Unsweetined by Jodie Sweetin

How Rude

The memoir of Jodie Sweetin who played Stephanie Tanner in Full House should be called, “How Rude” not “unSweetined.”  But maybe Full House trademarked that catchphrase.  I picked this memoir after finding out that Jodie Sweetin was appearing at our local Comic Con.  Yeah, I have no idea what Full House has to do with comic books; it’s a stretch.  I can understand Walking Dead which is sort of geeky and in a Venn diagram, many people who follow that show probably also read comic books, but Full House?  Anyhow, this memoir is actually very readable despite the total lack of dialogue.  Sometimes when you read monologues, it becomes unbearable like reading someone’s diary, but Sweetin has that talent of writing fast-paced narrative without lingering too much on boring stuff. 

 I also read Judy Greer’s memoirs.  If you don’t know, Judy Greer is one of those actresses who stars in a lot of shows, because she’s mostly forgettable but talented enough to do her part as a supporting side character.  Greer’s memoirs were boring and self-absorbed and didn’t really involve any interesting Hollywood stories or parties.  She’s basically a wall-flower both in her real life and Hollywood acting bits.  I also think she’s a bit ungrateful that while she doesn’t get to be a star, she gets a very long, enjoyable Hollywood career hanging around stars which is very rare. 

 Jodie Sweetin on the other hand became a major child star and predictably fell into the child star trap of partying, drinking, and doing drugs and screwing up her life.  It’s interesting to note that she didn’t screw up her life because she was a spoiled Hollywood child actor with irresponsible parents.  She had two good parents.  Her problem was that she never fit in at school, because she was a star, and she suffered intense loneliness.  At the same time, being a child actress is a job with all the adult responsibilities of a job, so basically, it’s child labor, and that can mess up a kid and compromise their childhood.  At the same time, being a child star, you suffer adolescence, perhaps the most awkward, difficult part of your life, on screen under the scrutiny of millions.  On top of all this, she was adopted.  All this made her exceptionally self-conscious and undermined her self-esteem which then made her highly susceptible to the lure of intoxicants and partying which is a big break from worrying and low self-esteem. 

 As she notices, alcohol and drugs make her feel good about herself, liberates her from her worries and self-consciousness, and makes her more sociable and confident.  Unfortunately, however, Sweetin binges which is interesting, because usually people who binge and want to just blackout instead of just feel mellow, tend to have big traumas in their lives.  Sweetin binges and blackouts out because as far as she admits, she just suffers from loneliness, self-consciousness, incessant worrying and low self-esteem.  It brings up the argument that some people, who haven’t suffered trauma, may be genetically predisposed to want to binge and blackout.  Then again, you could argue that being a child star is a traumatic experience, the attention, the negative peer attention, the pressure, the work load, the lack of privacy, etc.  Sweetin has a strong desire to fit in and be popular and the center of attention which came out at a very early age.  She also was a very bright kid who read at a few grades above her level, so you could also argue that really smart people also tend to be drawn to binging and blacking out, because it takes a lot more to turn off their frontal lobes, and by the time they get there, they’re much closer to the point of no return and blacking out.  I’m not bragging, but I do think incessantly, which does not necessarily make me smarter, but it does take a lot more booze to turn off my frontal lobes than most of my peers.  But by the time I get there, it’s a short trip to blackoutsville. 

 After Full House’s eight seasons end, Sweetin tries to get other acting jobs but suffers from the overexposure of Full House.  I would have suggested that she take a year off or do independent projects or theater before trying to get big jobs.  People need to forget her as Stephanie Tanner.  Instead, she quits Hollywood to become a proper housewife, but she relapses and winds up smoking meth regularly while married to a cop!  I often wonder what the difference is between someone who can go out and drink maybe four drinks and even smoke a little pot and someone who needs to get smashed and do really hard drugs.  Often it’s trauma.  Trauma is losing control, and suffering some adverse experience.  It’s one thing to suffer adverse experiences but the added impact of not having any control to stop or mitigate it destroys your mind.  Getting wasted instead of merely buzzed is losing total control, and maybe it’s your mind trying to practice losing total control in preparation for another traumatic bout of losing control?

