. She wants to provide a place that New York teens can get educated in an environment that promotes a lifestyle of recovery and success. You can help! Go to SLAM's website to make a donation.
Kristen as Holly in the Exes
The world fell in love with Kristen years ago for her role as Sally on "3rd Rock From The Sun", on various world theatrical stages, for her numerous television and film roles (remember her Sex & The City Character Lexi?) and more recently for her Hilarious character Holly on the hilarious TV Land show "The Exes". I have personally fell in love with who she REALLY is thanks to her GUTS. She is flawed and fabulous, brash and beautiful, honest and hilarious. I'm excited to see/watch/read what she has in store for the world next. I don't know about you but I would like a front row seat. Thank you Kristen for giving the world the gift of GUTS. Take a bow baby! BRAVO!
Kristen take's a bow in her FAB Valentino mini dress on the set of The Exes
Time to hoist those freak flags and SPILL YOUR GUTS
Tell Kristen and I a story from your life that took GUTS to face, overcome, or acknowledge. The best stories are the RAW HONEST ones and we want to hear yours! Comment below.
KJo on the set of Jimmy Fallon.
The Fabulous Flip off w her REWIND ring.