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Macklemore discusses working with CLEAN Cause and his recovery journey

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Rapper and advocate Macklemore talks to Yahoo Entertainment about working with CLEAN Cause and relapsing during the pandemic.

Video Transcript

LYNDSEY PARKER: One of the many things we're here to talk about is that you have teamed with Sparkling Yerba Mate beverage brand as the CLEAN Cause Creative Director. There's a lot here to talk about because it's a cause dear to your heart.

MACKLEMORE: Well, yeah, you're right. Recovery is at the very forefront and the foundation of my life today. And it has been for a long time. If it wasn't for my experience going to treatment and having that opportunity, I probably wouldn't be alive today.

LYNDSEY PARKER: I know that this partnership comes around-- obviously, it's not post-pandemic. We're still very much in a pandemic. But the last couple of years have been really rough for anyone who is struggling with any kind of mental health situation or addiction.

MACKLEMORE: I think that what you're seeing across the board, probably worldwide, but definitely in America, is that we're not only in a pandemic, there's an epidemic. There's an opioid epidemic right now. The death rates are higher than ever. Substance abuse is higher than ever. And people are struggling.

I think that when the lockdown happened and people were forced to stay home and stay with their own thoughts, and you know, kids running around and all the other stresses, financial and everything in between, what do people do? They escape, or a problem that's already there becomes worse.

So it's timely in that regard. But the disease of addiction is progressive, and we are watching it progress at a rapid rate, especially here in America, because of our prescription opioid crisis. We're not going to be able to solve this epidemic immediately. But what we can do is our part in helping people, individuals, get the help that they need.

LYNDSEY PARKER: I know you've been sober for many years. But you have been open in the past about how you have had relapses during your recovery journey. And I do believe you talked to Dax Shepard on his podcast. You both shared the fact that you had lapsed during the pandemic. Do you mind telling me what you went through and how you sought help and got back on track?

MACKLEMORE: Everyone listened to that damn Dax Shepard podcast. Yes.

LYNDSEY PARKER: It got around. But I think it was because a lot of people related to the story that both of you told.

MACKLEMORE: Well, yeah, absolutely. I mean, and I am someone that, you know, when there's been relapses in the past, my first instinct, my first inclination is to-- I don't want to tell anybody. There's like this guilt and shame over a relapse. And I think that as I've been in the rooms of the recovery for 12, 13 years now, and have relapsed, I don't care anymore. I'm not a proponent of relapse, of course.

But for me, hearing Dax share openly and honestly about his relapse gave me some motivation and a reminder of, like, yo, who are we trying to save face for here? Best case scenario, I'm around another 40, 50 years, and we're gone. Our time on Earth is a blip. As I get older, I care less and less about how I'm perceived, and I care more about what my story might actually do if someone else hears it.

And if we shield those parts of our story, if we don't tell-- you know, if we only tell half the truth or only use the Instagram filters and don't really show who we truly are, that doesn't give anybody else an accurate picture of what recovery looks like. And it's not pretty. It's not easy. It takes work. And to get to your question about what happened in the pandemic is, I stopped doing the work.

My disease was just peaking. It was like, there was something in my head immediately with the pandemic that was like, oh, the world is shut off. You can shut off. You can't even work if you want to right now. The tour is canceled. The festivals are canceled. You can just get high and chill at home. That voice got louder and louder and louder, until I finally, you know, relapsed.

And thankfully, it wasn't a long one. But it was still traumatic. And it was still really hard. And there was still trust that had to be rebuilt with my wife. And whenever that happens, you never know where you're going to end up. So I'm grateful that it was brief and that it wasn't too bad. But at the same time, there was a lot of pain that was caused there. And I'm still feeling those residual effects.

But the only thing that I can do is just for today, one day at a time, keep prioritizing my recovery because my life absolutely depends on it. And when I don't put it at the forefront of everything, the rest of my world collapses.

LYNDSEY PARKER: When you speak about guilt and shame, is there any part of you feeling like you've let fans down? Does that play into it?

