#KristenJohnston: (PART TWO) Some Thoughts AFTER Reading Her 2012 Book “Guts”

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So, if you’ve read Part One of this and you’re deciding to read this one as well, you either really like me or are bored out of your mind. Either way, I’ll try not to disappoint. Besides, my review of the book is here this time.

I actually finished reading Kristen’s book late Thursday morning. Even before buying the book, I knew that as someone who has never been an alcohol or drug addict, no amount of my writing in this blog post would truly be as spectacular or touching as someone who has been a substance abuser. Even if Kristen was able to read this and was greatly impressed, I still feel it wouldn’t be nearly as much as that of a fellow addict. So why still bother to buy the book, let alone to write two blog posts about it?

A better question that comes to my mind is this: How many of you reading who has never been an alcohol or drug addict have sat down and either read or listened to the story of someone who has? I mean in an unbiased, “reserving judgment” kind of way?

These days, it seems a lot of people put so much effort into being completely on one side of an argument/debate or the other. It seems rare that folks even attempt to meet in the middle. Just pertaining to this, I can think of very few, if any instances at all, where a non-addict has truly listened to or read the story of an addict, but many, many, many times when that non-addict has anything and everything negative to say about addicts, especially with those opinions being composed largely of their biases and stereotypes.

As much as I would like to think that I approach each situation without bias, I still decided to get this book because for one, Kristen has become one of my favorite actresses and people in general, but I also wanted to be certain that if I did have any preconceived thoughts about addicts, this would allow me a chance to look at the perspective of someone who is recovering.

Many of us think a lot about those who are currently addicts and there isn’t much we care about because we feel it’s all about the same story. However, I don’t think it’s much different from those recovering and in many ways, I honestly feel it should be. Surely the recovering addict is in a much different place than someone who is still abusing.

I really enjoyed reading the book. Probably the best aspect of it was that there were so many times where I could hear Kristen’s voice saying what was written. A lot of her personality came out through her writing. I believe it is a combination of her doing a great job in writing it, but as I’ve been a screenwriter for a few years (obviously not yet a professional), also in me being able to (I believe) have trained myself in reading stories told by someone from their perspective. In other words, rather than me reading it as “Kristen says this” or “Kristen says that,” I read it as if I was her, if that makes any sense. This is important for me because as I’m often writing as other characters, I have to write AS them rather than making it as me saying that they said this or that. I believe my work will be of better quality the more I’m able to do this.

Snuck my own writing in there again; sorry. Actually, speaking of my own writing, another reason I enjoyed it is simply because as a fellow author, I can appreciate the effort that went into writing the book, especially as Kristen really had to be bold enough to dig deep into some dark and lonely places in order to make this happen. Writing a book is not easy. The three books I’ve written were purely fictional, so the difficulty was largely in creating stories I felt people could enjoy. It is the same with my scripts. As for Kristen, I can imagine it was not at all easy in having to go to these places again. Reading about much of her time in London, I can’t imagine that would be a place she would want to revisit very often to tell the story to a group of people, let alone to write a book for the entire world to have access to. Especially when it’s about a topic that people can be less than kind about.

There was one reason I almost didn’t buy this book, nor have any interest to read it at first. Looking at some of the negative reviews on Amazon, one person in particular wrote, to the effect, that Kristen described non-addicts as the “dullest people alive.” When I saw that, I will admit that my initial thoughts were that it was just a ridiculous attitude to have. So because I chose not to engage myself in the manner Kristen did, that makes me dull? Yeah, okay. Being in the Army for the past almost 19 years, I’ve been called “dull” for a lot of reasons; ironically of course, because for most of that time, I made it clear that I didn’t drink. I only began drinking (up to now, wine 99% of the time) since about six years ago. But those who said that were largely those who behaved similar to the way Kristen spoke about in the book. So to spend money on a book where another person says that just wasn’t worth it for me, especially since I really like and admire Kristen. I preferred to keep that view of her intact rather than to be let down by realizing, or at least thinking that she felt that way.

