Addiction, or substance use disorder, is a pervasive mental health problem affecting people from every corner of the world. Nearly 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet less than 10% of those seek treatment. Alcohol is the most common drug of abuse in the United States, yet, due to its normalized nature, its overuse is rarely treated.
Many celebrities have stories of drug addiction, but each approaches the issue differently when it comes to talking about it publicly. Macklemore, the Seattle-based American rapper, has been open and forthcoming about his experience with addiction since the beginning.
He recently opened up in an interview about relapsing during the pandemic and subsequently rediscovering sobriety. Let’s look at some of the common factors contributing to relapse and how they parallel with the Macklemore relapse and recovery story.
Defining Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorder can be defined as a mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, rendering them unable to control their substance intake. The substance of abuse may be legal or illegal but typically leads to negative consequences for the individual.
These negative consequences can be loss of productivity, loss of employment, interpersonal problems, and problems with eating and sleeping.
Addiction can be understood through the “three C’s” framework:
This refers to the powerful cravings individuals experience about the substance of abuse. Cravings can be extremely difficult to manage and are often described as a physical feeling of discomfort.
(Loss of) Control
Cravings typically become so strong that the individual is unable to manage them and can’t refrain from taking the substance. This loss of control is central to the diagnosis of addiction or substance use disorder.
This “C” refers to how, despite the negative consequences of indulging in the substance of abuse, the person is still unable to manage it. For example, despite losing a job, being in debt or under financial threat, an individual is unable to control their use.
Factors Influencing Relapse
In an interview with Dax Shepard on the “Armchair Expert” podcast, Macklemore revealed that he had relapsed during the pandemic and subsequently rediscovered sobriety. While it’s great to see him sober again, it’s helpful to understand the factors that contribute to relapse.
Considering that isolation is highly correlated with addiction, it’s understandable that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in addictive behaviors. Having to remain indoors and not being able to continue with a regular social life can be taxing and depressing. This isolation-related stress has led to increasing substance abuse around the world.
Not Attending/Engaging in Meetings
One telltale sign that a relapse is underway is the individual engaging less in addiction meetings, if they attend at all. Macklemore describes this behavior when referring to a previous relapse he had during his time on the road: “But, eventually, I stopped going to my 12-step meetings. I was burnt out. I was super-stressed.”
Sleeping or Eating Problems
Substance abuse is often accompanied by unhealthy relationships with sleep and food. Depending on the substance and individual in question, individuals may overeat, under-eat, oversleep or under-sleep. Macklemore describes a similar experience.
“We weren’t sleeping — doing a show every day, zigzagging all over the country. In terms of the media, I was getting put into a box that I never saw for myself. The pressure and the fame — everything I just wanted to escape.”
The Macklemore Recovery Story
With rappers, it’s often difficult to tell whether their lyrics are true or simply for dramatic effect. People may wonder, “Does Macklemore drink? Does he really take drugs?”
Macklemore has always been transparent about his ongoing struggle with drugs and alcohol. He talks about his attitude when seeking treatment for the first time and embarking on his rehab journey.
“Oh, my God, I have a disease and I understand this now. Not only do I understand that I have a disease, [I understand] it is not my fault. It is not my fault that I had this disease.”
After his first rehab treatment, Macklemore spent the next 12 years in sobriety and reports being extremely proud of that. He notes that self-care, including “yoga, journaling and attending meetings.” helped him a lot in his recovery process.
How Did Macklemore Relapse?
In his conversation on the “Armchair Expert” podcast, Macklemore reports struggling during the early stages of the pandemic and eventually falling into a relapse. He talks about how acceptance plays a big role when pivoting from relapse to recovery.
“To get vulnerable and real, the beautiful thing about recovery is when we do that, it lets other people feel like they’re not alone and that they can actually open up and share about that s***. It made me feel, as someone that had relapsed again like a month or two before, that I’m not alone. It’s OK that I did this s*** again.”
It’s great to see Macklemore sober again and making music about his journey. Many celebrities avoid talking publicly about their problems with addiction. So, seeing Macklemore being open and rational about his illness may help others come to terms with theirs and seek the treatment they need.
Addiction During the Pandemic
Addiction was a huge problem during the height of the pandemic and continues to cause problems in the lives of many. Social isolation can lead to depression and anxiety, which may trigger relapses for those in recovery.
Macklemore’s Relapse and Recovery Can Inspire Many
Seeing a celebrity like Macklemore opening up about his pandemic-related substance addiction breaks the ice on the issue. Hopefully, it encourages more people to voice their struggles and seek the treatment they need to begin on the path to recovery.
Having celebrities in the spotlight publicly addressing the issue could reduce the stigma and shame that many people feel about their addiction.
Self-Care & Finding Help
Self-care is important for mental health. It can be a good idea to assign one day every month just to yourself, taking care of your body and mind. If, however, you find that a self-care day isn’t enough, call FHE Health at (833) 596-3502. Our counselors are available 24/7 to support you.