Eminem just reached an awesome addiction recovery milestone—12 years of sobriety
Eminem/Instagram, EJ Hersom/Wikimedia Commons

Drug and alcohol addiction doesn't discriminate. Whether young or old, rich or poor, famous or not, substance abuse crosses all differences and demographics. And addiction is an overwhelming obstacle to overcome, no matter who you are.

Rapper Eminem shared on Instagram this week that he had reached a big milestone in his own addiction recovery—12 years of sobriety. He shared a photo of a 12-year pin, which reads "One day at a time" and includes the words Unity, Service, and Recovery.


"Clean dozen, in the books," he wrote. "I am not afraid."

The rapper and actor had spent years battling an addiction to prescription drugs, which he described to Rolling Stone in 2011. "I was taking so many pills that I wasn't even taking them to get high anymore," he said. "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 s--t."

Eminem got sober in 2008, and in 2011 shared with GQ what he had learned from his journey through sobriety.

"The thing sobriety has taught me the most is the way I'm wired—why my thought process is so different...I've realized that the way I am helps with the music. Sporadic thoughts will pop into my head and I'll have to go write something down, and the next thing you know I've written a whole song in an hour. But sometimes it sucks, and I wish I was wired like a regular person and could go have a f--kin' drink. But that's the biggest thing about addiction: When you realize that you cannot—for f--k's sake, you can not—f--k around with nothing ever again. I never understood when people would say it's a disease. Like, 'Stop it, d--khead. It's not a disease!' But I finally realized, F--k, man—it really is."

The star received encouragement from a fellow musician and recovering addict, Elton John, in an interview they did together for Interview magazine in 2017.

"Your sobriety day is in my diary," Elton John told him. "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."

"Getting clean made me grow up," Eminem replied. "I feel like all the years that I was using, I wasn't growing as a person."

Eminem's journey to recovery is like many others who abuse prescription drugs—delayed by denial and dismissal. "People tried to tell me that I had a problem," he recalled in a documentary. "I would say 'Get that f*cking person outta here. I can't believe they said that sh*t to me.'" He would think, "I'm not out there shooting heroin. I'm not f*cking out there putting coke up my nose. I'm not smoking crack," as if only illegal illicit drugs could be considered a problem.

Getting sober isn't easy for anyone, and 12 years is truly a milestone to celebrate—especially during a particularly stressful time in the world.

People in recovery have had to shift the way they maintain sobriety during the coronavirus pandemic. Meetings—a lifeline for many addicts—are having to take place online, which has both benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, attending online meetings might actually be easier for some, since it takes less effort to open a computer and log into a Zoom meeting than it does to leave the house. On the other hand, those human-to-human connections with people who understand your struggles are important, and removing the physical element of that connection changes the dynamic a bit.

Of course, the new stressors of a global pandemic and economic crisis add another layer to recovery. Routines and structure and stability are particularly important for people in recovery, and everything feels pretty topsy-turvy right now. Recovering addicts often feel isolated already, so social distancing poses an extra challenge as well. So if you have friends that you know have struggled with addiction, now is a good time to check in with them.

And if you find yourself struggling with drugs or alcohol, including prescription drugs, or if you feel like you're slipping into something beyond your control, there is support at your fingertips. Reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit https://findtreatment.gov/.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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