 One of the most interesting parts for me was when she talked about relationships with guys.  I’ve dated an addict, and it was revealing how she said, “I wouldn’t get attached but would reel him in so that he’d get attached to me.  Then I would bail.”  “You can never get hurt if you hurt someone else first.”  “I loved him for being there for me and then hated the fact that I needed him.  So I got rid of him.”  “Sometimes I wanted a guy who would party with me and sometimes I wanted a guy who would try to sober me up.”  “With other guys I’d agree to dinner or the movies then not show up.  Maybe I would call three hours later or maybe I wouldn’t call at all.”  “I was afraid that if I stopped running long enough to actually care about someone else, I’d have to own up to the decisions I was making.  I would have to think about what I was doing, and be inside my own head.  So, I kept running.  There was no thinking allowed.  I fought it all costs.”  The funny thing with wild women is that while some would totally blow me off, others would instantly agree to go date or hang out.  They were fearless in that sense, but then just as easy as it was to go out with a total stranger, they’d either find someone else or just quit hanging out with me.  I’ve taken a lot of it personally, but I guess this memoir helped me realize that in some cases, women are just flakey because they’re dealing with their own demons and self-esteem issues.

 Jodie winds up getting married a second time to a guy with a 3rd grade mentality but has a child, and the child helps her get sober for a little bit, and that is how the memoir ends, around 2010.  It’s funny how women with low self-esteem tend to wind up with total, exploitative douchebags.  It’s also funny how I would occasionally Google something like her ex Cody Herpin or an interview with her.  On Wikipedia, you find out that she would marry a third guy from 2012 to 2013.  Who knows if she’s gone back to meth or binge drinking or whatever.  I was a bit put off that she believes addiction is a disease and that she inherited it from her drug addicted biological mother.  I sometimes wonder what would happen if you told an adopted kid that he was never adopted.  I have this story in my mind where a kid learns he’s adopted when he’s a teenager, and his biological father is some psycho in prison.  So the kid becomes this drug addict and criminal, but then later, he discovers, his parents lied to him, that he was never adopted.  So he gets out of prison and straightens his life out.  But then he learns his parents weren’t lying, they were just trying to help him, so he falls apart again and becomes a criminal.  Then he learns his biological father wasn’t a psycho criminal but this military hero who died at war and his wife couldn’t afford to keep him, so he cleans up his life.  I mean, isn’t that the truth.  We all live within the context of our family, ancestry, etc.  I mean take Margaret Cho who thought she was Korean all her life and became famous making fun of her Korean mother’s accent, but then she takes a blood test and discovers she’s Chinese.  I mean, she’s thinking her craziness is Korean, but she’s not even Korean.  So if you ever do adopt a kid, and he looks somewhat like you, should you tell him he’s adopted and damage his self-esteem like that?  Maybe you would wait until he turns 30 after he’s had the opportunity to get going in a good career and perhaps already have a family by then? 

 It’s seems so deterministic that girls who get sexually abused become strippers and people who get traumatized become substance addicts.  But while this is like the default reaction, I don’t believe in total determinism.  I believe that so long as you first are lucky enough to have positive influences and then you are wise enough to keep surrounding yourself with positive influences, you can turn your life around and not be self-destructive and addicted.  I think one critical step is awareness and knowing why you are drawn to crazy people, a crazy life, crazy things, and then to realize that this is not good, it’s not actually cool, fun, and exciting, but it only looks like that on the outside.  It’s superficial joy, friendship, and life.  If you want substance, something healthy and positive that enhances your value and self-esteem and makes you stronger and more helpful to others, you need to get past the superficial glitz and glamour and seek the more humble, mild, modest, and subdued.  I’m not talking about settling for some dork who is overly inhibited, anal, submissive, and obedient who is scared to death of making waves and trying something different.  There is a balance.  There are really nice, selfless, and fun and exciting people out there who can be nonconformist and creative but also responsible and mature.  I think people with low self-esteem are afraid of them and intimidated by them, but they’re not judgmental.  If you hang around them long enough, their positive vibes influence you.  Everything worthwhile that I have accomplished in life was the result of someone’s positive influence.  Nobody is perfect, and I think sometimes sheltered or damaged people are always looking for perfection either as an impractical, inexperienced expectation or an unconscious desire to be let down and have an excuse to be disappointed with others.  All the positive influences in my life had flaws, some big, some small. 

