Everyone knows Kristen Johnson from her hit role in the 90’s sitcom Third Rock from the Sun which ran from 1996 to 2001. However, some might also know her from her other exploits, like writing the book Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs, where she shares her battle against substance abuse and her recovery from a major health crisis.
In a recent interview on the site The Fix, Johnston shared her struggles that led to her diagnosis of lupus and what she was up to and what her future held.
Starting from her time in rehab for substance abuse, she was asked about the role of medication-assisted treatment in the recovery from her addiction. During rehab, she was prescribed Suboxone and some other medications to supplement her recovery process.
Kristen admitted her life was at risk. Johnston was addicted to opioids, and it was an addiction that she couldn't shake, which is all-too-common for Americans today. Suboxene can also be a dangerous drug, but some rehabilitation centers use it to help treat addiction for opioids and heroin. Suboxone helps regulate the chemistry of the brain, which takes some of the edge off of the withdrawal symptoms. While the cravings and depression persist for months, Suboxone helps a patient power through to make a full recovery more likely.
According to Kristen, the improvements at the beginning were instantaneous. In her own words, it made her feel normal, she felt that she no longer physically needed opioids to survive, and it made her feel at peace with the recovery process. Her recovery process was still being weighed down by the emotional baggage of her addiction, which she had to slowly come to grips with while working with an addiction psychiatrist. Towards the end of the recovery process, her brain was physically free of opioids, but had grown dependent on Suboxone. However, according to her, an addiction to a controlled drug is not the same as her opioid addiction.
strictly under medical supervision, it should never be taken lightly.
Kristen’s point of view is simple: whatever helps you not to use and abuse is valuable. She then relates about the time when, in an AA meeting, the counselor said that “you’re never truly sober if you’re on antidepressants”. She believes that emitting judgements like these for patients on rehab is like playing with fire; it should never be a part of anyone’s recovery. Her personal beliefs revolves around the question “What can you do to save your life?” In this sense, the last thing anyone should do is to judge someone else’s recovery. Furthermore, she also thinks that this way of life doesn’t apply to everyone, but it’s working for her, and that’s all she has to go by.
The star was also asked about her role in the movie “The Anonymous People”, which touched the topic about anonymity in the recovery community. Specifically, she was asked about her personal thoughts on anonymity, to which she responded that most people misinterpret the concept of anonymity in AA or other similar communities.
One of the most upsetting moments for her came when she was accused of an alleged relapse. Kristen frequently speaks about addiction in various venues. People usually book her conferences months in advance. However, at the time, she had been just recently diagnosed with lupus myelitis which, on top of her active role in The Exes, made for a very hectic and tiresome schedule.
She was scheduled to make a speech at one time, and when she stood up at the podium and began to talk, her knees weakened and her legs started shaking. She even had to perch herself on a nearby chair to get her bearings. Shortly after this incident, an article came out by the people who hosted the event, accusing Kristen of being high while presenting. She was shocked, to say the least. This was when she learned that judgement and persecution can come even from the people that say they actually care about people in recovery. Kristen had Lupus.
Lupus can mimic many other conditions including drug addiction. Why? The symptoms of lupus are often non-specific and include joint pain, rash, fever, swelling, and exhaustion. The inflammation associated with the disease can cause damage to the skin, joints, blood cells, kidneys, lungs, brain and heart. It is complicated--the reaction from any of these symptoms can cause someone to look confused, exhausted, dizzy and a multitude of other things.
So, although people automatically assumed Kristen had relapsed, it was her lupus that caused the symptoms at the speech she was given. Johnston stands on her creed that this recovery is hers alone, and nothing people say should affect her process. People are quick to pass judgement, and more so if they have a popular media outlet publishing false news about a celebrity with the pretense of increasing their reader base.
Kristen says that despite her recovery and her ongoing struggle with lupus, people will always judge. And honestly, that’s fine. What’s important is that she has her health and the rest of her life to spend doing the things she loves, which includes openly speaking to the public about her recovery, spending time dealing with her lupus, and practicing her new hobbies: drawing and painting.
Photo source: MIPCOM 2011 - MIPCOM 2011 OPENING PARTY - RED CARPET - THE EXES' KRISTEN JOHNSTON by mipmarkets (Flickr)