The New York Times bestseller—a harrowing and hysterical memoir by the two-time Emmy Award-winning actress from the hit television show 3rd Rock from the Sun.
“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.”
Actress Kristen Johnston has written her first book, a surprisingly raw and triumphant memoir that is outrageous, moving, sweet, tragic, and heartbreakingly honest. Guts is a true achievement—a memoir that manages to be as frank and revealing as Augusten Burroughs, yet as hilarious and witty as David Sedaris. Johnston takes us on a journey so truthful and relatable, so remarkably fresh, it promises to stay with you for a long, long time.
This book is not likely what you’d expect from a celebrity memoir: there are only a few names that you will recognize, other than the author’s; her time as one of the stars of 3rd Rock from the Sun is mentioned practically only in passing; and, truthfully, Johnston makes very little effort to prove what an awesome person she is, and why you should immediately run out to see everything she’s ever done. Instead, she reveals a part of her life that she really didn’t have to: her struggle with addiction that ultimately led to a struggle for her life.
I say she didn’t have to because almost no one knew. She wasn’t in tabloids crawling out of a club to a waiting limo; she didn’t make a big announcement about how she was going to rehab to deal with “exhaustion.” The closest anyone came to figuring out what happened was when she made headlines for a sudden weight loss. As it turns out, that weight loss was due to her stomach literally exploding (hence the title – nice play on words, huh?) from the abuse she had heaped on her body. She confesses that during her time in London, right before this happened, she was downing dozens of aspirin a day because it was the closest thing she could get to her painkillers of choice at home in the US.
She didn’t have to write the book, but she did anyway, and since the time of its publication in 2012 Kristen has been vocal about bringing addiction out of the closet, and treating it like the disease that it is. She makes it clear that her addiction was not a “Hollywood” problem (although her sudden fame, she says, was a difficult adjustment for a New York theatre actress) and she is outspoken about the fact that addiction is a problem EVERYWHERE. One of my favourite lines in the introduction is: “Everyone’s addicted to something.” If you have followed me for a while, you may have read the article I wrote the day after Cory Monteith’s death, in which I tried to to make the point that we all have made mistakes that can change the course of our lives, and I do agree with her on this. Although, I will say that I think some people are wired to have an addictive personality, and whether they become addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambing, or doll collecting, they will find their addiction.
Okay, so I’m kind of getting away from the book here. It’s a pretty quick read, but if you’re queasy about bodily fluids and such, be forewarned that it can get a bit graphic when she’s describing the whole “my stomach exploded” thing, and it’s aftermath. But I totally get WHY she was so graphic, too. We hear “overdose”, but we don’t can’t really visualize what that experience is like. From everything I know, it ain’t a pretty, “going to sleep” kind of death. What’s she has written in Guts is a graphic example of where addiction can lead.
It may not always be an easy read (and I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s quite as “laugh out loud” as some reviewers say, but there is a definite humour to parts of it), but it’s definitely a worthwhile one.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Follow Kristen on Twitter: @KJotheSmartass
I also highly recommend this extremely well-edited interview with Kristen Johnston on Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict. (What? Why yes, I *was* the editor! How did you know?!?)
PS – If this is your first visit here, you can read about my books here.