Macklemore, Peter Buck, Other Artists Share Recovery Stories For "Music Heals"

By Victoria Kim 05/30/18

For the "Music Heals" series, artists from a variety of genres shared their stories of addiction, sobriety and recovery.


Artists of all genres have shared their stories of addiction and recovery for a new series, "Music Heals," by Seattle radio station KEXP.

R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Macklemore, Jeff Ament (of Pearl Jam), and Julien Baker were among the artists who chatted with KEXP about substance abuse and sobriety.

“I hate that word ‘sober.’ Sober as a judge,” said Buck, a musician best known as the lead guitarist in R.E.M. He’d rather call it “focused.”

“I decided that I was in a place in my life where I needed to focus on the things that were really important,” he told KEXP’s DJ Kevin Cole. “I kind of looked around and decided. ‘Well, what is important in my life?’ And alcohol and drugs or whatever weren’t on the list. It’s family, friends, music. That’s it.”

Macklemore, a Seattle native, also participated in "Music Heals." Previously, the rapper (born Ben Haggerty) teamed up with former President Barack Obama to promote opioid epidemic awareness, and work to end the stigma surrounding drug abuse.

I never had moderation. I couldn’t get enough every time that I drank or used drugs. That started at the age of 14 and I haven’t looked back since,” he told DJ Kevin Cole.

Before his first go at rehab, which he called “the best decision that I’ve ever made,” he was resistant to the idea. “I wanted to think that I could do it on my own. I wanted to think that I could white-knuckle it and just stop,” he said. “At that point, I had had over a decade of trying the same pattern, the insanity of thinking that I can just do this on my own.”

It wasn’t until he finally went to rehab, he said, that “I got the tools and opened up to a world of recovery that I didn’t know existed.”

He’s learned that his recovery is a daily work in progress and “requires daily maintenance.” He credits his higher power, service work, 12-step meetings, and sharing and being involved in other people's recoveries—aside from a balanced diet, exercise, and making music—with helping him stay focused.

“If I don’t work a rigorous program then eventually I will go back. Eventually, self-hatred will seep in. Eventually self-seeking and selfishness seep in,” he said. “That’s when a drink or a drug sounds like the best idea. It’s happened time and time again with me.”

DJ Kevin Cole, too, marked 30 years sober this past Easter. He also shared his experience through KEXP, starting with alcohol and cannabis in junior high to using cocaine and heroin.

“It wasn’t always easy, but it wasn’t always hard either,” he said. “I learned to take care of my body and mind, to recognize I had so much to live for, to see the good in everyone, including myself, to ask for help, and to let love be my drug of choice.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr