15 Iconic Songs About Addiction and Recovery

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Addiction has plagued best-selling authors, high-paid actors and actresses, and chart-topping musicians. For some musical artists, addiction was such a common fabric of their lives that it seeped its way into their lyrics and music. The pain and emotion which stems from drug abuse lends itself easily to the need for expression. Because of this, there are countless songs about addiction. Which ones do you recognize and relate to?

#1: Rehab – Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse is one of the most influential artists of our time because of her raspy, classic sound. Her free-spirited nature drew audiences in both on and off stage. One of her most well-known songs, “Rehab,” has been named one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine and profiles her short stint in rehab. It was with great sorrow for the music world when Winehouse died due to alcohol poisoning at the young age of 27.

Winehouse didn’t believe rehab could help her. Her addictions made her think this way because of how intensely the body craves the high. Maybe she was in denial? Maybe she thought her addictions had too much control? But these thoughts are what it makes it all the more reason rehab is necessary. It helps breaks the cycle of helplessness and can prevent the worst case scenario from happening.

#2: Fallen – Sarah McLachlan

Despite her ethereal sound and soft-spoken nature, Sarah McLachlan has covered some pretty heavy themes in her music. Once the the golden voice of Lilith Fair in the late 90s, McLachlan’s “Fallen” from her album Afterglow set her up for a Grammy nomination, but also shared lyrics that could hit all too close to home for many.

McLachlan sings about her friends turning her back on her (“I’m lost to those I thought were friends”). “Friends” that help feed your addiction aren’t friends that look out for your best interest. It’s the people who want to see you healthy who you want by your side. It may not seem like it at the time of your addiction, but when you receive the love and support of people who want to see you through recovery rather than watch you struggle, you won’t feel alone.

#3: Lithium – Nirvana

Alternative rock powerhouse Nirvana paved the way in the 90s for their explosive sound and lyrics. Led by the famed Kurt Cobain, who battled addiction and eventually, died from a heroin overdose, the songs are reflective of painful times. Lithium is a drug prescribed for people suffering from bipolar disorder. Cobain sings about going from happy to lonely from one verse to the next in a cycle similar to manic/depressive personalities.

Diagnosis of bipolar or other mental disorders isn’t uncommon for those struggling with addiction. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve had to mitigate your low times or pain by using drugs, you wouldn’t be alone. Drugs deliver the high you crave to feel better, happier. Because of this, addiction is more likely to occur. But once drugs have a stronghold on you, it’s not likely to let go.

#4: It’s Been Awhile – Staind

Staind’s driving melody performed by lead singer Aaron Lewis hit home with fans due to its all-too-honest lyrics. “It’s been awhile since I could say that I wasn’t addicted /and it’s been awhile since I could love myself as well.” Although Lewis has never claimed ownership of the song as an autobiography, he did tell Billboard Magazine in an interview that it was “an acknowledgment of his past.”

Do you remember what it was like before your addiction? It can be hard to separate the two when addiction seeped so quickly into your life. You might be surprised how quickly it disrupts your day-to-day in such a way that you don’t feel like you’re fully functioning when you’re without drugs. But as Lewis’s lyrics point out in this song about recovery, kicking your addiction can help you gain self-love. You can’t fully do that when you’re causing your mind and body such harm.

#5: Going Through Change – Eminem

Rapper Eminem a.k.a. Marshall Mathers has never been quiet about his abuse of drugs, but he also didn’t stay silent on his recovery from them as well. His 2010 album succinctly summed up what his new musical direction was about and how his sober lifestyle was for the sake of himself and his daughters. He raps, “inside I’m dying/I’m finally realizing I need help.” It’s not only his mental condition that his addiction was affecting, but his body was physically starting to break down.

Drugs play a cruel trick by letting you believe you can handle it all. It tells you how happy you are, how great you feel, how much better you are with the drugs than without. But all of that is a facade, and deep down, the feeling of hopelessness may not be lost on you.

The decision to seek help isn’t one that can be forced upon you; you have to decide you want to ask for help. The good news? It’s readily available to you when you want it. The destruction of drugs only worsens; it never gets better and never tapers off. Without help for your addiction, you face the risk of overdose and eventually, death, as the drugs destroy your body.

#6: Starting Over – Macklemore

A few years ago, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Macklemore on the radio. His catchy single “Thrift Shop” was played on all radio stations all day long. Why is it then we haven’t heard any new music from him since? It might come as a surprise that he relapsed.

“Starting Over” is a song off his successful album that talks about his struggles with fame and his addiction. So often it looks a celebrity’s life looks perfect from the outside when really addiction takes control over you no matter who you are. His lyrics, “If I can be an example of getting sober/Then I can be an example of starting over” show his human side and highlights the fact that the rich and famous sometimes need help too.

Asking for help can be a difficult decision. It can be difficult to admit to others and even to yourself that you have a problem. Addiction is nothing to be ashamed about; it’s a disease that takes over the lives of too many people. There will be tough times with any recovery, but knowing there are people who have the resources and support to see you through should bring you hope you can start over as well.

#7: Sober – Pink

Pop artist Pink has never shied away from showing her rebellious side. Her bright pink hair and in-your-face lyrics and attitude have made her a gal you simply don’t want to mess with. But Pink (real name: Alecia Moore) has had her set of troubles and refers to her song, “Sober” as speaking to all vices.

