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Celebrity in Recovery Profile: Macklemore

Multiplatinum lyricist Macklemore, best known for his hit “Thrift Shop,” broke his anonymity in a Rolling Stone interview earlier this year. In fact, Macklemore also revealed that he struggles to maintain his sobriety while out on the road touring with his music partner, Ryan Lewis.

Macklemore: Mini-Bio

Macklemore’s real name is Ben Haggerty and he was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He earned a bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College in 2005. Though he was not born to a musical family, both of his parents were supportive of his musical ventures. Haggerty was six years old when hip hop first came in to his life by way of Digital Underground.

Macklemore was fourteen when he started writing lyrics. Macklemore says he listened to “a lot of East Coast underground hip hop” with Freestyle Fellowship, Aceyalone, Living Legends, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and Talib Kweli being big influences on him. Interested in reaching a younger generation through his music, he was a part of a program focusing on education and cultural identity called “Gateways for Incarcerated Youth” where he facilitated music workshops.

Macklemore and Addiction

In 2008, Macklemore went to rehab for drug addiction and alcoholism. Early August 2010 marked two years of sobriety for the rapper but then in December of 2011, Macklemore relapsed after returning home from a tour. He came down with a cold and was prescribed codeine cough syrup, which he eventually began abusing. He wrote the song “Starting Over,” which is featured on his album The Heist, about his relapse. He explained in a documentary that he spent most of his twenties “trying to fight [his] way out of that [way of life]” saying “I want to be someone who is respected and not just in terms of my music. I want to be respected in terms of the way that I treat people.

“Music is my creative outlet in terms of expressing what is important to me; what has importance, what has a value. And I wanna be respected for that.”

Macklemore on AA

“It’s been a struggle the past year. It’s very important to go into the rooms of AA, smell the s**ty coffee and be reminded that without sobriety, I would have no career.”

As part of the interview with Rolling Magazine, Macklemore allowed one of the magazine’s reporters to accompany him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, explaining, “Those [fellow recovering alcoholics] are my peers. I see myself in them. I walked in and a dude was talking and immediately I was like, ‘I know exactly what the f**k you’re talking about.’ I’m reminded of why I can’t get f**ked up. And the only way to feel that is to actually work the program.”

With that said, Macklemore has been clean and sober since 2008. “I started working with a sponsor and got a lot healthier. It’s been four and a half hour years since I’ve drank alcohol, four and a half years since I’ve smoked weed, four and a half years since I’ve done cocaine.”


Personally, knowing this side of Macklemore makes me like and respect him even more. I was already a fan of his music but, learning that he is “one of us” makes him somehow more endearing to me. And I admire him for being so candid and transparent about his past, as well as his present struggles. With so much talk about drugs and alcohol, especially in the music industry and especially in the culture of the hip-hop and rap genre, it’s a breath of fresh air to see successful, talented artists who have risen above certain life circumstances and continue to remain sober even when everyone else is glorifying alcohol, weed, and ecstasy.

And for those who don’t agree with Macklemore breaking his anonymity, I just don’t agree with you. I believe that it is up to the person whether they want to be open about their sobriety or not. As long as Macklemore, or anyone for that matter, isn’t revealing anyone else’s identity, it’s his prerogative whether he chooses to reveal his past struggles with alcohol and other drugs. I can see how people of celebrity status can use their standing as a way to have a positive influence on others, especially younger, more impressionable folk. I think keeping quiet only perpetuates the shame and guilt that many of us feel at one time or another and only serves to keep addicts in hiding and therefore continuing to die of the disease of addiction.

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