Eminem And Elton John Speak Candidly About Sobriety

By David Konow 12/12/17

The legendary duo discussed friendship, making music, and the growth they found in sobriety in a recent interview.

Eminem performing a freestyle about Donald Trump
Eminem performing a freestyle about Donald Trump Photo via YouTube

Throughout his tumultuous career, Eminem has survived a lot. He weathered a great deal of controversy over his music, and suffered from an addiction to painkillers that nearly killed him before getting clean nine years ago.

Now on the eve of the release of his new album, Revival, the 45-year-old rapper spoke with Elton John for Interview magazine. It was a great meeting of two music legends who are both unabashed fans of each other, and are both celebrating their mutual recovery.

John recalled first meeting Eminem through the Grammys, where they performed the song "Stan" together. “It was an amazing event for me that I’ll never forget,” John said, to which Eminem replied, “I’ll never forget it either—and I was on drugs.”

The rapper’s drug of choice was painkillers, and as he continued, “That was a crazy time for me... That was right around the start of my using.”

When Eminem mentioned that he’s been sober for nine years, John replied, “Your sobriety day is in my diary. I’m so proud of you. I’m 27 years clean, and when you get clean, you see things in a different way. It makes your life so much more manageable. It seems to have made all the difference—I can tell when I speak to you.”

And indeed, Eminem added that “getting clean made me grow up. I feel like all the years that I was using, I wasn’t growing as a person.”

Eminem has been known to wear 12-step medals when he performs live, and as he recalled in the documentary How to Make Money Selling Drugs, “People tried to tell me that I had a problem. I would say ‘Get that fucking person outta here. I can’t believe they said that shit to me.” Even though he was taking 20 pills a day at his worst, he thought, “I’m not out there shooting heroin. I’m not fucking out there putting coke up my nose. I’m not smoking crack.”

Then Eminem nearly succumbed to an overdose, which scared him straight. “Had I got to the hospital about two hours later, I would have died. My organs were shutting down. My liver, kidneys, everything. They didn’t think I was gonna make it. My bottom was gonna be death.”

John also recently spoke at Harvard University about his recovery, where he said, “I lost my own humanity in an excess of drugs, alcoholism, and eating disorders... Today, my mission to help other people embrace their own humanity and that of others is the most powerful and positive force in the whole wide world.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.