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Sober Life: Eminem’s Sober Interview with Rolling Stone

2010 November 19

Standing in Whole Foods’ checkout line last night, and there was Eminem on the cover of Rolling Stone, nose peeking out from his (shady) hoodie.

Eminem Rolling Stone 2010

I shelled out. Eminem is currently the music industry’s bestselling and most visible recovering addict. From the glimpses I got waiting to buy my pork chops, I could see that his recovery from addiction was the first subject discussed and the subject most referred to throughout the interview. That, and his kids, and his work.

So I thought I’d share a few tidbits with you guys, in case you’re interested. Because I know you’re interested. Lots of you land here looking for “Eminem sobriety” or “does Eminem go to meetings.”

(For those who may not be familiar with Eminem: birth-name Marshall Mathers, 38; he is a hip-hop artist who grew up and still lives in Detroit; in December 2007 he was hospitalized for an overdose of methadone and the sleep-aid Ambien which nearly killed him. One relapse after that, and he committed to recovery. Also the title of his most recent album, Recovery is expected to be the bestselling album of 2010.)

Ambien is addictive. On his Ambien use:

Toward the end, I don’t think the shit ever put me to sleep for more than two hours. It’s very similar to what I’ve read about Michael [Jackson]. I don’t know exactly what he was doing, but I read that he kept getting up in the middle of the night, asking for more. That’s what I was doing—two, three times a night, I would get up and take more.

On the shooting death of his good friend, Detroit rapper Proof, and how addiction made him self-absorbed in his grief:

I remember days I spent just taking fucking pills and crying. One day, I couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t even want to get up to use the bathroom. I wasn’t the only person grieving—he left a wife and kids. But I was very much in my own grief. I was so high at his funeral. It disgusts me to say it, but I felt like it was about me. I hate myself for even thinking that. It was selfish.

On getting high on methadone—a drug that most physicians and even many addiction specialists don’t believe can make you wasted:

I remember I got the methadone from somebody I’d gone to looking for Vicodin. This person said, “These are just like Vicodin, and they’re easier on your liver.” … I remember taking one in the car on the way home, and thinking, “Oh, this is great.” Just that rush.

Eminem’s just like a lot of us who committed to recovery to be here for others:

I knew I had to change my life. But addiction is a fucking tricky thing. I think I relapsed within … three weeks? And within a month it had ramped right back to where it was before. That’s what really freaked me out. That’s when I knew: either get help, or I am going to die. As a father, I want to be here for things. I don’t want to miss anything else.

Eminem apparently does not go to meetings. He wanted to attend meetings but people inevitably recognized him and wanted things from him, which made it difficult for him to be open in the group. On anonymity:

I tried some meetings—a couple of churches and things. It tended not to do me much good. People tried to be cool, but I got asked for autographs a couple of times. It made me shut down. I called a rehab counselor who’d helped me the first time. Now I see him once a week.

It’s well known that Elton John acts as his sponsor:

I speak to Elton [John]. He’s like my sponsor. He usually calls me once a week to check on me, just to make sure I’m on the up-and-up. He was actually one of the first people I called when I wanted to get clean. He was hipping me to things, like, “You’re going to see nature that you never noticed before.” Shit you’d normally think was corny but that you haven’t seen in so long that you just go, “Wow! Look at that fucking rainbow!” Or even little things—trees, the color of leaves. I fucking love leaves now, man. I feel like I’ve been neglecting leaves for a long time.

And this is where I put the magazine down to take a breath, because I enjoyed this guy’s unpretentious poetry so much and I was starting to love his process. There’s no one right way to get sober. But there are some essential ingredients: honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness to do whatever is needed. Especially willingness.

