NEW YORK – Rush Limbaugh (search) returned to radio Monday after what he called "five intense weeks" of rehab for an addiction to painkillers, promising listeners "even more honesty to come."
The conservative commentator thanked his listeners for their concern, and assured them that his ordeal would not affect his radio program.
"I've not been phony here, I've not been artificial on the program," he said. "I was all of that elsewhere." He did not elaborate.
Limbaugh had not appeared on the air since Oct. 10, before going into a rehabilitation program in Arizona.
"I spent five intense weeks, probably the most educational and intense five weeks on myself that I have ever spent. I would have had no idea how to do this myself," Limbaugh said at the start of his syndicated radio program.
He also said "there is a whole lot of stuff I can tell you that I can't tell you yet." He said it's not because he's afraid, adding, "There's even more honesty to come."
Limbaugh had said he started taking prescription painkillers "some years ago" when a doctor prescribed them following spinal surgery. Back pain stemming from the surgery persisted, Limbaugh said, so he kept taking pills and became hooked.
Admitting he was powerless over his addiction, Limbaugh said he learned more about himself during rehab than he ever had. He called it as important as the first grade.
"I am no longer trying to live my life by making other people happy," he said, broadcasting from a Manhattan studio. "I can no longer turn the power of my feelings over to other people."
He admitted he had to study up to see what has gone on while he was away, and quickly returned to familiar topics — attacking Sen. Edward Kennedy (search), the Massachusetts Democrat.
Limbaugh's show reaches some 600 markets and about 20 million listeners a week, but WABC radio in New York said Monday it expected to attract a larger than usual audience on Limbaugh's first day back.
His brother, David Limbaugh, had announced on the show last week that the commentator was returning, saying he was "champing at the bit to get back to doing what he does best."
Limbaugh gave up his job as an ESPN sports analyst Oct. 1, three days after saying on the sports network's "Sunday NFL Countdown" that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb (search) was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed. The drug allegations surfaced around the same time.
In the past, Limbaugh had decried drug use and abuse on his bluntly conservative show, arguing that drug crimes deserve punishment.
A law enforcement source in Palm Beach County, where Limbaugh owns a $24 million oceanfront mansion, said last week that Limbaugh's drug use is still under investigation by the state attorney's office.
Reports of possible drug abuse first appeared in the National Enquirer, which quoted his maid as saying she was his drug connection. She said Limbaugh had abused OxyContin (search) and other drugs.