 As a party fiend, I guess I’m starting to mature.  You can’t be a party fiend forever.  It’s like rolling dice.  Sooner or later you get a pair of snake eyes.  Sooner or later, you get a DUI or STD or some other horrible three-letter acronym.  When you get trashed, you might initially try to put a condom on, but you get sloppy and it falls off or the woman is crazy and pulls it off.  Shit happens.  You’re just rolling dice.  And while some people who like to get trashed are rather nice and giving and friendly, so many are not.  So many are just addicts or users, and they have such low self-esteem, they also treat others like shit.  Jodie admits to treating people like shit including boyfriends.  It’s a vicious cycle instead of a virtuous cycle.  The more you get trashed, the more you do things you regret, the more people you hurt, the shittier you feel about yourself, the more you worry, the more you need to get trashed, the more you get trashed, etc.  On top of this, addicts are horrible liars.  They tell people what they want to hear and exploit their kindness and optimism.  They’re expert story tellers.  They give you the mea culpa, the responsibility speech, the I’m the only one who can turn my life around bullshit, and then the hopeful, positive twist ending.  In this case, it’s Jodie’s daughter who gives her hope and is everything to her and the epitome of love and life.  I hate to say that I doubt Jodie will keep clean.  She’s an even better liar, because of all her experience as an actress.  I’m not trying to be harsh on her, but I want people to know that addicts are expert liars, and nobody wants a tragic story and feel that they are useless while watching someone self-destruct.  We all want to believe that we can help others out, and we’ll do anything including part ways with our money, common sense, and reason.  To admit that we can’t help them, that they have to help themselves, that anything we do only hurts them, makes us feel worthless and useless and impotent, and we don’t like that.  So helping an addict is actually a selfish act not an act of mercy or kindness.  I’m not the type to throw addicts and victims to the curb and condemn them as flawed and deserving of God’s wrath or any of that bullshit.  What I mean to say is that sometimes, you have to take in the pain of being impotent and force yourself not to intervene and let them help themselves.  Jodie is extremely lucky that she still gets royalties from Full House and she’s still famous enough to get paid speaking engagements, and you may even suspect now that she’s actually milking the whole concept of “I was a child actor turned drug addict, and now I’m turning my life around” gig.  I hate to be so negative, so in reading her memoirs, I can see the holes.  It’s so easy for her to jump back into drinking and meth.  She still thinks it’s a disease she inherited from her biological mother, so that’s a huge excuse she can sling around the rest of her life.  I don’t buy it.  Certainly, our genes provide us with parameters.  I can’t fly.  But within those parameters, we have gigantic options and alternatives.  If your parents were murderers, thieves, beggars, bureaucrats, politicians, bankers, it doesn’t doom you to a life of hell.  It only means you have to work extra hard to surround yourself with good people and extra hard to identify the lures that make you want to fulfill your destructive destiny and avoid them.  For me, it’s binge drinking and excessive partying, and interesting that I read so many books recently that are sending me the same message of growing up.  An interesting note Jodie makes that you stop maturing emotionally and socially at the time you first became an addict.  Addiction stops you from growing emotionally and socially.  As a child actor, while you may choose to be a child actor, everything about acting is giving someone else total control, the writer, the director, etc.  You’re not exactly learning to take control of your life and destiny, and you’re also escaping all your own personal problems by living someone else’s life. 

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