It seems Elton John, sober for 20 years, regularly reaches out to other celebrities with drug problems. Eminem has made it clear that he rang up Elton John for help because he knew Sir Elton would be able to understand the mental distortions that extreme fame exerts on a person, and he wasn’t able to get that in an ordinary meeting. Which is too bad—because when you get right down to it, in Orwell’s words, none of us addicts is “more equal” than any other. Maybe some people might think this choice in itself is grandiose and ego-driven. But I respect it: I see him recognizing the real limitations that he’s presented with, and then seeking help where he can, so that he can save his life and continue to do what he needs to do … stay sober, take care of his kids, and do his work. Each of us has to do this—get help in the way that best fits our life.

“There’s a lot more awareness of addiction these days,” my husband said this morning when I told him about this heretofore homophobic hip-hop singer calling on a flamboyantly gay star. “Imagine who might have been saved in the past if there had been more awareness. I mean, who was looking out for Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison? And so many others.

And here he is on some of the cleanup. On working sober, and the time lost on his CV:

I don’t know, man. I feel like I took a lot of time off. Not doing shit for those four or five years, how lazy I got—it’s time to get back to doing what I love. I feel like I’ve got a lot of gas in the tank. I just want to make up for letting people down.

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  • linda

    It is interesting reading and what occurred to me is that we want to think we are special our story more unique than someone elses. What worked for others can’t work for me. It is this kind of thinking that kept me isolated in my own pain refusing to ask for help. When my pain was so great that I couldn’t function anymore I did get help and found out I wasn’t alone.

  • Heather

    An excellent article, thank you for writing it. Too many “excerpts” writers manage somehow to distort the content of the original interview in order to get their own point across (my favorite was one implying the rapper had a fixation on Christian Bale and raging Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, all from two sentences out of a three-page interview).

    One correction, though: While Eminem’s critics have gone after his lyrics, and after him, as a homophobe throughout his career, he himself has said repeatedly that another person’s sexuality has never mattered to him. He’s also pointed out that while a great many rappers use the same anti-gay terms in their lyrics as he does, he is pretty much the only one called to task for it.

    Anyway – I don’t want to waste a bunch of time harping on one sentence in your article, especially one that is beside the point: we get help where and how we can, and in the way that actually works best for us. Marshall Mathers reached out and found people whom he could trust, ready and waiting to give him the assistance he needed. Good for him – and again, good for you for writing this article. Thanks.

  • guinevere

    Heather, thanks for the clarification. :)

  • http://www.worksaside.com Works Aside

    Hello you,

    I’ve been away for a while. Life took over and sadly my laptop gathered dust for a few months. What joy to come back to your blog and find a post about Eminem. He’s my guilty pleasure. My best friend and I have fancied him for years :-).

    Girl crush aside, I loved reading the extracts from Rolling Stone Magazine (which I don’t think I could find here for love nor money) and your interpretation of his recovery. I have followed his ups, downs and ups again. I love his latest track although I find the video hard to stomach. I hope he can make a real go of it. He sounds like he is really working his recovery. What an inspiration.

    I hope this finds you well. I must catch up on the last six weeks. Things not great my end. Hannah is on a downward spiral, being chased by dealers she owes money to. We don’t know where she is or exactly how much danger she is in but one thing is for sure – it ain’t good.

    Best Wishes Guinevere
    Nora x

  • http://healingimperfectly.blogspot.com/ Drew

    I saw an interview with Eminem on my second day of sobriety and posted it on my blog. http://healingimperfectly.blogspot.com/2010/06/profound-stuff-for-me.html
    It was such amazing timing. I have probably listened to his song Not Afraid 2-3 times everyday for the last five months. If you are in recovery you hear different words I think. Lots of people don’t like him- but I think he is doing an amazing thing by speaking up for sobriety among the famous.

  • http://pepperpottery.blogspot.com Shay

    “That’s when I knew: either get help, or I am going to die.”
    It’s so simple, but we’ve all said it at some point. Thanks for this posting; it was very insightful and I enjoyed his process as you said. I think your husband is right, and really, as tacky as I find some of the reality rehab style shows, they’re at least making it ok to talk about addiction. The more it’s talked about in the media, and by celebrities who have walked this road, the more people will understand rather than condemn, and the more people will be saved.

