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Actress and artist Jemima Kirke came on the podcast. Yes, those are thrilling words to write. This is not only exciting because she’s luminous, talented and plays Jessa on freaking Girls but also because she has a history with substances that you don’t hear many people share about. After a wild youth, which included multi-day benders and bouts of depression, Kirke showed up at her mom’s in early 20s, saying she was ready for rehab. She went from one treatment center to the next, finding enough fault with the program there for her to be kicked out (but not before meeting the man she eventually married, who happens to now own a sober living). After years of staying sober and doing the 12-step thing, Kirke began to question whether the one-size-fits-all philosophy about addiction applied to her. And so she had a drink. Contrary to what she’d been told, nothing bad happened. That was a few years ago and in that time, she’s watched her career rise to superstardom and embraced motherhood (in addition to the two kids she has with her husband, she is also the step-mother to his kids from a previous marriage). In this episode, we talk about self-hatred, rehabs just out to take your money and if meeting your future spouse in treatment is “trauma bonding,” among other topics.
On the roof of her home in New York, we dove headfirst into her personal recovery story. She shared anecedotes, beliefs and experiences from multiple rehabs, and what she learned along the way.
She first entered The Meadows at 23 when, after a two-day bender, she cried to her mom, saying she “couldn’t do it” any longer. Her mom checked her in the next day, even when she resisted.
From The Meadows she then went to Life Skills, a place where she felt like the “healthiest and saniest person” in there. It was supposed to be a second step-type program and she recalls being taught things like making her bed, having a schedule and getting groceries.
But one lesson that stuck with her was grocery shopping. They would give each person $60 to buy their groceries for the week. Jemima says she had grown up privileged so she was used to buying whatever she wanted. With only $60, she learned how to look at prices and even had the embarassment of having to put things back if she went over her budget.
The other experience she recalls from Life Skills was meeting her husband. She admits they fully “13th stepped” it. It was, she said, bumpy in beginning.
Jemima also talks about one of her main difficulties with rehab in general: rarely was she spoken to like a person, and not just a patient. All she wanted was someone to answer her questions, rather than being told to follow the rules simply because they were the rules.
Despite all of that, she learned a lot about herself in rehab and believes the information she was taught helped her get grounded at a time when she really needed it.
Therapy has also helped her get and stay grounded. She has learned that what she was taught about herself and the world is really just a voice or one viewpoint, and there are other viewpoints.
Something her therapist told her about avoiding pain has also stayed with her. Her therapist said we only get hurt by trying to not be in pain. Pain is a given, to resist it is when we destroy ourselves rather than going into it.
That stuck with her because, she says, she had almost never gone into her own pain before rehab and therapy. But with experience, she has found that pain will pass if we just sit with it and allow it.
She’s also discovered she uses other things as an anesthesia to pain, everything from shopping on Etsy to sex to drinking. Now when she gets an urge to visit Etsy she checks in to be sure she isn’t trying to avoid some kind of pain in her life.
She explains how she recognized alcohol and other drugs as tools, rather than the irresistible urge or psychic need a lot of addicts describe. We get into what it was like for her to have a drink after five years in Alcoholics Anonymous and why you don’t have to fit into a certain mold.
But if there’s one message Jemima wants to share with you it’s that there is such a thing as having a problem without being an addict, and that you can stop drinking for practical reasons and you can choose if you’ll have a drink again.
In This Episode You Will Learn:
-Why Jemima hated not being given an explanation when in rehab.
-Why did she go “door to door” through several rehabs?
-When did she start therapy and why does she still go today?
-What does it mean when we feel pain longer than 90 seconds?
-Why she doesn’t categorize herself as an addict.
-And much more