Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tag: Eminem

Eminem Officially Named God (of Rock).

GQ has named Eminem a God of Rock.

(My man Robert Plant is in there too. Also three women!—Deborah Harry, Erykah Badu, P.J. Harvey.)

Shady says he couldn’t have done the last two albums, much less stayed alive, without being sober.

The GQ portrait. Dude: nice necklace.

On the ways the things that made him push himself also made him into a junkie:

The thing sobriety has taught me the most, is the way I’m wired—why my thought process is so different. I’ve realized that the way I am helps with the music. Sporadic thoughts will pop into my head and I’ll have to go write something down, and the next thing you know I’ve written a whole song in an hour. But sometimes it sucks, and I wish I was wired like a regular person and could go have a fuckin’ drink. But that’s the biggest thing about addiction: When you realize that you cannot—for fuck’s sake, you can NOT—fuck around with nothing ever again. I never understood when people would say it’s a disease. Like, ‘Stop it, dickhead. It’s not a disease!’ But I finally realized, Fuck, man—it really is.

On being a freak in rehab:

Look, every addict in rehab feels like everyone’s staring at them. With me? Everyone WAS staring at me. I could never be comfortable. There were people there that treated me normal. Then there were a bunch of fucking idiots who aren’t even concentrating on their own sobriety because they’re so worried about mine. They’re stealing my hats, my books—it was chaos. Everything was drama in there. And at the time, I didn’t really want to get clean. Everybody else wanted me to. And anyone will tell you: If you’re not ready, nothing is going to change you. Love, nothing.

On caring too much what other people think about you:

I would hear people saying this and that about Relapse. Certainly I’m not going to sit on the Internet all day and read what Sam from Iowa is saying about me. But I’m a sponge. I’ve always been a sponge.

Read the interview

More on Eminem

Sober Life: Eminem’s Sober Interview with Rolling Stone

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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Also, please visit my new site: Recovering the Body.

Chewing Vicodin Was The Start Of My Problem.

Vicodin

Top-5 search term: Vicodin. People land here wanting to know how to “maximize the effects of Vicodin,” curious about what “chewing a Vicodin” will do. Important topic. I remember being at the beginning of my addiction, chewing one pill per day, unsure of what was happening to me, uncertain whether I even really Had A Problem, and clueless as to where to turn for answers.

So of course I just kept doing it.

Vicodin is compounded with Tylenol, so virtually the only way to “maximize its effects”—short of building a chemistry lab to separate the acetaminophen from the hydrocodone (the opioid drug in Vicodin)—is to chew it.

(BTW, for those active addicts out there who land here curious about “maximizing the effects of Vicodin”—it is NOT GOOD to snort Vicodin, because the Tylenol and fillers are destructive to mucus membranes and lung tissue. Don’t do it.)

What chewing Vicodin will do is to crush its components into a powder and thus make it a bit more readily available to be absorbed into the blood by the digestive tract: in other words, whereas it takes time for a pill to dissolve and gradually be absorbed, chewing does away with that wait-time.

However, here’s what I didn’t know when I started chewing my pills: it’s insidiously dangerous, not only physically but also psychologically. Physically it’s dangerous mostly because of the Tylenol. Most cases of acute liver failure are due to acetaminophen toxicity.

If you beat the physical danger and manage either to avoid or survive liver failure (surviving it is rare), you then come up against the psychological dangers, which are formidable. And those are the illusion of control, and the alienation.

In active addiction, we always think we can control our use. This is a distortion of reality. The reality is, chewing our Vicodin is outside the physician’s instructions. Can you imagine your doctor instructing you to chew your pills?—”Chew 2 P.O. on empty stomach q 4-6 h.” NOT. Doing it this way is taking it “in a manner not prescribed,” and therefore it qualifies as “abuse.”