That reviewer was very clearly mistaken and thankfully, so was I. In the beginning of the book, yes, Kristen does very well say at one point that you could be “the dullest person alive” if you’ve never had an addiction. However, that reviewer seemed to have missed everything that came before it. I actually have a blog post saved in my drafts (that I did not yet publish) where I did the very same thing Kristen did.

What she does is mention the definition of addiction, but also emphasizes that addiction is NOT limited to only drugs and alcohol. She provided a laundry list of the different things out there people could be and have been addicted to: “Drugs, booze, sex, gambling, work, power, religion, shopping, love, food…”and the list goes on.

Isn’t it funny how the term addict or addiction has somehow become words used only when referring to substance abuse? Do me a favor and try this…go up to someone and tell them you’re an “addict.” Watch the reaction you get. But don’t just say it; really talk it up. Be as vague as possible, but specific enough to keep the conversation going.

Then, at the end, say something like, “Yes…I just…I just have to…eat grilled cheese sandwiches. All the time. And I will never, ever stop.” Surely that person will either laugh or punch you in the face for wasting their time. But can a person be addicted to grilled cheese sandwiches? Hell yeah. I know I won’t say no to them very often. But there are a LOT of things we can be “addicted” to.

It was after that when Kristen implied that, upon not being addicted to anything, a person could be the “dullest person alive.” Now that makes sense. If you don’t have a SINGLE addiction to absolutely ANYTHING AT ALL, then yes…I completely agree. You don’t have a lot going on.

As of right now, my biggest addiction is writing. I’ll bet none of you could have ever figured that out on your own.

It’s no epic revelation as to what society feels about actors/actresses who write books about being addicts or recovering addicts. A lot simply aren’t impressed by the thought. Seen one, seen ’em all, right? Many feel there is some selfish motivation behind it. There are people who have even said they feel celebrities do this “because they must be broke” or that they are “trying to get themselves back into the spotlight.” Let me tell you why that thinking doesn’t make sense.

For one, I’m not broke and I’ve written books. Mine are self-published, so I’ve made next to nothing from them, but that’s what comes with it. I had to spend a good amount of time promoting my books and I did for a while, but it wasn’t long before my writing withdrawals started kicking me in the ass and I had to get back to that. I still would like to write a book sometime and have it go through a traditional publisher. The good thing about self-publishing is that what you write is what you get. You have control of just about everything. You can have YOUR book in your hands in a matter of days (at least in going through createspace.com as I did). The downside to that is that again, the promoting is all up to you as well. I could be wrong, but I believe that with a traditional publisher, it can be set up that they do a lot of promoting for you also (while you will still have to do some yourself), but you get no help with self-publishing. It’s all you.

But as for trying to make money…no shit. Why the hell not write a book and make some money in the process? People act like that’s such a horrible thing for celebrities to do. So they’re supposed to make money just from acting (in this case) and absolutely nothing else? In case you haven’t noticed, they’re not exactly working 365 days a year. How about when a show they’re working on gets cancelled? A lot of folks have this notion (as Kristen said in her book) that just about every working actor in Hollywood is rich beyond belief. More yachts than they know what to do with. Luxury cars coming out of their ears. Housekeepers who work for their housekeepers. Sad to say, but that really isn’t the case.

Second, I believe that Kristen’s motivation behind writing this book was to help other addicts feel that one, they’re not alone and two, they CAN beat this. Why not share that? What is the harm and why is it so hard to believe that could be her motivation? She is an actress, a celebrity who can reach a lot of people. She has a platform. Other celebrities use their platform to do what they do. She chooses to use her platform for this.

Another aspect that I was really impressed by was Kristen’s ability to be incredibly candid, but not just in how she felt about everyone she came into contact with, but mostly…herself. 

What?! Say it isn’t so. A person who can be honest with…themselves?!

