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Rapper Eminem took to social media last week to share some personal—and fantastic—news. He is now 11 years sober.
In the photo, Eminem holds out his palm, his 11-year coin proudly displayed atop it. The caption simply reads: “11 years— still not afraid.”
“Not afraid,” of course, is an homage to his song of the same name. In that song, released in 2010 on his album Recovery, he specifically calls out his addiction, stating, “It was my decision to get clean/I did it for me/Admittedly I probably did it subliminally for you.”
Now an anthem to many, “Not Afraid” apparently continues to hold deep significance for the rapper. The message within the song’s lyrics is a resonant reminder to those who have experienced addiction, as fear can be a large part of the struggle for continued recovery. Eminem assures himself—and others—that “we’ll walk this road together, through the storm.”
Eminem knows that road very well. Interviewed about his addiction and recovery by the New York Times in 2009, one year into his sobriety, Eminem stated that, “I was so deep into my addiction at one point that I couldn’t picture myself being able to do anything without some kind of drug.”
Over a decade later, he has overcome the many obstacles involved in staying sober—and has had many milestones to celebrate along the way.
Born Marshall Mathers in 1972, Eminem grew up mostly in Detroit, where he lived with his mother, Debbie and his siblings. He started rapping at age 14, and continued to make a name for himself on the underground hip-hop scene throughout his teen years.
In the late 1990s, Eminem found mainstream success, with the release of The Slim Shady LP. The LP introduced us to his alter ego, Slim Shady, which provided the rapper with an outlet to express more controversial themes, and perhaps his own anger and frustration regarding them.
After abusing opioids for some time, Eminem overdosed on methadone in 2007. Hospitalization and detox followed, though public statements covered up the reason behind them. The rapper later told Vibe magazine that he acquired the pills from an “acquaintance,” and did not know that they were methadone at the time.
Although he resumed using drugs, it wasn’t for long. In 2008, he realized the severity of his addiction, and took steps to become sober—remaining so ever since.
Eminem has not shied away from sharing pieces of his story through his lyrics. Each Eminem album of the past decade has touched on themes of his recovery, though his late 2017 album Revivaldirectlyrecounts his near-death experience in a letter format to his daughter, Hailie.
“Just heard they’re unplugging me/and it’s your birthday,” he says on the track “Arose.”
Later, he says, “If I’da made to the hospital less than two hours later/But I fought it/And came back like a boomerang on ‘em,” shedding light on the possibility of a different and tragic outcome, and the reality of his survival.
Once taking up to 20 pills in a day, Eminem needed to find healthy ways to cope as he recovered from active addiction. He spoke to Men’s Journal about his struggle with health and fitness, describing how exercise filled a void in his early recovery.
“I got an addict’s brain, and when it came to running, I think I got a little carried away,” he said.
Now 46 years old, Eminem recently re-released The Slim Shady LP in honor of its 20thanniversary. Coupled with the celebration of 11 years in recovery, it has been a remarkable year for the rapper—a time of accomplishment, and of reflection on the struggles he overcame.
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