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'I was broken': Award winning Christian singer Lecrae talks about battle with depression and alcohol abuse

by Will Maule

Award-winning Christian artist Lecrae has opened up about his battle with depression and a prior struggle with alcohol. The rapper, who has sold millions of albums worldwide, chatted with Premier Gospel's Muyiwa about his disillusionment with the heights of fame and fortune, and how he has learnt to prioritise his own mental health and spiritual walk with Jesus. 

Lecrae said that it was in 2016 that he began to sense his emotional wellbeing was on the decline. 

I did have a sense I was in a downward spiral, but you find coping mechanisms, and you find things that just pacify you. So I think probably around 2016, things started to get pretty bleak. But there was opportunities to perform or your song is charting on the radio to distract you from dealing with the inner turmoil that you're actually battling.

"And so I would say yes, I had all the signs and signals, there was smoke everywhere, but I had not acknowledged the fire that was burning." 

The artist explained how he came to the realisation that career success would not fix his personal problems, and admitted that he began to rely on other things to cope. "No matter how much money you make, no matter how many mountains you climb, how much success you have, if you are not whole healthy, if you can't understand where your true joy comes from, then it's all a loss. You don't have anything," he said. "You just have metal objects and numbers in your bank account that cannot bring make your you know, fix your mess.

"We'd like to be able to swipe a card and like have a happy family. But if it doesn't work that way, so you know, that's the loss, I was suffering. And yes, I could have swiped the card and took a trip somewhere, but you're just taking all of the trauma and the problems with you.

"So you have to work through those things. And so yeah, I lost a lot of tears went through depression, anxiety, you know, struggled in my marriage, substance abuse, so many different things happened during that during that time period that just brought me to a low place." 

On his struggle with alcohol, Lecrae said he felt it was safe as long as he could refrain from getting drunk. However, over time, the dependence grew.

"For me, you know, depending on what what view you hold, your Christian view you hold drinking is either a freedom or it is a taboo, you know, it's depends on where you land on the spectrum. And I think, long ago, I think I was on the spectrum of like, this is taboo, don't touch it. And then I found myself more in the moderate area of, I mean, I'm free as long as I don't get drunk.

"But the problem for me was that my tolerance was was increasing so high, that though I may not have been acting out and you know, a drunkard, I was becoming more dependent. It was like, I needed it to calm down after all of this show, and the chaos and everything going on. 

"I was broken, man. That's the way I was." 

Admitting his struggle, Lecrae rightly noted that God "uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines".

"You know, he used David who was, you know, caught up in all types of chaos to be a king over the entire nation of Israel," the rapper explained. "Jesus is using Matthew, this tax collector who everyone despises, and former prostitutes...these are not people who, as soon as they started walking with Jesus, they were just perfect, everything went away. These are people who were consistently and constantly battling their issues and their problems." 

Speaking about beomcing an increasingly prominent voice in the fight against racism in the US following the death of George Floyd, Lecrae said his his motivation to speak out comes "from a place of personal pain, personal trauma, and then empathy as well". 

"You know, speaking to the pain and the trauma that people are experiencing, is, I believe, in many cases, step one," he explained. "It's acknowledging that something is wrong.

"So I would liken it to if I if my son feels he was treated unjustly by me, and he goes upstairs, and he tears his room or, you know, just tears everything up. Well do I agree with how he's responding to what he feels like is injustice? No. Am I affirming that? I'm not. But if I begin that conversation with just trying to correct and modify his behaviour, all I'm doing is is affirming the idea that I can treat you unjustly and I can modify how you will respond to my treatment of you. Instead of empathising, sitting there, looking him in the eyes and saying, what is it that ails you? Because you're in pain, obviously, you feel burdened by something. Let's talk about that. And let's address that. If indeed, there's an injustice there, then I want to take it upon myself to address that and change that. If there's not, then let me love you and walk with you through this perspective that you have, so that you can say, 'Oh, I didn't consider it from that vantage point of that perspective'.

"So for me, it's about empathy. It's about empathising. Every circumstance that's happened as far as the Black Lives Matter moment, are not consistent, you know, as far as what the details of them were. But there's a collective trauma, a collective history of issues that should allow us to say, 'man, even if this situation was not, you know, as of the same type of picture of injustice as this one, this one is it's triggering all of them, the string is being triggered, the trauma is being resurrected. And so that's how I can move forward in that circumstance."

You can listen to the full interview here

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