(I can hear some people saying Jesus Christ, it’s not like I’m shooting them, it’s not a big deal)

There are good reasons that the doctor doesn’t want us to chew our pills to “maximize the effects.” One is, when we get used to “maximum effects,” we build physical tolerance, and psychologically, we always want more.

But chewing a pill, when we’re doing it—when it occurs to us—doesn’t SEEM so very far outside the realm of what the doctor prescribed. Who’s there to make us accountable?—no one knows whether we swallow that pill whole, or put that pill between our molars and crush it to powder, then wait for it to hit. It’s our secret.

The waiting alienates us. We might be sitting there having a conversation with our partner or our kid, but what we’re really doing is waiting for the drugs to hit.

We’re slowly and surely alienating ourselves from the rest of the world. To be sure, it doesn’t FEEL that way as it’s happening, and the myriad distortions of addiction use all sorts of rationalizations to help us feel OK about it, but it’s real: we’re turning into aliens. Eventually we will wind up in a room, by ourselves, using (and probably in a manner far gone from chewing a pill).

I used to do this, folks. I used to dread getting out of bed. I couldn’t wake up without Taking Something. In the early days it was one Vicodin (Lorcet, actually), before I even got out of bed. Yes, I chewed it. I don’t even remember when I started chewing them, it occurred to me so long ago. I rationalized: it was Just One Pill, I was working, I was a mom, I was a wife, I was a professional, I interviewed the staffs of Congress and governors’ offices to get source material so godalmighty I wasn’t really an Addict. Addicts—well, everyone knows they don’t have kids, spouses, houses, jobs, everyone knows they Lose Everything.

Let me just say Chewing One Pill progressed to much worse compulsive behavior before I finally detoxed and got free from fentanyl, one of the strongest opioids known to medical science, in 2008.

Today I get to live differently. Today I woke up at 5:30 and drove my husband to the airport: first act of service, of getting outside myself, of the day. Hit a 7 a.m. meeting on the way back into town and saw four people I knew. Scheduled two courts to play tennis with my sister and her kids for 90 minutes. Then came home and made a lunch so appetizing that every last bit of it was scarfed up.

Did some work; now I’m here writing to you.

Which brings me to another search phrase that brings people here: “Did Eminem get sober with AA?”

I dunno. But Eminem seems to be living in some kind of solution to his problem.

Whatever works for you, is the thing.

How did you get sober?

Sober life: How Eminem stays clean and sober

The New York Times put the question straight to the rapper—“How do you stay sober?”—and here’s what he said:

My kids, and also I see a rehab counselor once a week. I’ve been clean for two years.

I don’t know Eminem’s work. But I’m interested in how people stay clean, and it seems to me the interview gives other clues as to the things Eminem might be practicing to stay sober… • He says he has given up the idea of touring for this album—a huge ego trip—because “Touring is hard on the body. It used to be a big trigger for me with drinking and drugging.” (surrender) • He says he’s “calmed down a bit” from the boy who called women “bitches” and “hos”—he admits that he once felt those things at one time, but that his “overall look on things is a lot more mature than it used to be.” (awareness of character defects) • He says that he saves and invests his money: “I try to treat all the money I’m making like it’s the last time I’m going to make it.” (responsibility) • He sloughs off the interviewer’s compliment that he’s been praised for his “complex rhyme schemes” and demurs when asked if he reads poetry, saying, “I’m not really book-smart.” He also says he “felt like Bugs Bunny in rehab” because people were stealing his stuff and pestering him for autographs, “and I couldn’t concentrate on my problem.” (humility) He’s also able to call himself a good dad. He does this in “Not Afraid,” the first song he released from the album (watch the video here). Humility is knowing what you are and what you aren’t. The root of the word “humble” is the Latin word, humus, the soil—or close to the ground. Just like he’s able to say he’s “not book-smart,” and later in the interview that his music goes back to his “white-trash roots,” he’s also able to admit now that he’s earned the rank of “Good Dad.” Cool.

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