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Eminem’s Road to Recovery
Eminem—born Marshall Bruce Mathers III in St. Joseph, Missouri on October 17, 1972—is a rapper, music producer, songwriter, record executive, and actor who rose to fame in the late 1990s with the release of his second album The Slim Shady LP.
He also is an addict in recovery.
At the height of his career, while he was producing award-winning albums, he was battling alcohol and drug addiction. He even had an overdose that nearly cost him his life. But Eminem managed to get his life together and has successfully made his way through addiction recovery.
Now, he is an epitome of hope and resilience. He is also an example of how dangerous prescription drugs can be.
Down the Path of Drug Dependence
Eminem is widely known as someone who does not mince his words. His creative outputs contain brazen admissions and expletives that several people find as too much. But this bluntness has helped raise awareness of the real dangers of prescription drugs.
In the 2012 documentary How to Make Money Selling Drugs, the rapper opened up about his struggles with addiction.
Eminem became addicted not to illicit street drugs like crack or heroin, but instead drugs many thought were harmless because they were legal: prescription opioids. It happened because the rapper was working long hours with little time to rest. A well-meaning person gave him a pill that permitted him to get to sleep quickly and so make more efficient use of his time while on tour.
The incident led him to seek other medication, including Vicodin, to help him relax at the end of the day and help him get some sleep. Eminem acknowledged that all the pain he was feeling seemed to go away after taking the pill.
The rapper has admitted he had no recollection of when his drug use became an addiction or a problem—he only has fuzzy memories of those years when he was suffering from the condition—but the time came when he was taking as many as or more than 20 pills a day.
He began mixing pills, adding Valium, Ambien, and Xanax to the mix.
When people attempted to tell him he had a problem, he didn’t believe them because he was using legally procured drugs, not heroin, cocaine or crack. Addiction recovery was very far from his mind. Still, he tried going to rehab in 2005.
Near Fatal Overdose
Any help was short-lived. In 2006, the death of his best friend, DeShaun “Proof” Holton, because of a shooting incident caused him deeper trouble. In 2007, Eminem suffered a huge setback when he nearly died after overdosing on methadone (as well-documented in his song “Arose” from his recent album Revival and “Deja Vu” from 2009’s Relapse).
According to the rapper, if he made it to the hospital just two hours later, he would have died from the drug overdose. His organs—liver, kidneys, and everything else—were already shutting down. As it was, his medical attendants did not think he would survive.
Within a month of being released from the hospital, Eminem had a relapse.
Living for His Children
It was his kids that inspired him and gave him the strength to triumph over his situation and successfully go through addiction recovery. He said that when he looked at his children, he realized that he needed to be present for them.
Eminem got serious, worked with a rehab counselor and went through a difficult and painful detoxification. He says he was awake for three weeks straight, 24 hours a day, and had to relearn how to perform fundamental tasks such as talking and walking, but also that he “could be naturally happy without being on something” and that “It does get better”.
Exercising His Way to Recovery
By the time he left rehab, Eminem weight had ballooned to 230 pounds. He knew he needed to lose weight and to find a way to function sober. Thus, he turned to running, which gave him a natural high and helped him sleep at the same time.
Eminem acknowledges having what he calls an addict’s brain, so he thinks of it as having replaced one addiction with another, healthier one.
He also admitted that he took it to an extreme, running 17 miles a day on his treadmill: eight-and-a-half miles in the morning before going to the studio, and another eight-and-a-half miles when he got home. Too much of anything is not unequivocally healthy.
All the running eventually took a toll on his body and he tore his hip flexors. When he was better, the rapper tried to mix things up by incorporating Shaun T’s Insanity workout, P90X, and Body Beast into his routine. Through consistency, hard work, and the desire not to relapse, Eminem got down to 149 pounds without destroying his body.
Getting Over an Addiction
The fear of the physical and psychological pains of withdrawal scares many people away from attempting rehab, but with a dedicated substance abuse rehabilitation facility there are treatment options—including medication-assisted treatments (MAT), meditation, and gentle exercise—that can take away or distract from some of the discomforts. Every individual can find something that works for them and their needs.
Overcoming an addiction is possible. Getting clean and staying sober is achievable. Eminem’s successful addiction recovery proves just that. Not everyone has to do it the same way, however, and no one has to do it alone.
By Jonathan Richardson
Jonathan is a recovery coach for Willow Springs Recovery in Texas.