Kristen Johnston: Addiction Is Not Like a Famous Person Swag Bag


Best known for being on 3rd Rock from the Sun (and thoroughly lovable in Music and Lyrics), Kristen Johnston is also a recovering addict who is quite forthcoming about what she calls her “lengthy love affair with booze and pills.” But Johnston is disappointed with the way our society treats addiction, calling it misunderstood, misrepresented and presented as a entertainment.

In a piece for The New York Times, Johnston writes that “most people still believe that addiction is something only the famous get, like colonics and swag bags. I’m constantly asked why so many in Hollywood are addicts.” She often speaks at rehab centers and recovery events and points out that of the hundreds of thousands of addicts she’s seen, none are famous. Even more upsetting to her? The fact that drugs kill more people every year than car accidents — more people than guns — and yet addicts are treated like trainwrecks. Mocked. And when it comes to aid, there’s “zero government financing” for addiction research.

She writes:

Most people believe addicts are selfish, delusional jerks who have no qualms about destroying themselves and everyone who loves them. Even the reality shows focused on addiction, like “Intervention,” “Rehab With Dr. Drew” (thankfully canceled) or that show where people have bizarre addictions like eating chalk or scouring powder, have done almost nothing to educate Americans. All they’ve really achieved is keeping addiction an oddity, a sideshow. It’s entertainment for the “nonaddicted” who happily watch from the couch while cramming down two large pizzas and a case of light beer, thinking, “Thank the good Lord that’s not me.”

Although you may not agree with everything she has to say, Johnston’s entire essay is worth reading — she touches on Cory Monteith and Dr. Phil — and her plea is powerful:

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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