Macklemore Opens Up About 'Painful' Relapse During COVID & Why He's Candid with His Kids About Addiction

Macklemore hopes to help "lessen" the "guilt and shame of the disease of addiction," thanks in part to a new partnership with CLEAN Cause

When Macklemore appeared on Dax Shepard's podcast in April, he wasn't planning on telling the world that he'd relapsed during COVID.

But because Shepard himself had also shared a relapse of his own, the rapper, 38, felt inspired to do so — and in turn hopes that his openness regarding the subject of addiction will help others struggling feel less alone.

"It was really painful for myself and for the people who loved me. I stopped doing the work," he tells PEOPLE in this week's issue of his relapse during summer 2020. "When I have to be still and exist within my own head, that's where my disease lives… [But] I'm like, 'You know what? I don't need to pretend like I'm some perfect dude in recovery.' I am not at all, and there's no shame."

He's not alone; the pandemic has acted as a catalyst of sorts for those struggling with addiction, as Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer at American Addiction Centers, says that it's "produced the perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances that can cause someone to relapse."

Macklemore. Jake Magraw

For Macklemore, his 2020 relapse was the latest in a recovery journey that began in 2008, when his father helped get him into treatment after years of drug and alcohol abuse. The Grammy-winning rapper recognizes that he would not be where he is today had his dad not stepped in.

"Getting that help saved my life," he says. "I hope that people will come out of the shadows, that the guilt and the shame of the disease of addiction lessen and we don't feel like we need to hide anymore."

For more on Macklemore, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Part of his dedication to staying open and honest means doing so with everyone — including his kids.

Macklemore shares daughters Sloane, 6, and Colette, 3, and son Hugo, 6 months, with wife Tricia Davis, and says that Sloane has known about his struggles, albeit without specifics, since she was 3 or 4.

Macklemore. Christopher Willard/Getty

"Why would I hide it? It is who I am," he says. "In terms of Daddy's sober meetings that he needs to go to, she's well aware and has been for quite some time."

While he considers being a dad his "greatest success," the musician knows that his kids can't fix him.

"I remember being like, 'I don't ever want my kids to see me loaded,'" he says of learning Davis was pregnant with their first child. "There was this relief like, 'Okay, now I can stay clean for someone else.' But that's not how this disease works. My kids can't keep me clean. I have to do the work."

To further his commitment to bettering the lives of those who suffer the same disease he does, Macklemore recently joined sparkling Yerba Maté beverage CLEAN Cause as an investor and creative director in order to support the personal mission. The company donates 50 percent of net profits to fund sober-living scholarships for individuals in recovery.

"I would not be where I am without that treatment. And I just so happened to have a dad that could help me pay for a treatment facility," he says. "So many people in America cannot afford rehab."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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