When you listen to music, some of the lyrics may speak to you about life, love, heartache, joy, pain and sorrow. All of those are feelings associated with addiction and recovery from addiction. For some, the haunting video of "Drive" by the Cars in the mid-1980s may speak of the bottom reached through addiction. For others, "Sunday Morning, Coming Down" by Johnny Cash (written by Kris Kristofferson) is a great example of addiction. There are many, many songs speaking of the depression, hopelessness and deterioration of the human spirit that is the end stages of addiction.
For those in recovery, celebratory music is popular and speaks to the spirit of the hope restored by recovery. One song popular for many years is the "No No Song" by Ringo Starr and popular in the mid-1970s. Those who were reeling at that time from the drug-induced ravages of the 1960s loved and listened and sang along. While many in the popular music world have struggled with and died from addictions since earliest times, it is only fitting that music should reflect that world.
Some of the more widely-publicized musical greats who have embraced recovery are Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Eric Clapton, rapper Eminem, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Etta James, Ozzie Osbourne, Elton John and many others who have achieved some recovery, whether they remained abstinent or not. The music business remains a world where excess is seldom seen as problematic.
Into this world step those who recover and write music about their experiences and struggles. While some of it is just good lyricism, others are direct with their message. Joe Walsh wrote "One Day at a Time" and spoke directly to those who understood this message from a popular 12-step phrase. "The Real Me" is a song about recovery from food addictions by Natalie Grant. Nickie Sixx (Sixx.AM) of Motley Crue fame writes music to speak about the horrors of his addiction, as well as a tell-all book. "It's a Beautiful Life" is one of the songs from that soundtrack. "Sober" by Pink is another example of lyrics that describe recovery. Quite a few of Eminem's songs speak about his addiction, recovery and relapse as do songs by Macklemore.
There are lists of songs online that speak of redemption, a new life, changing for the better and other topics personal and uplifting for those in recovery. While they may have meanings apart for the musicians who performed the songs, they speak loudly to recovering addicts. Some of these songs are: "The Pass" by Rush, "To Be Alive Again" by Journey, "Into The Light" and "Your Decision" by Alice in Chains, "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac, "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson, "3-Way Phone Call" by R. Kelly, "Shine the Light" by Sugarland, "Thank You" by Alanis Morissette, "My Own Prison" by Creed, "Addiction" by Kanye West, and "That's What Makes You Strong" by Wynona Judd. All music that is particular to making positive change and all music that lifts us up can qualify. Some will resonate with spiritual music, others with rap or blues music. Some listen and gain inspiration from classical or rock. It doesn't matter, if the music reaches into the heart of an addict and helps them along, it belongs on their playlist.
In a world full of addictions and those dying from them, there is a lot of music that can inspire and lift up those who are working to recover, no matter the addiction or what form their recovery takes. A positive message is sometimes all that is needed to help them overcome their burdens and give them inspiration for one day more. What's on your recovery playlist?
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions' counselor.