  • Syd

    This is an interesting post. I am glad for him. Being sober by whatever means is a good thing. Hopefully, he will also work on recovery as well.

  • Inocent til proven inocent

    My opinion is this is great for Marshall…I hope he doesn’t give up and keeps searching. I believe there’s no way I could stay sober with out my AA family & Higher power…I know how he feels about people for the most part being cool but a couple want autographs (or something)…But Marshall I hope you hear this…Everyone in AA gets hit up for money, sex, etc… We are all sick people so don’t let that scare you off! A lot of us are trying like hell to get well (that means love and tolerance of celebrities, homeless, strippers, gay, average, beautiful, ugly, smart, funny)…Anyways, Pg. 417 of Alcoholics Anonymous book – you know focus on all the good of the meeting and not the bad and the good will increase..Don’t ever be alone..We all know where you been=In pain and you don’t gotta be there no more! Besides God will people your life and give you guidance on everything pg.86-87..Much Love

  • elissa spangler

    It is always been my hope that eminem would find a way to tackle his demons and to find a way to recovery. The hinderance to him attending meetings is understandable but can be overcome. I have worked as a counselor and have dealt with many aspects of addiction he has alot of power in the recovery community. I hope he realizes what a powerful messsage he carries.

  • michael d

    wow, i just came out of my fog about 40 days ago. sucks he can’t experience the meetings part of the fellowship. the album’s lyrics hit home for me, but took getting sober to understand them. best wishes, and good luck on the road less travelled. its hard to take an honest look at yourself the way the steps approach you, but the rewards are like no other. extravagent promises… we think not. they always materialize if you work for them.

  • tmsgf

    “ACCEPT THE GOOD.” Im a recovering heroin addict. I’ve been clean for almost 2 yrs. Your music inspired me, gave me hope that I could feel a natural high by getting goosebumps and a tingly head off of one of YOUR LINES IN 3am.! Marshall, if you came to play a show at HIGHERGROUND south Burlington VERMONT, & maybe I could get a pic. with you/& share my story of when I was just a shorty, and went from alot of cocaine, then you get too paranoid, then try lil crack, n then move on to methamphetamine, and finally the highest you can go, with heroin, with oxy 80s, and valium what a great combination, I was my best friends best man nodding in an out at his wedding. Now pay the consequences of not being involved with his life, wife, and kid, with a second one on his way. I still remain friends of his family. Everyday I think about going on a full blown relapse, but I think my way out of it one day at a time…God bless your whole family, PS, You are the worlds greatest rapper/”As the world turns. These are the days of our lives.” Hah, hah your biggest fan G-Foster

  • melody

    I’m really grateful today for Eminem’s sobriety….

  • Pingback: Eminem's Life Story: The Rise & Fall of the Greatest Rapper Alive | The King is Born

  • Louise

    I am so glad Marshall Mathers is clean and sober…I could always relate to his music and his story…I actually stopped listening to him when I first got sober because I felt that It fueled my anger toward my mother but when I heard his recovery album I was so happy because Ive always felt for him and I could listen to him again…Its a miracle! I feel like we are on the same path in life! I played his music at strip clubs all the time. I got sober again in 2006 and him just a little after… I would love it if he could go to meetings just for the soul fact that I feel so close with him and am truly sincere about wanting to see him stay clean! I think he is amazing and I wish he could come to meetings and feel okay with it! I mean I was just asked for my autograph, too! lol (well it was for a girl who was court ordered and it was her court sheet) But Marshall if you read this please consider coming to some meetings because you are so profound and it would be such a blessing to hear you ESH face to face! If anyone messes with you I will take care of it…Please consider/If not God bless you always! And please thank Elton John and all others involved in your recovery because I feel it is a truly spiritual thing for me that you are sober the same time as me…You are hilarious and real

