Macklemore: Compassion Led Me to Rehab and It Can Help the Country Fight the Opioid Crisis


The Grammy-winning musician writes about his battle with drug addiction

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Drug overdoses kill more than 64,000 people per year, and are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. To document the nation’s devastating opioid crisis, TIME sent photographer James Nachtwey and deputy director of photography Paul Moakley across the country to gather stories from the frontlines of the epidemic. The result, The Opioid Diaries, is a visual record of a national emergency and a call to action.

When I was 25, my dad asked me a simple question that ended up changing my life. He asked me if I was happy. At that point, my drug addiction had led me to a place of deep depression and self-hate. I couldn’t get away from the shadow that opioids had cast over my life. My love for making music was gone. My relationships with friends and family were strained at best, and permanently damaged at worst. I spent most of my time in my room with the blinds drawn. The world that I once loved was going on outside without me.

“Are you happy?” The answer was simple, yet the process to attain this estranged happiness seemed impossible in that moment. It took my dad’s question to make me realize how far gone I really was. That act of love and compassion saved my life. After years of trying to get sober on my own, I went to rehab.

When I went to treatment, I learned about my disease for the first time. Until then I didn’t know that I had a disease. As the weeks went by, I started acquiring tools to stay sober, one day at a time. When I got out I became immersed in a recovery community that I rely on to this day. Without a group of people who share my experience, I start slipping back into old behavior and start thinking I can do this on my own. My experience time and time again is that I can’t. My parents’ willingness to show up for me and offer me the chance to go to rehab came from a place of love rather than judgement. It’s that kind of compassion our country needs to fight the current opioid crisis.

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