On January 2, the rapper Mozzy posted a video to his Instagram declaring he was quitting lean—a drug that’s a near-constant theme in hip-hop—and poured out a bottle of liquid codeine (lean’s active ingredient) onto the pavement of a gas station.

“That video did more numbers than any other video I’ve ever posted,” says Mozzy. “Including my music—everything.”

Lean has long been a staple in rap, but its consequences have become more and more prominent in recent months, especially following the tragic death of Fredo Santana just last week.

Mozzy agreed to share his story; how he got addicted, why he decided to quit, and how difficult it was to kick the drug. “I’ve seen the influence,” he says. “If I help save just one person from that shit, it’s a good deed.”

As told to Shirley Ju.

2011, 2012, was when I started really tampering with it. I got heavy in the Bay Area music scene. Before then, we was familiar with it due to the South functioning with it heavy. But we was on more animated drugs, as far as e-pills, powder, drink. We wasn’t really trying to fall asleep. We wasn’t into Xanax and all the downers.

When it came as far as the music scene, the Bay Area—they was pumping it, pushing it: syrup. It was just slimy. We fell victim. I just naturally fell victim of what was going on in my surroundings. I ain’t have a check at the time, so I couldn’t just buy it at the rate that I was buying it just recently. I was using in moderation. I wasn’t doing too much with it, I was kinda light with it. I was just playing.

[I liked] the feeling. The feeling. The sensation when it hit your veins. It’s just a whole other feeling—outside of e-pills and everything else. It was the calmness. I’m a fake way hyper person, so when I experienced that, it just calmed me down. It was soothing. The high was a big part of it. But it was helping me with my troubles. It was therapeutic. It was therapeutic for me, so I took to it heavy.

You can damn near do it secretly. Nobody gotta know what’s in your cup. 

I was just with all my partners. Like I said, I didn’t have the bag at the time. And lil bruh and them was up. So they was playing with it. They was really functioning with it heavy. They was pouring up with me. Whenever I could contribute, I’d contribute. I fell in love with it. I fell in love with it to the point where we was hitting pharmacies. We was jumping over counters.

We had to pour up every day, multiple times a day. All day. Anytime we could get it, we finna run it in. It was an expensive drug, so whenever I could afford it. We used it frequently.

Out of all the other drugs, I feel like it’s the coolest. You mellow, you chill, you don’t smell, you don't stink, versus alcohol. You don’t reek, versus marijuana. You can damn near do it secretly. Nobody gotta know what’s in your cup. You ain’t drunk. You might fall asleep, but that’s normal shit. The high is very discreet. Everybody don’t know. And I think it just taste so good—it’s platinum. It's got a platinum taste.

At the time, I didn't know what kind of damage it was doing. I felt like personal relationships—it really didn't affect any relationships because I’m still the same dude, with or without it. But as far as rap, I think it took a lot away from me and my progression. I wasn’t as effective. I wasn’t as productive. Not as clear-minded.

I can only say that because I went to jail. I went to jail after being addicted to it. I just saw the productivity I was doing in jail, compared to what I was doing on the streets. In jail, I'm writing probably like 15-20 verses a day. Literally—all day, every day. And I was reading books. I just felt more militant. I felt more intelligent. I felt more productive. I had plans, I had goals. Versus beforehand, I was just on a drug and just like...sleepwalking.

My peak was [recent]. That was probably before I recently just stopped doing it. [It was] abusive, very abusive. I don’t wanna do too much, but probably about a brick every two days. Every other day, I’d buy a brick. A brick is 16 ounces—it’s a pint. I wouldn’t sip the whole pint to myself. You know, I’m a big-hearted dude. So anybody who’s in my surroundings, I’m pouring up with them. Usually, other people will charge you. It’s an expensive drug, and it’s severe. They don’t play behind that. But I got a big heart, so I poured with any and everybody as far as my unit was concerned. But I’d say a brick—a brick every other day.

 If I’m spending a thousand dollars every day—we’ll just say every three days—and there’s 365 days a year. So, at the minimum, I'm paying about $100K every year.

I couldn’t shit properly. I’m shitting out water. I couldn’t eat properly. Started losing weight. Just my mind—I just felt like my mind was clogged up. I couldn’t see clear, I wasn’t thinking clearly. Falling asleep at the wheel, getting tickets, going to jail for bootsy shit just because I was high. My finances. I’m spending... a brick is 16 ounces.That cost about a thousand dollars out here in California. If I’m spending a thousand dollars every day—we’ll just say every three days—and there’s 365 days a year. So, at the minimum, I'm paying about $100K every year.

