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Why Macklemore “Drug Dealer” Music Video Hits Hard on Opioid Crisis

Why Macklemore “Drug Dealer” Music Video Hits Hard on Opioid Crisis

Author: Justin Mckibben

Early yesterday afternoon I caught a shared video link on my Facebook feed to the new Macklemore video. It was the first I had heard of it, and the person sharing it seemed pretty impressed. The title for the video- “Drug Dealer”– is already enticing. Once you see it, it’s hard not to get pulled into the cold, dark reality of it. I shared it, and watched it a couple times by the end of the day.

Honestly, if you haven’t seen it by now I would be absolutely shocked.

Later, I noticed on my feed it had been shared by 20+ people I knew, and the comments were praising this harsh and devastating depiction of withdrawal and addiction more and more. The spark was lit and the story has since taken off. So what was it about the Macklemore “Drug Dealer” music video that made its message so strong?

Describing “Drug Dealer” Music Video

This latest piece of work directed by Jason Koenig tells a haunting and dramatic story from the open shot. Throughout the “Drug Dealer” music video the theme is consistently set in intensity, and the darkness of the battle with addiction is complimented in the visual contrast.

The first clip begins with Macklemore himself curled up in a naked ball in a shower. It skips back and forth between shots of him twisting on an empty mattress in a dirty room decorated with drugs, and close up shots of Macklemore’s sweaty, swollen face. The close-ups are portraits of pain as the artist passionately raps about opioid addiction, eyes dark and teary that are almost entirely fixed on the camera.

Breaking Down “Drug Dealer” Music Video Lyrics

The words to the song are powerful, direct and damning to the Pharmaceutical Industry and the crooked doctors that many say have made the determining contribution to the opiate epidemic in America. Macklemore makes some raw and heartbreaking revelations in his lyrics.

  1. Calling out Big Pharma

One line implies that billionaire drug companies pay off crooks in congress, but executives never see prison time for their crimes. Probably referencing numerous stories of drug companies being sued for falsely marketing drugs as not addictive, and hiding research information.

Singer Ariana Deboo is featured on the chorus, and Deboo also appears in the “Drug Dealer” music video, drowning in a sea of red and white pills as she voices her contribution. Deboo’s vocals are a evocative melody of words that point a blatant finger at the Pharmaceutical Industry and the crooked doctors in America. Her words ring out-

“My drug dealer was a doctor, doctor

Had the plug from Big Pharma, Pharma

He said that he would heal me, heal me

But he only gave me problems, problems

My drug dealer was a doctor, doctor

Had the plug from Big Pharma, Pharma

I think he trying to kill me, kill me

He tried to kill me for a dollar, dollar.”

Neither Macklemore or Deboo seem to be pulling any punches in this one. The scary part is these words are so firmly based in truth. In fact, over time controversy has continued to boil as reports shed light on doctors getting kick-backs for prescribing drugs from the companies that produce them.

  1. Celebrity overdoses

In another few lines he makes mention of several other artists that have died due to drugs, especially prescription drugs, including:

These are just a handful of the celebrities in the past few years who have suffered or died in relation to prescription drug abuse.

  1. Calling out the music industry

In one line Macklemore says “we dancing to a song about a face gone numb” pointing out how despite the fact that more people are dying from drug overdoses than ever before, we have a society that generates a music industry where artists glorify drug abuse. Even though some of these same artists don’t use drugs, they just say what sells. Macklemore seems to be calling out the icons of our time to stand for something instead of just trying to sell anything they can.

  1. Why now?

In the “Drug Dealer” music video Macklemore also challenges the fact that since the opiate epidemic has made it into the suburbs from the city it is suddenly everyone’s problem. Many have argued that the epidemic wasn’t such a public health concern until it was no longer only hurting low-income inner-city communities.

This same segment of the song also stands to shake the addiction stigma that it only happens in certain areas with certain groups.

