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Actress Kristen Johnston Gets Candid About Her Addiction Recovery

Most recognized for her role in the late 90s sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, Kristen Johnston has made headlines in the past several years for her candid comments regarding drug addiction. Now 53 years old, Johnston is speaking out about the hardest times of her life, where she found herself addicted to alcohol and prescription pills.

The two-time Emmy winner recently spoke about her journey to recovery on fellow recovering alcoholic Elizabeth Vargas’ podcast, Heart of the Matter. While Johnston has previously admitted that she began experimenting with drugs and alcohol in high school, she told Vargas that her addiction became much worse after she began starring on 3rd Rock from the Sun.

“I was able to keep a lid on it for a couple of years, and then we became married, me and my opiates, a couple of years after 3rd Rock, and it was a very, very abusive relationship,” she said.

In her 2012 memoir, Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster, Johnston shared honest accounts of her drug and alcohol abuse. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly at the time of the book’s release, Johnston reflected on taking Vicodin, which led to a ruptured stomach ulcer. Working in London at the time, Johnston was treated at a British hospital for acute peritonitis, which Johnston believes occurred from heavy Vicodin abuse.

“I don’t remember exactly [how many I was taking a day] but many more than 20. Somewhere between 20 and 100 a day. It was very hardcore,” she told Entertainment Weekly. She also recalled that in heavy drinking periods, she consumed two bottles of wine a night.

In that same interview, Johnston remembered being very depressed during the filming of 3rd Rock, which led to further painkiller abuse. Although the show performed very well, Johnston was a new star—and life in the public eye was a lot to handle.

After many years of active addiction, and after 3rd Rock ended its run, Johnston realized she needed to seek professional help, and attended treatment in Arizona. She wrote in her memoir about that period of time, stating that, “I was finally brave enough to face my biggest nightmare, revealing the hideous, revolting monster.”

Today, Johnston has been sober for 14 years, and is an outspoken advocate for those who are struggling in their own battles. For Johnston, the fight to eliminate the stigmas associated with recovery and substance abuse became even more personal last year, when her younger sister Julie lost her own battle with addiction.

“It was just a very painful thing for my family. So, I connect to people who communicate with me, the loved ones of addicts and the addicts, because I’ve been both,” she said at that time.

Johnston, who also suffers from the autoimmune disease lupus, has continually come forward to share her story in the hopes that stigmas will start to be broken—and that the recovery community might find hope in the journey she’s taken.

Johnston is active on Twitter and Instagram and has built a large following of supporters. She currently stars on the sitcom Mom, which features Anna Faris in the leading role of a recovering addict. Johnston plays fellow recovering alcoholic Tammy Diffendorf.

From her acting work to her advocacy, Johnston remains passionate about helping those who are suffering from addiction—and creating a world where stigmas are a thing of the past.

As she wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “It’s time for addiction to stand up and demand some respect. Because every time someone is ostracized for being an addict, every time there’s a breathless, trumped-up, sensational headline, every time we giggle at a wasted celebrity, and every time addiction is televised as salacious entertainment, yet another addict is shamed into silence.”

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