In a piece for the New York Times this week, Kristen Johnston criticized the way the media portrays addiction.
“The depth with which addiction is misunderstood and misrepresented in this country amazes me.”
The Third Rock from the Sun actress has never been shy about talking about her struggles with drugs and alcohol. Johnston’s memoir, “Guts,” which was released last year, outlined her life-long substance addiction. She also appeared in a documentary, The Anonymous People, which aims to change society’s perception of addiction and shift the focus to the 23 million Americans in long term recovery.
Johnston is disappointed with the way our society treats addiction, saying it is often presented as entertainment.
“[M]ost 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. And now that OWN plans to work with Lindsay Lohan on a reality show about her “life after rehab,” I fear this myth will be perpetuated.”
She goes on to say that she has met hundreds of thousands of addicts through promoting “Guts” and advocating for addiction on Capitol Hill, and “not one of them was famous.” This is a disease that does not discriminate.
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 sideshows. Mocked.
“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.”
Kristen Johnston says that the way addiction is represented prevents many addicts from seeking help.
“I’ve had it. We’re not a joke anymore. 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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