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3rd Rock From Addiction (Recovery Through Mom)

3rd Rock

3rd Rock From Addiction (Recovery Through Mom)

Kristen Johnston may not have fully fallen for wine and pain pills till after 3rd Rock wrapped, but her recovery really started soaring when she made her way to Mom. That’s what it looks like anyway. That’s what it sounds like too.

The former 3rd Rock regular chatted all about it on Elizabeth Vargas’s Heart of the Matter podcast. We didn’t catch that episode of the bi-weekly interview series (we culled our info from ET and Today), but we’re true fans. In fact, we plugged the podcast in our report about the Lumineers’ illuminating “Salt and the Sea” serving as soundtrack to the Partnership to End Addiction’s Start with Connection campaign. We praised the Peabody Award-winning journalist’s getting to the heart of what matters then; we praise her now.

3rd Rock to Mom

3rd Rock from the Sun was one of those rare television gems that are as compelling to the viewer as they are to the cast and the creators. That it was also a sitcom made that all the more glittering. The industry noticed though. Big time. (3rd Rock won five of eight Primetime Emmys in 1997, the most of any show that year.) Fans noticed too. And they stayed fanatical despite the fact that the series was moved 15 times over its six season run. The show also turned Johnston into a bona fide household name.

Moving from New York to L.A. and becoming an instant sensation was a lot to handle though. Especially for a twenty-something who’s entire support structure is back on the East Coast. And the feeling was acute.

“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 told Vargas. “It really wasn’t fun. The work was fun but everything that came with it was so terrifying to me.”

Wine helped. Pain pills helped even more. Combining the two, well… That worked proverbial wonders. The real wonder was how Johnston was able to keep a lid on her addiction. Even more a wonder was how she kept her “off-and-on relationship” from wrecking her career.

“Certainly I struggled with it on that show but not to the extent where I missed stuff or was high during the show taping,” she said.

Once 3rd Rock wrapped for good however Johnston was free to pursue her other love interest at will. After a couple years she and her opiates “became married.” It ended up being “a very abusive relationship,” she says now.

Bye Bye Addiction

By 2012 her abusive ex was far enough in the rearview mirror for Johnston to tell all about it. The ensuing memoir, Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster (Simon & Schuster), was as candid as crack. It was also just as addicting.

“It felt like I was speeding on the Autobahn toward hell, trapped inside a DeLorean with no brakes. And even if I could somehow stop, I’d still be screwed, because there’s no way I’d ever be able to figure out how to open those insane, cocaine-designed doors.”

Make that instantly addicting. And a whole lot less ugly. The book was fun, too. And funny. After all, you don’t win two Emmys and alight on a hit sitcom without a good dose of both fun and funny. Throw in perspective and candor and you’ve got the recipe for bestseller.

You also apparently get all that ugly outta your system — for good. Then you take what you’ve learned and earned and turn it all into the best second chance ever. You know, the kind where you actually get to be fully present and appreciative of all you’ve been granted. You also learn to enjoy just what all you’ve been blessed with means.

Mom’s Home!

And there’s a whole lotta blessed meaning when it comes to Mom.

Alcoholism, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, addictive gambling, homelessness, relapse, cancer, death, domestic violence, overdose, rape, obesity, stroke, ADD, and miscarriage. Those were the real life issues Wiki says have been covered in Mom. We’ve got a feeling they may be missing a few. See, Mom (now in its eighth and final season) went well out of its way to go where few (if any) shows have gone before. And that meant tackling some serious and tricky (seriously tricky?) issues.

Most notable of those issues of course was addiction and alcoholism. In fact, much of the show revolves around Alcoholics Anonymous. And Johnston herself serves as sober support to mom and daughter tagteam Allison Janney and Anna Faris. It ain’t always easy being funny in the midst of such seriousness. It’s even harder to handle such seriousness without becoming trite. But Mom managed to do both with deft alacrity. That’s undoubtedly why the series ranked in the Top 5 each and every year it aired. It’s also undoubtedly why the show received so many accolades.

One suspects though that Johnston may have been equally pleased with the messages of hope and acceptance she and her fellow cast members were able to get across via Mom. She most certainly must’ve been pleased with how much those messages can mean to people, especially after losing her sister Julie to addiction last August.

“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.”

Of course Johnston didn’t need to land on both sides of the addiction equation to know any of what it all means (one is more than enough for anyone). Her sobriety however did help make it possible to get to the other side of both sides — and to stay resolutely standing.

“The thing I’m happiest about in my life is that I’m no longer using,” she said.


Healing Properties salutes Kristen Johnston for her remarkable work and her remarkable life. We especially salute her remarkable recovery. Every day in every way her journey serves as an inspiration to others, on all sides of the addiction equation. It’s also an indelible testament to what sobriety makes possible. Whether you’ve watched Johnston since 3rd Rock or only found out about her through Mom, her company is a blessing. We can’t wait to see what she blesses us with next!

Speaking of which… what’s next for you? Have you plans to go sober? Are you on the fence? Maybe you’re in sobriety now. Could you use a little help? It’s out there, you know. All it takes is a phone call. And it can unveil a whole new kinda happy. Just ask Kristen Johnston.

(Image: David Shankbone, via Wikimedia Commons)

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