  1. Reality of addiction and recovery

A great moment is toward the end of the song when the momentum reaches a fever-pitch. The distortion of the vocals and the shouting, sweat-smeared face in the camera says enough, but the reality of what Macklemore is sharing about his own desperation is gripping.

Then, he says the serenity prayer.

This prayer is one well known to pretty much anyone in the recovery community. It is recited in many 12 Step groups, depending on the group’s format and function. Most recovering addicts and alcoholics know it by heart. The video lightens up to a scene of Macklemore sitting in a 12 Step meeting, surrounded by people sharing. He gets a hug from another member, and the credits roll.

A Man with a Message

The “Drug Dealer” music video is part of the release of the first new single from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis since earlier this year when they released their sophomore album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made. Macklemore is a man with a message who has been open about his own struggle with addiction for some time. He celebrated his sobriety and discussed his addiction in his music before. He even opened up after a brief relapse a while back.

Macklemore recently discussed America’s opioid crisis with President Barack Obama in the MTV documentary Prescription for Change and has continued to try and be a voice shouting for reform and revolutionary action against the opiate epidemic and the overdose outbreak destroying millions of lives.

There are so many reasons this song hits so hard on the opioid crisis in our country. For anyone who has experienced it first hand, whether their own addiction or that of a loved one, the fight is very graphic and very real. Macklemore’s new “Drug Dealer” music video looks you in the eyes with the intensity of that fight. It is hard to watch, but it’s something too many people have to live every day.

As part of most recovery fellowships, we often share our stories. As part of the battle against the shady practices of Big Pharma, we should call politicians to action. And as part of overcoming the opiate epidemic, we raise awareness. Macklemore’s new “Drug Dealer” music video takes a stab at all of these. Along with such action, effective treatment is also critical to change. If you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out and get help. Call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.

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How Poetry Teaches You to Heal Using the Art of Words

How Poetry Teaches You to Heal Using the Art of Words

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Each and every day, my hope dwindles.
My hope dwindles to a place I never thought it would ever dwindle down to.
And when it dwindles down to that point, I write.
And I write more than I ever have before.
Not because it is a release, but because it is all I have left.
Nothing else matters, so I might as well express it.
It the only way I know how to manage, to survive.
I might as well release it. I might as well expose it.
I might as well let it have its way with me.
-Author: Shernide Delva


In my darkest moments, I write. In my happiest moments, I write… less, but I write. Writing has been a form of expression for me for quite some time. In third grade, my teacher made everyone in the class write poems. At the end of the year, we printed out our poems and we created our first poetry book. Still to this day, I have that book. It sits in a drawer in my mother’s nightstand. A few years ago, I reread the poems, and I remember questioning where those complex emotions came from. I had no true conception of the difficulties of life back then, yet through my writing, I was able to express my observations in a beautiful, profound way. I have been writing ever since.

Most people do not have my story. Most people do not write. However, most people really should write because if they did, they would find it to be an incredibly healing tool to have. Writing is not the answer to all problems, but it can help you gain clarity in the midst of the fog that heartbreak, depression, and grieving brings. Poetry can help record your thoughts and emotions so you can finally come to terms with it.

Both journal writing and poetry have similar benefits.  Poetry is special to me because it is a way of creating art despite the pain. There is something liberating about having something horrible happen, yet still finding a way to express it in a creative and poignant way. It assigns a temporary purpose for the pain that you feel.  Looking back on old poems can be a very healing. I imagine how I felt in those moments, and smile at the way I expressed it. Overall, I gain a sense of closure, and I move forward.

Poetry allows you to record your thoughts and forge your feelings into a perspective you can finally come to terms with. Poetry can help you grow. Reading poetry is just as beneficial because you can grow from reading the way other people express their emotions. There could be a writer out there who uses words in a way that you never identified before.

