Macklemore Opens Up About Drug And Alcohol Use
Macklemore, whose birth name is Ben Haggerty, has recently been candid about his struggles with substance use and relapse. The rapper has partnered with CLEAN Cause, a sparkling beverage company, in the hopes that being truthful about sobriety can help others who are struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD).
Macklemore’s Early Drug and Alcohol Use
Last week, 38-year-old Macklemore shared his experience with addiction in an essay for TODAY. In his own words, he details his first time consuming alcohol. At age 14, Macklemore snuck alcohol from his parent’s liquor cabinet which was located above his refrigerator. After having 1 shot of vodka, he began to wonder what it would feel like to take 2 shots. This curiosity led the then 130-lb Macklemore to continue drinking 12 shots in one sitting. After this binge, he took a bus downtown, threw up in a trashcan, and ran from the cops.
Macklemore recalls that he began rapping around the same age that his drug and alcohol use began. Despite many artists relating substance use to increased creativity, the rapper does not agree. In his essay, Macklemore said, “When I use drugs and alcohol, I shut off. I have a veil over my eyes. I can’t see the truth anymore. I sit on the couch and play PlayStation with my friends. Maybe I’ll go freestyling in a park, but in terms of making albums, it’s going to be impossible. When I’m sober, I’m prolific and productive.”
After his first experience with alcohol, Macklemore continued down the path of addiction which caused his life to fall apart. At age 25, he started to find small, local success as a rapper; enough to pay his bills. When the momentum of this success came to a halt, Macklemore turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. He began recreationally using OxyContin, drinking excessively, and smoking Marijuana. These unhealthy habits caused him to feel as if he had lost the will to live.
Getting Treatment And Growing As An Artist
During this time, Macklemore’s father asked him if he was happy. When his honest answer was “no”, his father offered to help by paying for treatment. Macklemore agreed and entered a facility in 2008. The rapper claims that surrendering and admitting that he needed help was the most powerful thing he has ever done.
Once out of treatment, Macklemore moved back in with his parents and began to contemplate if he could be a rapper while championing for sobriety. He remembers realizing that no one in hip hop had been openly sober before. Despite instinctually thinking he should hide this side of his life, he decided he wanted to be transparent and honest.
It was around this time that Macklemore formed a creative partnership with producer and songwriter Ryan Lewis. Together, the duo released an EP called vs. Redux in 2010. Macklemore says this EP, which focused on his struggles with drug and alcohol use, what the first time his music really connected with listeners. He noted that fans would specifically thank him for the song “Otherside.”
Despite Macklemore’s doubts that sobriety could be marketable in the rap genre, he found there was power in sharing his story. He believes that being open and honest about your experience allows others to feel safe to share theirs.
Macklemore’s Relapse And Views On Sobriety
In 2021, Macklemore did an interview on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast. During this conversation, the artist confessed that he had experienced a relapse in the year prior. Macklemore has shared that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to its relapse. He found that he was losing focus as his 12-step meeting became Zoom meetings. This caused him to become out of touch with his recovery community which he says is a big factor in staying sober.
“Sobriety is not a daily struggle, but it’s a daily effort. I have to be proactive about my recovery. When I talk about it, I get a spiritual reprieve. If I’m not reaching out to others, being of service, going to meetings, working the steps, I will eventually forget how bad it gets. I will end up thinking that the drug is the best solution to take me out of whatever momentary pain I’m in,” Macklemore wrote in his TODAY essay.
CLEAN Cause’s New Creative Director
Macklemore has recently teamed with CLEAN Cause, a beverage company with a mission. Founder Wes Hurt noticed that the sober living experience was crucial to the recovery process, especially when it comes to forming routines, finding employment, and preparing to re-enter the world. For this reason, CLEAN Cause donates 50% of their net profits, or 5% of net revenues, whichever is greater, to help fund sober scholarships. Almost 3,000 scholarships, around $1.5 million, have been backed through CLEAN Cause.
In this partnership, Macklemore has been named CLEAN Cause’s new Creative Director. Through his artistic vision and own personal experience, he hopes to raise awareness about addiction. Macklemore’s first project with CLEAN Cause will be a video series titled “Drink to This.” While the series is yet to be released, a short trailer can be found on YouTube. Individuals in the series are shown sharing their unique, yet universal stories about the benefits of sobriety.
“To anyone in recovery… to anyone who loves someone in recovery… to anyone who needs recovery… to anyone, anywhere, on the road to recovery… to anyone who wants to help those in recovery… drink to this,” Macklemore can be heard saying while he plays the piano in the series’ trailer.
The Importance Of CLEAN Cause’s Mission
It has been reported that 1 in 7 people in the US will develop a substance use disorder in their lifetime. Of these individuals, only 1 in 10 will receive the treatment they need. Additionally, the US saw the highest number of recorded overdose deaths, over 100,000, for any 12-month period last year. Macklemore hopes that being honest about his own story can help others to get the treatment they need.