    God is truly looking out for many people with addictions, we are all miracles! We still have the minds of alcoholics, addicts, whatever the addiction is but with his help we are able to remain clean. It is in fact a miracle!
    I drank because I liked it and I am sober 6 years now! I did not like the consequences of drunkeness and I did not like the consequences of sobriety (or so I thought)…but what the hell did I have to lose..well alot I guess! lol..
    I had to lose my bad attitude, my low self esteem, ungratfulness, my selfishness, my fears and self seeking, my dishonesty, my inconsideration, my walking around with a smile while living in silent despiration and most of all the HUGE PARTIES! The parties were huge, my pity parties aloud any one who would listen…It was alot of people. I figured you cant tell the same person 100 times but you can tell 100 people 1 time…lol…I dont do that today! If I was to drink over my resentments…Its like drinking poison and hoping the person I resent dies..Dosen’t work!=(God blessings to all!

  • BEAST

    What happened to ANONYMITY??? seriously its in the 12 TRADITIONS it sucks that people could not help themselves to asking for his autograph at meetings… Im sure that pissed him off. PRINCIPLES BEFORE PERSONALITIES!

  • JuJu M

    I admire this man like no other. He is truly an amazing person. I used to party with his brother and Proof and I’d drink like there was no tomorrow, several nights a week. I’m not a drug addict but I’ve sobered up and quit drinking for 1.5 years and the feeling of being sober is indescribable. I thank God liquor was my only addiction and God bless the road of recovery we are all walking.

  • RyanQ

    I remember hearing not afraid when i came out of rehab. It’s funny how his music and life emotions went down the same as me and next month i’ll have three years sober and i’m only 21. It’s not bc of em but his music was great for me in the beginning. It’s a shame to see he was unable to attend meetings, I thought to myself if i ever saw him at a meeting all i would say if he became a regular would be whats up man. Couldn’t imagine the shit people pulled on him. I’m also blessed, anyways love you my recovery brother!

  • disqus_mXPECCRmem

    I cant believe people asked for his autograph at a twelve step meeting. This seems inappropriatte. He should have been treated like any regular person wanting to get sober.

  • Ebony

    Why did he take so much drugs in the first place? like I mean before proof died? And didnt anyone try and help him before it got all out of hand and he became addictive and decided to take random pills too. Why didnt his children who he clearly loves and he listens to try and help him or stop him?

  • HeatherStinks

    Heather: Mealy mouth clams like you are insufferable. I don’t quite grasp what gives you such a sense of authority, driving the need to correct a writer on mundane or peripheral points that don’t bear much significance to the focal point of the piece. What makes any already irksome behavior even more insufferable, is when someone like you publicly corrects an author who is not even compensated for their work, as is the case here. Guinevere is kind enough to allow us to enjoy her efforts without paying, nor be forced to endure endless banners and advertisement. I take off my cap to her for being gracious in accepting your commentary with a level of patience and class that I’m somewhat grateful that I do not possess.

  • peacock73

    It seems you dont understand addiction…. if you did you wouldn’t have asked that. Some people are just predisposed to the DISEASE of addiction. It doesn’t matter what anybody says to you, you just cant stop until you reach that rock bottom and realize it for yourself. And anybody that does try to stop you before you are ready you generally stop hanging around. Thank your lucky stars you haven’t been there. To those that have, keep coming back! It works if you work it.

  • Joe

    Good news for young AA’s to have a roll model as honest and hard working, I just done my first chaire yestuday after 18 months of sobriety for me a massive step to give back. On my journey it’s been a help to have someone to aspire to be like in the beginning, now I have my own goals and aspirations and identity.
    Marshall and every member of the fellowship deserve a massive pat on the back for keeping sober a day at a time.
    In my journey meditation and presents is the key, learn to listen and think before responding.
    Love to my fellows. Joe UK

  • josh

    If he does go to meeting I think he would still say that he didn’t to protect the traditions. Celebrities in an anonymous program can be dangerous mix for the program. How many people wouldn’t go to their first meeting if Eminem publicly said he went to meetings and then publicly relapsed?