Poetry is an art form that is healing and transformative. Let’s explore why:

  1. It changes how you think.

I have no doubt in my mind that reading and writing poetry helped me with critical thinking skills and improved my writing ability. Writing poetry exercises the brain because you are forced to look at things from a multitude of perspectives. You discover the power of language using metaphors, similes, and alliterations. Most of all, you learn to analyze situations that occur in your life in a deeper way.  You learn to create something from your emotions instead of being destructive with them.

  1. It is therapeutic.

Writing poetry can be challenging in the midst of a tragedy, or emotional breakdown. In my deeper emotional moments, I did not always want to write. Writing seemed too painful, like there were not words to encompass how I felt. However, I eventually forced myself to write, and looking back I am so glad I did. Writing has become a regular part of my life. Poetry takes it a step further because it taps into your introspective side. You learn how to develop your emotions in an artistic way. It is a tool of expression.  Writing poetry can be very freeing. Free verse poetry is similar to writing in a journal. It does not need a clear structure. A free-verse poem might rhyme, but it does not have to. Free verse writing is when a poet uses a variety of techniques to express themselves with no particular structure. Free verse poetry is a powerful therapeutic experience because you are allowed to express a complex emotion in whatever way you feel.

  1. It encourages reflection on the past.

With continued writing, poetry can be a reflective experience. You can go back and re-read your poems and understand how you felt at that moment. Reading poetry out loud can be cathartic experience.  I am a spoken word poet, and I find that reading my poems aloud can bring back memories of my past, which encourages me to make smarter choices in the future.  Writing helps you understand your bad habits and develop tools to help overcome them.

Healing Through Spoken Word Poetry

Spoken word poetry is the oral art form of writing poetry. The best way to understand it is by watching it done live. Spoken word poetry has soared in popularity in the past two decades. Shows like “Def Poetry Jam” and “Brave New Voices” on HBO first brought spoken word into the mainstream. These days, spoken word artists perform at coffee shops, concert halls, and even international competitions!

“I feel incredibly confident now with who I am as a person and how I conduct myself in life because the experience of going on the stage and performing has seemingly validated the person I am,” Robert Gardham, a spoken word poet writes.

Saying your poetry out loud is a very different experience from writing it on a page. It took years for me to feel comfortable performing on stage. Even today, it can be hard to perform new pieces . The good news you can pace yourself. Start writing just for yourself today, and who knows, maybe performing can take your healing to the next level.

Overall, poetry is an art form that many people should take advantage of. It can help improve mental health and helps in the recovery process from addiction. Anyone can write poetry, all it takes it pushing yourself to express yourself. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Oli Sykes of Bring Me the Horizon on Recovering From Addiction

Oli Sykes of Bring Me the Horizon on Recovering From Addiction

Author: Justin Mckibben

Music has power, to some of us it is the heartbeat and life-blood of our lives. Music is the diverse and intrinsic translation of the world we love into a variety of voices and tempos that decorate, elaborate and celebrate everything that we are as people, and there is something very transcending and spiritual about music. It speaks to our souls with a cultured voice like nothing else, and it has the ability to transport us to a moment intangible in the world we know, and keeps us in tune with our abstract emotions.

We develop different relationships with different songs, and sometimes we can’t hear a song without thinking of our personal relationships or memories. It takes us home, it pushes us outside ourselves, and in recovery we all have some kind of song/album/band/genre we can surely connect with on some instinctual level.

For me, one of those bands has been Bring Me the Horizon, and even though I prefer to hear their earlier grittier style, I respect their transition and what inspired this change for the vocalist.

Oli Sykes is currently in recovery from an addiction that had distressed his life and career, and thinking back to some of my favorite songs from the album Sempiternal (which saved my life a couple times in addiction and in recovery) it seems like there is plenty of that story in those lyrics. One song in particular entitled “Can You Feel My Heart” says it clearly in a way I feel a lot of addicts can probably understand:

“I’m scared to get close, I hate being alone

I long for that feeling, to not feel at all

The higher I get, the lower I’ll sink

I can’t drown my demons, they know how to swim”

Yes… yes that is my life. My every waking moment in addiction in those exact words.