And I can see it. I can feel it. It’s like nothing that’s going unnoticed. I see it. I feel it. I could’ve bought my momma a house with all that. The cramps of not having it, say I can’t find it, the withdrawals. It was just mania. It’s too much. It was controlling. It’s too controlling for me. It was controlling my life. That’s a liquid heroin. The addiction is beyond any other addiction I have ever felt.

[Quitting was] very difficult. I was sleeping on the bathroom floor, just because it’s cold. It’s cold on the floor, so it’s soothing. Compared to a bed, it’s more soothing than a bed. On top of that, that’s where I throw up. I throw up in the toilet. So every five minutes, I gotta throw up. I’m really like literally laying in the bathroom on the cold ass floor, fighting it. Fighting it—can’t eat nothing. Drinking water and throwing that up. It was extreme. I can’t sleep. I ain’t get no proper rest. I’m waking up different hours of the night.

My bowels was all messed. Cramps, headaches, oh my God! Throbbing, head hurting! It was a struggle. And this ain’t my first time trying to kick. I tried to kick it multiple times but the withdrawals was severe that a nigga be like, “Hold on, I gotta pour up.” Ya feel me? Because that’s the only thing that’ll help me. I probably tried to kick it over 20-30 times in my life.

But this time, I was serious. [The baby] was probably the most significant reason. I just want to see what tomorrow looks like. I wanna be present. I got two daughters. I wanna be present in both of their futures—healthy! So, you know that’s off the dribble. That’s mandatory. I’m focused on a million dollars. So that million dollars really motivated me. I made sure I pulled through on this one.

Now, I’m platinum! Velvet! I’m good—more energized. I live on the 4th floor and we don’t got no elevator. So I climb the stairs with ease now. Everything about it: my mentality, my work ethic, everything. It boosted up. I’m straight. I’m on a progressive path. I just wanna win!

The addiction is beyond any other addiction I have ever felt.

When you carry the monkeys you gotta feed them, that’s the bottom line. If you can rid of them monkeys and live a progressive lifestyle, that’s what I’d suggest. But you know, everybody ain’t in a position that I’m in. Everybody’s not as blessed. It’s a lot of people that have nothing to lose. It’s a lot of people—this is what’s really soothing them. This is what’s helping them get through life. This is what’s helping them with they troubles. So I understand it, and I don’t knock nobody that do it.

But for anybody that think it’s fashionable, who do it because Mozzy do it—man, we ain’t doing this. This ain’t what we pushing. This ain’t the agenda we pushing! I wouldn’t offer it to my nephew. I wouldn’t offer it to my daughter. So why offer it to yours?

And the rappers. We, us, as a people — we speak on it highly. How we pour up, and how we can’t sleep without it, can’t eat without it, and we fell in love with it. I just think as a people we promote it to be something that’s beautiful. And it’s not that.

You know, I got a lot of backlash [when I quit]. I got a lot of hate. But I don’t mind it, because I’m confident with myself and my gangsta. Whatever it is I push, I stand for it. I stand on it. I received a lot of hate mail. ”California niggas, y'all just started sipping this shit. Now y'all wanna quit, y'all copying. We a movement.” Or “You could’ve just sold it. Why you ain’t just sell the brick? Why you pour it out? That’s a thousand dollars! You pouring out fake lean!” It went crazy.

if I help save just one person from that shit, it’s a good deed.”

But at the end of the day, I feel like the love outweigh the hate mail. And I feel like I touched a lot of people. The responses — it’s been velvet. Everybody been DMing me. Everybody been texting me. Out of all my social media, that video did more numbers than any other video I’ve ever posted. Including my music—everything. It touched a lot of people.

I didn’t plan on being a role model. I didn’t plan on being a big influence on the youth. That wasn’t my plan. My plan was to make it out the trenches, whether it was rapping, pimpin’, selling dope. However I could get out the trenches and help provide for my family like a man should. That was my plan. I never planned to be a role model, but after posting that brick and pouring it out, I seen the influence. I seen how people look up to me, how people follow suit. And if I help save just one person from that shit, it’s a good deed.”