Intoxication Nation: Kristen Johnston's Life-Threatening Addiction

Part 4: "The Exes" actress gives a candid interview about her substance abuse.
3:00 | 09/22/12

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Transcript for Intoxication Nation: Kristen Johnston's Life-Threatening Addiction
You've seen her as an alien ON "3rd ROCK" AND "SEX AND THE City" as the ultimate party girl but haven't seen her as a real-life drunk, the real-life role that she says nearly killed her. All in her new book called "guts" and it took a lot of them to tell elizabeth vargas her story. This is how the famous want to be seen, beautiful, beaming, fit to withstand the gaze of millions. But it seems like every week we're seeing them in another light, turning up tipsy or in the bliss blotter. Last sunday olympic snowboarder shaun white's drunken antics got him several arrest warrants and a black eye. You may remember actress amanda bynes from "easy a." She was charged with a dui after hitting a police car. She's way, way too drunk. She pleaded not guilty i. And country singer randy travis' took his alcohol fueled crash one step further. He did it naked seen here leaving jail with only a paper suit. We have some hot messes out there, let's just put it that way. You know actress kristen JOHNSTON FROM THE HIT '90s COMEDY "3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN." And more recently, from this memorable star turn on "sex and the city." Is there something about acting, about that culture? I think. I think it does. It breeds it. If you have someone with a low self-esteem yet a deep-seated need for approval mixed with a lot of disposable income, that's recipe for disaster. In her brutally honest memoir "guts," she spills about her struggles growing up as a seth loathing maladjusted teen in the milwaukee suburb, johnston like many kids wanted more than anything else to be someone else. She discovered two avenues for escape. One was acting, the other was alcohol. You say "i loved drinking, being drunk." I thought it was cool. I could outdrink the basketball te team. Fortunately her acting skills were equally impressive. After making a splash in the new york theater scene, she was plucked from obscurity to star IN "3rd ROCK" AND HER CAREER Went into orbit. What's that smell. I'm making blueberry muffins. Smells like they're done. No, they're not. I've incinerated entire armies. I think I can handle an often. With success came the pressure of the red carpet. I feel like an imposter. With pressure came depression and migraines and that's when it went to a new level. An addiction to painkillers. This is the answer. Now I'm totally cured of my panic and depression. And life is good. Yeah. WHEN "3rd ROCK" ENDED SHE Moved back to new york and launched a successful stage career but beyond the bright lights of broad wway, her life was a slow-motion train wreck. What were you taking? A bottle or two a night. You wouldn't call anybody after 8:00 p.M. Because you didn't trust yourself to -- say my name. Well, it's hard when you're wasted. Hi, it's kristen, okay, I'll be there tomorrow. Not good. You never got a dui. No. You never were arrested. No. You never blacked out. I left that to frat boys and tv stars. I was a functioning addict. Much better to be a hot mess. She writes that she had joined the crowded land of substance abuse iing actors. Charlie sheen, the mayor and courtney love, the sheriff. We know how to get there. She was rehearsing for a play on the west end when her polluted body said enough. What happened? You were alone in your apartment. I was alone in my flat and i mean I literally felt my stomach rip open and I thankfully passed out. A lethal amount of pills and alcohol caused kristen's stomach to tear open spilling its contents into her abdomen, a life-threatening condition that required emergency surgery. You like gross stuff, this is the book for you. Even that flirtation with death didn't cut through the fog. She continued to hide her addiction. Even from her own doctors. That is just your life, you're used to it. Lying to a doctor is not that different. You know? Finally, kristen reached out to a friend. I called her and said, I'm worried about my drinking and she said we'll just go get it dealt with. It just made it seem like I got to get my nails done, I got to go to rehab and didn't make it scary to me and that's just the way she said it. It really me. Saved my booty. But johnston opted not to check into a ritzy malibu rehab. I think that's why a lot of celebrities can't get the right help because the whole point of learning about addiction is that you're all the same and you have to understand that to really get it. Instead she chose a more modest center in arizona. When I walked into rehab, i was like, I was a little drunk. It was weird the first couple of days, you know, not a really fun place to be famous, but, you DON'T GET "3rd ROCK" QUESTIONS, Oh, my god, I grew up watching you, thanks. Do you have a vicodin? I'm just kidding. You're on "20/20." Kristen, now six years sober is taking full advantage of the life she almost lost. She's an advocate for teen sobriety programs and is still showcasing that body comedic talent on stage and screen. How different is your life today than it was when you were using? It's unbelievable. I mean, I'm on the show "the exodus." Wait to see her on the dance floor. Let's do it. This body is craving la dance. I got to put a plug in somewhere. Sorry. I'm a better person. I mean I'm still crazy. But I'm good crazy. The kind of person you can tell I'm crazy.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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