Jemima Kirke From 'Girls' Opens Up About Rehab, Problem Drinking

By David Konow 04/18/17

The 31-year-old actress first entered rehab when she was 23. 

Jemima Kirke

After six successful seasons, the HBO series Girls, created by Lena Dunham, has finally come to an end. And with the end of the series, Jemima Kirke, who plays Jessa Johansson on the show, has come clean about her experiences in rehab.

Kirke recently appeared on the podcast Recover Girl, which is hosted by former Fix contributor Anna David, confessing that she first went to rehab when she was 23 after pulling a rough all-nighter. (She said she would go on “three-day benders.”)

“I came home to my mom’s house and I was like, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ I was just so tired and coming down. And she was like, ‘Yes, thank you. Of course, darling, we’ll check you in,’” said Kirke.

She "learned a lot" about herself through her time in rehab, but it took several other treatment programs after her initial trip. One rehab in particular didn’t work out because the staff tried to get her sober through shaming. "They would say things like, ‘You’re poison, you’re dirty’—really hurtful things. Then your therapists would start using the stuff you’d told them against you.”

At first she said, “I didn’t relate to the psychic need for alcohol. I recognized it as a tool, and I know how to use it as a tool.” She described herself as “a problem drinker,” and added, “I’m not someone who drinks excessively, but I will drink for a reason sometimes…I just was a problem drinker. [My drinking] was a problem more than addiction. I think that’s possible.

“I recognized that I use things as an anesthesia,” she continued. “That can be anything, from shopping to sex…anything is an anesthesia."  

Kirke said she still drinks from time to time, adding, “When I decided to drink, I had the voices in my head from AA that once you drink, you can never come back.” Yet she doesn’t see sobriety as all-or-nothing. “You don’t have to fit into a mold. Alcohol is a tricky thing,” she added. 

“It’s about beliefs,” Kirke concluded. “What you believe about yourself and the world. It really has nothing to do with what you’ve achieved or how talented you are or how good looking you are. It’s whatever messages you were given as a child about the world and about how people see you and what your value is. That’s going to carry over no matter what you achieve in your life. And as long as you don’t somehow change those beliefs, and that’s a fucking hard thing to do, then you’ll be that way forever.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.