There were a lot of times throughout the book where Kristen would put someone down. But I absolutely loved the fact that just about every time, she made it clear that it was a silly thought, she was making excuses to cover up how she felt, or that she eventually realized she was wrong in thinking the way she did. Not many people can do that. There is one point in the book where she even encourages people to say whatever they want about her because after all, no one will say anything any worse than what she has said to and about herself. I admire the fact that Kristen spent a good amount of time really being honest with herself about herself, her behavior, the lies she told herself and those around her and many other things. Again…not something a lot of people can do and something I have tremendous respect for.

I think the reason a lot of people put down celebrities is because of jealousy. No big surprise there. Just look at the comments on any story where something bad has happened to a celebrity. The most common response will be something like, “Well, they have all those millions. They get no sympathy from me,” which makes me incredibly sad to believe that we as a society are so shallow to honestly believe that money just wipes away any problem we could ever have. Celebrities could never have problems because after all, their money should be able to just fix it.

When Robin Williams committed suicide, I was appalled to hear so many people not only call him “stupid” for having done so, but also being so utterly confused as to “why someone who made so much money and made everyone laugh could be depressed and want to kill himself.” After all, he was “always happy.” It’s that kind of attitude that makes people just want to give on trying to explain anything. Hell, even Kristen mentioned that there were times throughout these dark moments where she “welcomed death.” It doesn’t take a genius to get the suicidal tone in that statement. 3rd Rock From The Sun made Kristen an “overnight success.” Whether you understand that or not, that can do a lot to a person and not all good, despite what you may think. Not being someone who has ever had a desire to have that kind of fame, I would assume that the good moments are really good and the bad moments can get extremely horrible, as Kristen described happened to her in her book.

I truly believe this was Kristen’s way of giving back. Now, society loves to say that celebrities need to “give back” more. Being someone halfway intelligent, I know exactly what that translates to. That means celebrities need to just write a fat check to some cause. That’s it. “Giving back” isn’t about donating time, clothing, giving free autographs, free shows, writing books to help others or anything like that. It’s about money. Celebrities make a ton of money and they should just, in the words of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Give it away, give it away, give it away now.” I say this because it seems many are just so unimpressed when the “giving back” is anything other than money.

The great thing is that it seems Kristen has received much more good and positive feedback on this book than negative. Along with that, she has said that many people who are or have been addicts have thanked her for writing it. It’s as the saying goes, which is something she’s said also: “If I can help just one person, then it will have been worth it.” I think it’s safe to say that she’s helped many. 

So call me crazy to spend money on buying a book from someone I respect and admire, taking the time to read it and spending more time writing two separate long (yes, I know…and I love you readers for enduring it) blog posts from it, especially as someone who has never been an addict. Again, my words will never be as powerful or touching to Kristen as those of someone who has been addicted to alcohol and drugs…

…but maybe I felt that Kristen has still helped even me in some way. How? She has made me want to take a look at myself and whatever (however small) biases or stereotypes about drug and alcohol addiction I may have. See, those of us “perfect” people who have never been substance abusers (since those are very obviously the worst and only problems that a person could have) can still learn a thing or two from people like this. Not so much that we have to get ourselves to rock bottom before we fully realize the error of our ways, but to see that no matter who we are or how strong we pretend or claim to be, none of us are immune to just how dangerous and unforgiven life can be.

See, Kristen may have intended to write this book just for those who have been addicts or are recovering addicts. But how about those who this book may help to stop before taking that first of many pills or that first drink? I’m sure it may have been mentioned a time or two, but I can’t recall if Kristen said she ever considered those she may have stopped from taking this nasty series of roads that she did. How about all those aspiring actors and actresses out there? Think she may have helped them out any?

The bottom line is that Kristen decided to extend a helping hand. Now, you can focus on that hand’s net worth. You can focus on that hand’s yearly salary as it is attached to a professional actress, whatever “status” you feel she belongs in. You can even focus on how abused, battered, bruised and nearly destroyed that hand is. But wherever you want to put her, at the end of the day, she extended a hand that she could have damn well kept to herself.

We ALL, drug and/or alcohol addicts or not, can stand to learn something from a person who decides to do that.

 

 

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