This week I read an article about Eminem and his struggle with- and victory over- addiction to prescription pills. I didn’t even recognize his full-page photo at the start of the article. Even after the article and caption assured me that the picture was, indeed, Eminem (and Marshall Mathers, and Slim Shady) I still could not resolve the pixels to tell my brain that yes, this was Eminem, my beloved Rabbit from 8 Mile.   He looked like a completely different person, bloated, old.

The interview described an Elvis-like cycle of using different prescription medications.  Like Elvis, he had become unrecognizable.

As Eminem- who sports a vicodin tat on his left arm- raps in his song Under the Influence: “I’m like a mummy at night/fightin’ with bright lightning/frightened with five little white Vicodin pills bitin’ him.”  In Stan, he told us in a letter, “I’m on a thousand downers now/ I’m drowsy.”  Indeed, he was spiraling downward: taking uncountable amounts of Vicodin.  He didn’t know: 10, 20 pills a day.  Now, each Vicodin contains 500 mg of Acetaminophen- also known as Tylenol- and a person should not take more than 4000 mg daily, to avoid liver damage.  That would be eight Vicodin in a 24-hour period.  Couple that with the many Ambien and whatever else he was taking, and no wonder he looks a lot more like 70’s Elvis than lithe 50’s Elvis, or than 90’s Eminem, for that matter. 

He does, however, have focus now.  His moods are no longer labile.  He can work on his music again in ways he could not when on the cycle of drugs and more drugs and then more drugs again, unmeasured.

I say all of this without judgement.  It is very easy to get addicted to Vicodin.  I did.  After I had surgery a few years ago I had Oxycontin and regular Oxycodone, stuff that didn’t really help any of my pain- it just made me feel dull.  I had several months off work and couldn’t read, which normally I love; I couldn’t write, except for keeping careful track of which drugs I had taken and when.  I was awake at weird times.  All I could do was watch TV.  I got so bored with TV that I started watching Spanish TV.  I don’t even speak Spanish.  It was all the same to me. 

After I started feeling better, they gave me Vicodin, and that was the drug I couldn’t shake.  I could not wean myself off of it.  I still had to take it at night.  It was a physical dependence.  It was difficult.   I do have an unusual tenacity, though, and I wanted to have a completely clear head again, but even still, it was hard.  I know this.  I want you to know this too.

Eminem, I am so happy for you.