MACKLEMORE: It used to. It absolutely used to. And yes, I would be lying if that didn't cross my mind. But again, I've kind of got past that point. I think that the bigger disservice to myself and to everyone else is if I'm not honest. We're human beings. We're fallible. We make mistakes. This has not been a linear path.

I would have loved to have been one of those people that's like, got clean in 2008, and I've stayed clean ever since. That's just not my story. I believe that there is power in my story and everyone else's story if we share it in a way that's transparent. And so yeah, I think the biggest thing is that around the 12 step programs, there's kind of-- not kind of, there is literature around anonymity and that we're supposed to adhere to anonymity around press, radio, and film.

I would be technically breaking my anonymity right now, but I'm careful to not mention what program it is that I am in. I mentioned that it's a 12 step program and that if I do relapse or if I was to die from the disease of addiction, that it would be no fault of any 12-step program. It would be the fact that I chose to not work that program. I know that full heartedly, 100%.

The disease thrives in secrecy. That is where the disease of addiction, it's like, oh, be a secret. Don't tell anybody. And I want to be able to be real. I want to be able to say, no, I don't have a couple of years sober. I got 15 months or I don't even know what it is anymore. Time, to me, is a beautiful thing. But what's more important is what I'm doing today around my recovery.

LYNDSEY PARKER: I feel like-- and this is just me. Tell me if I'm wrong. I feel like people will talk more about the fact that they might be addicted to, say, alcohol. Pharmaceuticals, it's still kind of like there's more stigma around that.

MACKLEMORE: There's certain drugs that are more stigmatized than others. I think that the root of judgment in America, we judge people that are addicted to meth, and we judge people that shoot heroin the most, or crack. Those are, like, at the top of the judgment hierarchy. And then you have-- and then you might have your prescription opioids. Then at the bottom, it's like weed. It's just weed.

It's like, for me, I've done a lot of drugs. And they all lead me to the same place. They lead me to a place, and whether that's at the very brink of death or whether that's just sitting on my couch and I'm living like I'm dying, they all lead me to utter depression and eventually the feeling of I don't really want to be here anymore.

So I don't minimize or overdramatize any mind altering substance. I think that for me and my own experience, weed has been just as detrimental on my journey as OxyContin was. And yes, OxyContin was a worse thing to detox from. And it it's more dangerous. But weed also is a sneaky one, because all of a sudden you're stuck on the couch for 10 years.

That's just my own experience, I do think that we are in a place where we are talking more about drugs, but we still have preconceived notions of what a crackhead looks like, or a meth head looks like, or a junkie looks like. We've coined these terms that have such a negative connotation, that the guilt and shame around them is really hard to be honest about it because we don't want to be categorized as this, when really through line of all of it is the disease of addiction.

LYNDSEY PARKER: So I imagine you're not really a fan of the term California sober, which I think is kind of BS.

MACKLEMORE: I hate the term California sober. I don't say I hate very often, definitely not in any sort of media. I think that it's a very dangerous term for people that are in recovery. And it's just not true. Like, that's not sober. Sober is complete abstinence.

Being clean is complete abstinence. From my experience, that doesn't work, this idea that we can replace this drug for that drug, or like, I'm just not going to do that, or I'm just not going to drink hard alcohol, or I'll just smoke weed. If the disease of addiction is present in the person, the allergy is there for anything that alters the way that that addict feels. And I have done the substitution dance. I have done the geographical location cure.

I have tried all of those things. I've known hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of people that have tried the same thing. I think it's a common thing that all addicts try, is like, if I just get off that and just do this and this maintenance. And it does not work if you have the disease of addiction.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Let's wrap up by talking about what you're doing with CLEAN Cause as Creative Director, tying it back to why this is important to your whole journey and to give back.

MACKLEMORE: It's been an ideal partnership because I get to talk about recovery. When I talk about it, when I share my story, I find freedom in that. With CLEAN Cause, we're going to be giving away 50% of the profits to help other people. That is the most ideal, perfect partnership that I could ever dream of.

It's a team of people that have also either lost someone or have someone in active addiction or are addicts themselves. And I love talking to other addicts. It's like, those are my people. That's my community. And we're going to help. CLEAN Cause is already helping. They've already helped so many people transform so many lives. And we're just getting started.