Rush Limbaugh, the nation’s top-rated talk-radio host who checked himself into a treatment center for an addiction to painkillers last month, returned to his daily program today declaring his experience of the last five weeks was like being “reborn at age 50.”

Rush Limbaugh

“I cannot tell you how excited I am, how happy I am to be back,” Limbaugh said as he opened his show for the first time in five weeks. “It is one of the biggest thrills of my life to be here and once again sharing and discussing and talking things over with you.”

As WorldNetDaily reported, Limbaugh announced at the end of his Oct. 10 broadcast he was addicted to pain-killing medication and that he would check into a rehab clinic that afternoon for treatment.

In his opening monologue today, Limbaugh said he has had butterflies in his stomach since anticipating his return after checking out of an Arizona facility last Wednesday.

During his treatment, he said, he generally did not keep track of the news.

“That would have been counterproductive,” said Limbaugh. “I spent the most educational and informative five weeks on myself and about me that I ever have spent. I would have had no idea how to do this myself.”

He said he is amazed by the volume of mail from well-wishers.

“I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for all you have done for me,” he told his audience.

Limbaugh said the “wonderful” process he endured in Arizona was as important as the first grade.

“I thought I was going to be treated for addiction to painkillers,” he said. “But it was so much more than that.”

The things he discovered about himself, he said “is sort of like being reborn at age 50.”

“I’m so excited about what I’ve learned, I want to tell you all about it, but there’s another part of me that says, no, that’s not what you want,” he said.

But Limbaugh summed up this personal lesson.

“I can no longer try to live my life by making other people happy,” he said. “I can no longer turn over the power of my feelings to anybody else, which is what I have done a lot of my life. I have thought I had to be this way or that way in order to be liked or appreciated or understood, and in the process I denied myself who I was, and I denied the other people who I was talking to and relating with who I really am. And that isn’t good.”

He emphasized, however, that this pertained to how he related to people in his personal life, not to his radio audience.

“I’ve not been phony here, I’ve not been artificial on the program,” he said. “I was all of that elsewhere.”

Limbaugh said he had tried to overcome his addiction twice before by the force of will, “but it’s not possible.”

“Nobody can do it for me, but I can’t do it alone either,” he said.

Limbaugh referred to accusations made in the National Enquirer story that revealed his addiction to painkillers but also alleged he was involved in an illegal drug ring that could result in criminal charges.

“It’s quite hilarious to listen to people quote the National Enquirer as the world’s foremost authority,” he said. “And I’m here to tell you that they’re not, ladies and gentlemen.”

He continued: “What you think you know, you don’t know, but you will when I’m able to tell you all about it; and I hope that’s going to be very, very soon.”

Moving from personal matters to the news he missed during his treatment, Limbaugh took Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to task for calling highly respected judges nominated by President Bush, including minorities, “Neanderthals” in a speech from the Senate floor last week.

“The fact that Ted Kennedy is still in the Senate and hasn’t been forced to resign means that nothing has changed,” he said.

“It’s a good thing Kennedy didn’t say it on ESPN, or he might have resigned,” Limbaugh said, alluding to his own experience.

Just days before the drug story broke, Limbaugh came under fire for a comment he made on an ESPN pre-game show, saying Philadelphia Eagles’ Donovan McNabb was overrated by the media because journalists wanted to see a black quarterback succeed.

Limbaugh resigned from his position as an ESPN sports commentator after the story broke and he was hit with charges of racism.

According to MediaDailyNews, John Hogan, chief executive officer of Clear Channel Radio, said there was little financial fallout while Limbaugh was away. No stations left the fold and no advertisers dropped either, Hogan said.

“During his absence, we have maintained 100 percent of our affiliate base, and we have maintained our advertiser base,” Hogan told the news service.

Related stories:

Did drugs cause Rush’s deafness?

Rush: I am addicted to pain-killing drugs

Rush to respond to charges – later

Others called McNabb ‘overrated’

National Enquirer accuses Rush of ‘drug abuse’

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