Happy Birthday, Eminem: Why Sober Birthdays Are Important in Recovery
Eminem recently celebrated his 13th birthday.
You read that right. We’ll explain.
Eminem’s not really 13, of course, and his fans know his actual birthday is in October. April 20th marks the day the often-controversial rapper (born Marshall Mathers in 1972) decided to get sober in 2008.
Anyone who has ever embarked on the difficult journey towards sobriety knows it’s more about the process rather than the destination, with challenges every day and occasional relapse. They also know it’s a process that fundamentally changes people as they develop new, healthy habits and abandon their old selves.
This rebirth is why many people in recovery adopt a “sober birthday,” a day on which they celebrate the first day they began their new lives.
But the idea of a sober birthday is more than a humblebrag or a way to get some extra likes on social media. Like any major project, it’s important to have milestones to remind yourself on how far you’ve come.
Near-Fatal Overdose Leads to Sobriety
In a 2011 Rolling Stone interview, Eminem said his drug use didn’t really start until well into his career, which began in the late 1980s. On the set of the 2002 movie 8 Mile, the rapper coped with the intense shooting schedule by using the prescription sedative Ambien to sleep.
Like many sedatives, it can be easy to build up a tolerance to Ambien. Eminem rapidly graduated to Valium and Vicodin. “I was taking so many pills that I wasn’t even taking them to get high anymore. I was taking them to get normal,” he said in the interview.
Eminem first entered rehab in 2005. He soon suffered a relapse not long after the murder of a childhood friend, fellow Detroit rapper DeShaun ‘Proof” Holton. Eminem’s substance problems began to spiral out of control again, cumulating in an overdose and near-death experience in late 2007.
Eminem has detailed his overdose and the events leading up to it multiple times. Towards the end of 2007, a dealer offered him a pill after Eminem attempted to purchase Vicodin on the street. Despite resembling the prescription painkiller, the drug was methadone, a powerful opioid used to treat both pain and opioid use disorder.
After taking more and more methadone, Eminem finally collapsed in his bathroom and was rushed to the hospital. “My doctor told me the amount of methadone I’d taken was equivalent to shooting up four bags of heroin,” he said to Entertainment Weekly in a 2020 interview. “Even when they told me I almost died, it didn’t click.”
A knee injury not long after his overdose caused an additional relapse. Finally, Eminem went to an addiction specialist for help, which appears to have worked: since April 20, 2008, Eminem has been sober.
Eminem has been an often ruthless chronicler of his own hardships growing up – one of his songs describes his mother sprinkling valium on his food as a child – and as we’ve read, his journey to sobriety was rife with challenges as well. It’s easy to see why he’d want to memorialize his struggles.
Remembering Your Firsts Through Recover
Recovery is about firsts:
The first day sober. Your first month free from drugs. The first time you attended a social event without being high or taking a drink. The first time you got through a stressful life event without needing anything to get through it.
Small as these may sound, they’re all major wins for a person in recovery. Drugs and alcohol don’t just get people high; they form a sort of emotional armor that shields users from daily experiences. A big part of sobriety is learning to live without that suit of armor while developing a more positive suit of your own.
And as you imagine, living life without that armor can leave a person feeling a little exposed.
It’s why the early steps in recovery tend to be small ones. Some recovery programs use a coin system where members receive a token when they make progress. These steps can be as small as going 24 hours without using, or as large as reaching 13 years of sobriety.
Remember, recovery isn’t a destination reached after a long struggle. It’s a state that must be maintained. Being able to look back at one’s achievements is something to take pride in – and a way to chart one’s future.
Milestones aren’t the only thing which helps people reach and maintain their recovery. A dynamic, caring rehab provider is the ideal partner who’ll help you reach your first sober birthday … and the ones that come after. Want to learn more? Contact The Edge Treatment Center today.