Looking through the songs on this album, there is some definitive language that would probably be familiar to those of us in the recovery world, and when you listen, the desperation and pain of a man in early recovery seem layered over the surface of these vocals.

Talking BMTH

Bring Me the Horizon (BMTH) is awesome… just want to get that out of the way. They work really well into my slam-dance-Saturday routine.

Some people are probably going to disagree with me on this one, and I couldn’t be more okay with that, but I have a lot of respect and personal connection to some of this music. Especially in some of my more heated and more jaded moments this band’s intensity and even the anger in their music spoke a lot of the same truth I feel, and a lot still resonates with the experience of surviving those tougher times.

Bring Me the Horizon is a British rock band from Sheffield, Yorkshire. Formed in 2003, the band is fronted by the lead vocalist Oliver Sykes. While their earlier work has been described as the more unforgiving and heavy ‘metalcore’ rock, their style on their latest album That’s the Spirit has been met with some criticism for being a less aggressive and more on the light-side of the band as it shifted over the years from heavy and abrasive, to electronic and versatile.

From throwing in pop music style, along with full choirs and synthesized orchestras, this band gets my respect just for their attempts to evolve.

Speaking Addiction with Oliver ‘Oli’ Sykes

In the band’s album notes, all of Bring Me the Horizon’s lyrics are credited to being written by Oliver Sykes, while all five members as a band wrote the music, so when we look at the lyrics it’s no surprise they translate a lot to the heart of an addict trying to rebuild.

Back in July Oli Sykes was onstage to accept the award for Best Album at the AP Music Awards for Bring Me the Horizon’s Sempiternal release when he stunned the audience and publicly admitted to his drug addiction for the first time.

“I wanna say something that I never thought I’d actually talk about. Before we wrote Sempiternal, I was a f—— drug addict. I was addicted to a drug called ketamine. I was on it for years, and I was f—— off my head. My band wanted to kill me. My parents wanted to kill me. My f——- brother wanted to kill me. Everyone wanted to kill me. But they didn’t—they stood by me. They supported me through all that s—, and we wrote Sempiternal because of it.”

He then went on to talk about his time in rehab, and telling the fans that while no one knew about it he had spent a month in rehab, still receiving letters, text messages and emails from the fans in support. Inspired all along that everyone was unknowing of the turmoil he was facing and expressing great gratitude for the care.

Now in recovery the front-man has stated in an interview with Gigwise that conquering his demons made the band tighter as friends and enabled them to make what he described as their ‘best album to date’.

Sykes also talked about the friends he lost in his recovery process through the difficulty of him realizing he had a problem. He said in another interview he didn’t think there was anything harder than staying friends with a drug addict, and that if it wasn’t for his family, his band and his music he would still be a drug addict, adding:

“…It’s the hardest thing in the world to get through because as soon as you get sober you’re just riddled with guilt…”

Sykes admitted at one point in his addiction he no longer appreciated the things he had, and had even convinced himself he didn’t want it anymore. But now he sees his battle with addiction and his journey thus far in recovery as a blessing in disguise because without it the band would not be able to make the music they are making now.

While the music is drastically different with this new softer voice style Sykes is using, the message behind it seems to be one of great weight and dedication to an intimate internal growth from the distress and hopelessness of active addiction. It may not be as popular for the thrash and hardcore crowd, but it speaks volumes to some of us who have been weighed down by an addiction and come out the other side with a new perspective. Need an example, check out their single “Throne” on the new album.

Drug addiction can affect anyone, and without bias it destroys the lives of those it touches in the most intense and intimate ways. The things we love, the people we cared about and the passions we have are sometimes the catalyst for the transformation we need… but we have to take an action to make a change. Getting help and getting treatment isn’t impossible, and in that we can find new meaning and new freedom in recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

 

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