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Macklemore’s “Ben” details addiction recovery and relapse journey

by Demarco Moore

February 18, 2023
Macklemore performing at Hovefestivalen 2013 Jorund Foreland Pedersen

Rapper Macklemore is set to release his third studio album, “Ben,” on March 3, followed by a four-month world tour. The four-time GRAMMY Award winner, whose real name is Benjamin Haggerty, uses his music and social media platform to open up about social issues and personal experiences. Among those experiences is Macklemore’s recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.


#duet with @macklemore #kellyclarksonshow All we can do is move forward! Very proud of Macklemore and his strength and perseverance. It’s not easy. #relapseinrecovery #macklemoresongs #dailyreprieve #12stepsinrecovery #macklemorechallenge

♬ original sound – Macklemore

The “Thrift Shop” rapper has been in long-term recovery since 2008. He celebrated 694 days of sobriety in 2022, sharing a TikTok video about his relapse during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The video features the song, “Chant,” one of the singles from the new “Ben” album. Macklemore raps about nearly overdosing in the lyrics to Chant, which read:

“Look at where we started, look at where we got to… Almost OD’d that night in the hospital… Wasn’t gonna die, more life in the arsenal…”

macklemore addiction recovery quote

“There is power in sharing your stories openly and honestly,” he wrote in a 2022 essay for Today.com. “It allows other people to share openly and honestly. It’s contagious.”

Partnership with beverage company creates recovery profits

Macklemore is an investor and creative director for CLEAN Cause Sparkling Mate, a beverage company that supports people in addiction recovery. CLEAN Cause’s product line features USDA, organic certified sparkling drinks with “160 milligrams of organic ‘Better Caffeine,’” according to the company website.  

CLEAN Cause donates 50% of its profits to help people maintain long-term recovery. According to the company website, CLEAN Cause has granted over 2,800 sober living scholarships, totaling more than $1.4 million in recovery communities across the country. 

Related: 10 Surprisingly Sober Stars

Why did Macklemore quit drugs and alcohol?

In 2008, Macklemore checked himself into drug rehab after struggling with OxyContin and alcohol. OxyContin is the trade name for oxycodone, a powerful opioid pain reliever. 

“I would never have had a career in music had I not been able to go to treatment. I would have been dead” Macklemore said.

He’s been honest about the fact that his dad helped him pay for drug rehab. The cost of addiction treatment is a common barrier that often prevents people living with the disease from seeking professional care. Macklemore talked about it during a 2021 interview on the People’s Party with Talib Kweli podcast.

“We need to make sure that people know that there’s resources, more funding to get people treatment that they need,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my pops having the 10 or 12 [thousand dollars] that it was when I first went to treatment and being willing to spend that on me, I’d be f–king dead.”

Macklemore talks about going to addiction treatment

Macklemore has even spoken out about America’s ongoing opioid crisis, which contributed to more than 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021. In 2016, he talked about misusing prescription painkillers during former President Barack Obama’s weekly address.

“When you’re going through it, it’s hard to imagine anything being worse than addiction,” he said. “The shame and stigma associated with the disease keeps too many people from seeking the help they actually need. Addiction isn’t a personal choice or a personal failure.”

Macklemore, relapse and musicMackelmore performs one of his songsAmanda Rhoades San Francisco Foghorn

In his 2022 Today.com essay, Macklemore wrote that he’s had three relapses, also known as “slip-ups”, in the last six years. 

“Relapsing is always hard. It’s traumatic for myself and for my family. The amount of pain and damage that I can do very quickly in losing the trust of others happens instantaneously.”

Addiction experts say it’s common for people in recovery to return to substance use behaviors during their personal journey. Especially when they face emotional triggers and temptations and don’t maintain their recovery. Macklemore attended regular 12-Step meetings. However, like many people, he struggled to adjust to virtual meetings during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

“Going to meetings became going to Zoom meetings,” he wrote. “Then I’m on these Zoom meetings but I’m on Instagram while I’m listening. I tapped out of my recovery community, and then I relapsed in July.”

Macklemore talks about sharing his addiction recovery story

Through honesty in his music and commitments, Macklemore is out to show that addiction recovery is possible for everyone.

“Sobriety is not a daily struggle, but it is a daily effort,” he said. “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 a drug is the best solution to take me out of whatever momentary pain I’m in.”

Learn more about addiction recovery

Like millions of Americans struggling with drugs and alcohol, Macklemore’s recovery story illustrates that addiction can happen to anyone. Those who recover do so with support from treatment professionals and loved ones. If you or someone you know suffers from the effects of addiction, call 888-448-0302 to speak to a treatment provider at Landmark Recovery

Admissions team members are available 24/7 to answer questions about detox, behavioral therapy with licensed counselors and more. Click here to find a treatment center near you.

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About the Author

Demarco Moore

Demarco Moore

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Demarco Moore currently writes blogs about drug addiction treatment and recovery to help save lives at treatment provider Landmark Recovery. Before that, he cut his teeth as a sports writer at the Manchester Times, where his coverage and stories won Tennessee Press Association awards in 2016 and 2017.

He’s always had a knack for storytelling. Moore’s written content for junior golf tournaments and helped to amplify the “People Not Profits” message of credit unions. When he’s not writing, Moore loves to travel, laugh and put his mental health into the hands of the Tennessee Titans during football season.