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Eminem on the Road Back From Hell

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What are you working on now?

Right now me and Dre are busy with Detox. It's really close – I want to say we're halfway done. I'm lending an ear, helping him write, laying hooks – whatever I can do. As for my stuff, I'm just doing guest verses for other people's records. I try to stay recording, because if I don't, I get rusty. I'm very paranoid about writer's block – I had it for four years, and it drove me fucking crazy. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't think of shit. The pills had a lot to do with it. Just wiping out brain cells. I don't know if it sounds like I'm making excuses, but the absolute truth is a lot of my memory is gone. I don't know if you've ever taken Ambien, but it's kind of a memory-eraser. That shit wiped out five years of my life. People will tell me stories, and it's like, "I did that?" I saw myself doing this thing on BET recently, and I was like, "When was that?"

Did you save much of your writing from that time?
Yeah. It fucking creeps me out. Letters all down the page – it was like my hand weighed 400 pounds. I have all that shit in a box in my closet. As a reminder that I don't ever want to go back.

When did you first get into drugs?
It didn't really start until my career took off. I was probably in my early 20s before I even kicked back my first beer. But the bigger the shows got, the bigger the after-parties; drugs were always around. In the beginning it was recreational. I could come off tour and be able to shut it off. I'd spend time with the kids, and I'd be OK.

It probably started to become a problem around the 8 Mile movie. We were doing 16 hours on the set, and you had a certain window where you had to sleep. One day somebody gave me an Ambien, and it knocked me the fuck out. I was like, "I need this all the time." So I got a prescription. After four or five months, your tolerance starts building. You start breaking off another piece of the pill that's supposed to be for tomorrow. Then, when I got off probation for my felonies [in 2003], and I didn't have to drop urine anymore, the reins came off. On the Anger Management 3 tour [in 2005], I was fucked up every night.

How bad did it get?
I was taking so many pills that I wasn't even taking them to get high anymore. I was taking them to feel normal. Not that I didn't get high. I just had to take a ridiculous amount. I want to say in a day I could consume anywhere from 40 to 60 Valium. And Vicodin... maybe 20, 30? I don't know. I was taking a lot of shit.

My everyday regimen would be, wake up in the morning and take an extra-strength Vicodin. I could never take more than one and a half, because it tore up my stomach lining. So I'd take the one and a half, and it'd kind of be Vicodin throughout the day. Then, as the evening crept up, around 5:00 or 6:00, I'd start with a Valium or two, or three, or four. And every hour on the hour, I'd pop four or five more. The Ambien would put me over the top to go to sleep.

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.

Where were you getting it? Did you have a dealer?
When you're an addict, you find ways. In the beginning, there were doctors who gave me prescriptions – even after I got out of rehab.

Any idea how much money you spent?
Nope. And I don't want to know. A lot.

Then, in 2006, Proof was killed. Can you talk a bit about what he meant to you?
[Sighs] The best way to describe Proof would be a rock. Somebody to confide in, somebody who always had your back. At this point, it's difficult to find people I know I can trust. I still have certain friends like that, but when you lose one, man... [trails off] It hit me pretty hard.

How much do you think his death had to do with your spiral?
It had a lot to do with it. 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.

What was happening to you physically?
I got up to between 220 and 230, about 80 pounds heavier than I am now. I was going to McDonald's and Taco Bell every day. The kids behind the counter knew me – it wouldn't even faze them. Or I'd sit up at Denny's or Big Boy and just eat by myself. It was sad. I got so heavy that people started to not recognize me. I remember being somewhere and overhearing these kids talking. One of them said, "That's Eminem," and the other said, "No it's not, man – Eminem ain't fat." I was like, "Motherfucker." That's when I knew I was getting heavy.

It creeps me out sometimes to think of the person I was. I was a terrible person. I was mean to people. I treated people around me shitty. Obviously I was hiding something. I was fucked up inside, and people with those kinds of problems tend to put up this false bravado – let me attack everyone else, so the focus is off me. But of course everybody knew. There were whispers, murmurs.

Did anyone ever say to you, "Em, you need help"?
They'd say it behind my back. They didn't say it to my face, because I would fucking flip out. If I even sniffed the scent of somebody thinking they knew what I was doing, they were out of here. You'd never see them again.

And it peaked in December of 2007, when you were rushed to the hospital after overdosing on methadone. Can you walk me through that night?
I can try. There are certain parts I have to leave out because they have to do with my kids. But 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 thought, "It looks like Vicodin, it's shaped like Vicodin – fuck it." I remember taking one in the car on the way home, and thinking, "Oh, this is great." Just that rush. I went through them in a couple of days, then went back and got more. But I got a lot more.

My whole month of December leading up to [the overdose], I don't remember shit. All I remember is I was not able to get out of bed. At some point – I don't know if it was the middle of the day, I don't know if it was nighttime – I got up to use the bathroom. I was standing there, trying to take a piss, and I fell. I hit the floor hard. I got back up, tried again – and boom, I fell again. And that time I couldn't get up.

I've never really talked about it with anyone in detail, because I don't want to know. They say I made it back to the bed somehow. I don't remember that. All I remember was hitting the bathroom floor and waking up in the hospital.

What happened when you woke up?
The first thing I remember is trying to move, and I couldn't. It's like I was paralyzed – tubes in me and shit. I couldn't speak. The doctors told me I'd done the equivalent of four bags of heroin. They said I was about two hours from dying.

I think I'd been out for two days, and when I woke up, I didn't realize it was Christmas. So the first thing I wanted to do was call my kids. I wanted to get home, and show them that Dad's OK.

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

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