I have not been a fan of hip-hop/rapper Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers). There is something about artists who espouse misogyny, homophobia and racism that kinda grinds me. Especially when they do so in the name of “art.” I respect and defend his right to do so. But I do not like his art or the influence it has on his 10-year-old followers.
All that changed this morning. In an interview on the cover of the Arts & Leisure section in the New York Times Mathers speaks about his addiction, depression, recovery, art and why it all matters.
“I don’t know if I’m exposing myself,” Mathers told the reporter. “I’m kind of just coming clean and exhaling.” Yes, Marshall, you ARE exposing yourself. And I admire the hell out of you for doing it. It’s one thing for someone like me – a middle-aged journalist – to speak openly about my alcoholism, depression and bipolar. It’s another thing for someone like Mathers to come clean.
Recovery from any addiction does not change WHO your are. It changes WHAT you are. Mathers gets this. He is still Eminem and Slim Shady. But he is no longer a selfish, self-absorbed and self-righteous addict who used the First Amendment and his art as an excuse for his addict-behavior.
Losing your identity is among the greatest fears of a recovering addict or alcoholic. Who am I without my drugs and alcohol? Will I still be liked? Will I still be cool? Will I be able to do what I did before without drugs and alcohol. Mathers, God bless his little bad-ass heart, answered all those questions in this article.
“I was the worst kind of addict – a functioning addict,” Mathers told the reporter. “I was so deep into my addiction at some point that I could not picture myself doing anything without some kind of drug.”
Exactly. Whether it is sober dancing or sober sex, this is a huge fear for us and was for Mathers, too.
“The deeper I got into my addiction the tighter the lid got on my creativity. When I got sober, the lid just came off,” Mathers said. The result is his new album “Relapse.”
From the sound of it, Mathers has no intention of hitting the recovery road-show circuit. He has never wanted to be a role model and still does not – which makes him an even more convincing and powerful poster-child for recovery. Recovery is NOT going to turn you into Wally Cleaver. You are still you, but your ego is right-sized, your body is healthy and you are given back your soul.
I once knew a biker who got clean and sober. Another recovering addict suggested that he get his hair and clean-up his image. I said, “You do not have to. You are a more powerful example as you are now – a clean and sober biker with tatoos, a pony tail and half a mouth of teeth.”
Marshall, please keep making your music, working your program and doing the Slim Shady thing. You are a powerful role model, whether you like it or not. Thank you.
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John Zajaros (May 31, 2009)
Last reviewed: 24 May 2009