Therapy for people in recovery comes in many forms. Music is one of those tools that people use because it has many physical and mental health benefits. Research shows that music can do many things for us including anxiety relief, emotional healing, alter your mood, and other benefits. Society turns to musicians during times of distress and needs guidance while also offering a sense of ease. We do this because musicians write songs inspired by events and emotions that we can identify with. Artists have used substance abuse as a muse to shine a light on a tough subject. Take a look at these 6 songs for people in recovery.
Under the Bridge – The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Under the Bridge was written about the lead singer, Anthony Kiedis, and the loneliness he’s felt since losing a friend from a heroin addiction and being sober from heroin himself. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner/Sometimes I feel like my only friend.” In the song, Kiedis also talks about how his only friend was the city he lived in, Los Angeles. At this point in time, Kiedis was the only sober member of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and this song reflects that. “I drive on her [Los Angeles’] streets cause she’s my companion/I walk through her [Los Angeles’] hills cause she knows who I am.” Kiedis sings about how he never wants to feel how he did when he was in the depths of his addiction but he wants to get away to a place he loves. This powerful message of staying strong even though you may be the only one is perfect for those who are struggling to remain sober.
Say It Ain’t So – Weezer
Just like Under the Bridge, Weezer’s frontman Rivers Cuomo wrote this song about how his family was torn apart by alcoholism. Cuomo’s father struggled with alcoholism and ended up leaving his family of four behind when Cuomo was only four. This is shown in the first verse of the song, “Somebody’s cold one/Is giving me chills/Guess I’ll just close my eyes” and also further down in the chorus, “Say it ain’t so/Your drug is a heartbreaker.” In the song, Cuomo writes a letter to his father about how even now that he is in recovery, his addiction has still taken a toll on their lives. This song shows how addiction does not only affect that addict, it affects the entire family.
Breaking the Habit – Linkin Park
Breaking the Habit is a narrative about someone who continuously hurts themselves, physically and mentally, and no one seems to notice. The lines “You all assume/I’m safe here in my room/Unless I try to start again” can be taken as someone who is battling with substance abuse and no one is reaching out to help them. Sadly, in the song, the narrator seems to have fallen victim to their addiction as seen in the lines, “I know it’s not alright” and “Clutching my cure/I tightly lock the door/I try to catch my breath again/I hurt much more/Than any time before/I had no options left again.” The narrator may not have been able to beat their addiction; however, it’s still a powerful song to help others keep fighting in their recovery.
You Know You’re Right – Nirvana
You Know You’re Right was the last song Nirvana recorded together before Kurt Cobain’s death. This song was dedicated to his mental illness and how it affected his marriage with Courtney Love. The first few lines “I will never bother you/I will never promise to/I will never follow you/I will never bother you” is highlighting how his depression makes him feel. He does not feel like he belongs anywhere, and he does not want to be a burden to others. His answer to feeling like a burden is explained a few lines down, “Always knew it’d come to this/Things have never been so swell/I have never failed to fail.” The meaning for these lines can be taken into interpretation. Some people feel like Cobain was talking about suicide as his answer; however, it can also mean that the narrator turns to drug abuse. This song is able to connect with people who have struggled with substance abuse or mental health issues because they know what it’s like to feel like a burden and/or feel unwanted.
The Co-Dependent – Sia
Sia paints a narrative that about an alcoholic who is co-dependent; however, the narrative is from the significant other’s point of view. In the story, the narrator describes how much that they are there for the other person. “So many years I’ve carried you in my arms/Yet I stay, yet I stay, yet I stay/ And still I come a-running when I hear the telephone, telephone, telephone/And I ask for absolutely nothing in return, in return, in return.” No matter what they’ve done, the narrator has always stayed by their side. The narrator says that they love the other person no matter what. “My love for you allows me not to judge the way you live.” Even though there is a strong love connection between the two, the narrator hints that they may not be a support system much longer. “You’ll find me by your side/If you find me at all.” This is a narrative that is sung by many families and loved ones of addicts. They want to be there for their family member in need and they are, but constantly struggle on when to let go.
Fallen – Sarah McLachlan
Fallen is a song about someone who has realized their mistakes in life and realized how their mistakes have hurt themselves and others. Even though McLachlan never specified that the mistakes were drugs or alcohol, the tie to those in the song is very strong. The lines “I got caught up in all there was to offer/And the cost was so much more than I could bear” show that the mistakes could be substance abuse. The narrator also talks about they have understood their negative ways and now they are trying to stay sober, “Though I’ve tried I’ve fallen/I have sunk so low/I messed up/Better I should know.” As the narrator stays sober, they are asking for hope and redemption, not shame. “Don’t come ’round here and/Tell me I told you so.” This is a scenario people in recovery see all the time. They go to the people they hurt, ask for forgiveness, and try to earn their trust back after all the mistakes they’ve made.