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Kristen Johnston reflects on her past addictions: 'It gives me chills'

The actor released a memoir about her struggles with addiction back in 2012.
/ Source: TODAY

Talking about her struggles with addiction isn't new for Kristen Johnston, but the "3rd Rock from the Sun" actor is now approaching 14 years of sobriety and is sharing some of the hard lessons she's learned along the way.

In a new interview with journalist Elizabeth Vargas on her "Heart of the Matter" podcast, the 53-year-old reflected on what it was like to be a "functioning alcoholic/addict" early on in her career.

"Just thinking about that time in my life, it gives me chills," she said.

While starring on "3rd Rock from the Sun," actor Kristen Johnston struggled with addiction.Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Back in 2012, Johnston released her bestselling memoir "Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster," which details her addiction to pills and alcohol. At the peak of her struggle, Johnston said she was drinking two bottles of wine and popping 10-30 pills a day. "And that was a good day," she told Vargas.

During the interview, the actor described how she wasn't ready to find success so early on in her career and admitted that she felt lonely living in Los Angeles since she was accustomed to having a support system in New York.

"All of a sudden, your life beyond your imagination happens and all of it is scary because I was just too young to be equipped to deal with it," she said. "It really wasn't fun. The work was fun but everything that came with it was so terrifying to me."

The 53-year-old said she lived in a state of isolation and loneliness for years and turned to pills and alcohol to help cope. Looking back, she admitted that she started drinking in high school and started taking pills a few seasons into "3rd Rock."

Johnston recalled how the relief she felt from taking pills was hard to resist, especially since she had the disposable income to pay for them.

"(Addicts) don't do it 'cause it sucks, we do it because there is an initial benefit. It just doesn't last very long," she said.

Kristen Johnston said she was a "functioning addict" during her time on "3rd Rock from the Sun."Alan Levenson / NBC

The actor described her addiction as an "off-and-on relationship" and said it worsened after she wrapped the hit series in 2001.

"Certainly I struggled with it on that show but not to the extent where I missed stuff or was high during the show taping. So 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 years after '3rd Rock' and it was a very abusive relationship," she said.

Johnston, whose sister died in August 2020 after battling addiction, said it was challenging to watch her sister struggle while she, herself, was in recovery.

"It was just a very painful thing for my family," she said. "So I connect to (the loved ones) of addicts and the addict because I've been both. I really understand how painful it is to love an addict. I don't know which one is a greater hell."

The actor admitted that it took a lot of time, energy and money to keep up her addiction and said she's relieved that she found the strength to seek out help when she did.

"The thing I'm happiest about in my life is that I'm no longer using," she said.

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