When you’re used to a certain way of life, regardless of if it’s harmful to you, it’s what you know. You get used to the routine of it. As this song about sobriety showcases, when that changes, it can rattle you. The transition from addiction to sobriety isn’t an easy one; it’s not quick, and it usually doesn’t occur without some bumps in the road. But the thing to remember is you do get through the rough patches. You learn how to live without your addiction harming your life.

#8: Amazing – Aerosmith

Aerosmith is known as being one of the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands. The band members may be equally known for their party lifestyles, especially during their early career when they were unstoppable. Fortunately, Aerosmith’s eccentric lead singer, Steven Tyler, became dedicated to his sobriety in 2015 following other, intermittent periods of sobriety and relapse. His 1993 song “Amazing” talks about his ups and downs with alcohol and drug addiction. He has been vocal in interviews about his past and his current sobriety and how it affected his health.

When the pain of addiction grabs you, it doesn’t only change the way you act and behave, it causes damage to your body physically. In some ways, it will manifest for symptoms you can clearly recognize, but in other ways, it slowly ruins your organs and do damage to your brain without you being instantly aware.

#9: Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind

When this upbeat, alternative rock hit first hit the airwaves, the lyrics moved so swiftly, you may not have originally realized, the band was singing about drugs. It’s actually about a couple on a crystal meth binge, according to frontman Stephen Jenkins. The song portrays the drug’s high and how everything can feel carefree and a little bit chaotic. If there was a song to equal what it feels like coming down from the high or going through withdrawal, we imagine it would be a much different tune.

There is no “happy” side to addiction, but it’s the high that keeps people craving and coming back for more. It’s the imagined feeling of freedom that comes with using drugs that makes it difficult for people to want to quit. With drug dependency and eventual addiction, the choice of getting high is no longer your own. Your body will demand it.

#10: The A Team – Ed Sheeran

The British singer has known for his cooing ballads played on an endless loop on Top 40’s stations, but his debut single wasn’t about love. In fact, “The A Team” is about a young girl addicted to cocaine. He was inspired to write the song after working at a homeless shelter and hearing the stories of some of its occupants. One of the reasons Sheeran has reached such mainstream success is his ability to connect with his audience through emotion. He sings, “White lips, pale face/Breathing in snowflakes/Burnt lungs, sour taste/Light’s gone, day’s end” to a beat that moves along in a light kind of way, but covers a dark subject fans of his might not be used to, if they don’t remember this song.

If you’re a loved one of someone struggling with addiction, it can be hard to put into words the pain you feel for them. Even if you aren’t the one who is going through it, it doesn’t make it any easier to watch your friends or family suffer. There are treatment centers and options available that offer the assistance you might be looking for.

#11: Save Me – Shinedown

One listen to the lyrics of one of Shinedown’s biggest singles will tell you right away it’s a song about addiction. It’s the cry of someone who’s addicted calling for help. It talks about spiraling to a place where the person in the song can no longer control what they’re doing and wonders aloud “how did I get here.” Certain fans of the song related to its lyrics and said it helped them get through tough times of addiction and drug withdrawal.

Inspiration comes in different forms. It can be through the help of someone you trust, but it can also come by way of an artist you’ve never met because his or her song speaks to you. Take what you can from music and other healing therapies to know you aren’t alone and can achieve sobriety. There is hope and help.

#12: Not an Addict – K’s Choice

Do you remember this one-hit wonder? The haunting intro to the song even sounds “ghostly” heading into the first verse. Despite the song’s title, the lyrics paint a different story. Even the chorus confesses that saying the person in the song isn’t an addict is maybe a lie.

Do you use drugs but don’t consider yourself an addict? Regardless of how many times you have used, there’s an increased chance for you to become dependent and eventually, an addict. Admitting you have a problem with drugs may not be something you automatically are forthcoming about, but think about how drugs have affected your life. How has it affected your work? Your relationships? Your health? Maybe it’s more than you even realize.

#13: Recover – Natasha Bedingfield

For a songstress who’s known for her positive lyrics, she talks about the hope of recovery and survival from addiction. She sings, “Been torn apart/Got so many scratches and scars/Maybe they won’t all go away/But they’ll fade.” She acknowledges the lasting pain of addiction but shows how powerful recovery is as well. Even with scars, they can be signs of survival.

If you’re hesitant or anxious about entering rehab, know there will always be reminders of your addiction. But as you recover, you’ll learn ways to combat temptation and make positive choices for your health. The scars of addiction may never truly be gone, but they will fade over time while you make room for a new, sober life.

#14: The Girl You Lost to Cocaine – Sia

Before she was swinging from the chandeliers, Sia was leaving a toxic relationship in her life. She could no longer survive a relationship with her partner who was abusing drugs and alcohol and eventually, had to walk away. “But I don’t see you change, you’re always at meltdown” she sings to the one she has to leave behind. It’s painful but has to be done.

Have you been in this situation before? When a person you love is addicted to drugs, they aren’t their true selves. Their addiction speaks and acts for them. You can stick by their side to help them get help without enabling the behavior. It can be a tough decision if they don’t accept help and continue on their addictive path, but you have to decide what’s best for them and you.

#15: Breathe (2 AM) – Anna Nalick

The last song about addiction is less about coming face-to-face with the disease, but rather where you’ll be in recovery. Over and over Nalick sings to “just breathe,” which may be one of the best reminders you need as you go through treatment.

She also says there’s no rewind button, which is also important to let sing in as you decide to seek a path to sobriety. It’s not about looking behind you, but always being present and building yourself up for the future.

Working through recovery is full of ups and downs. Every has their own path to sobriety. Leverage our tips for staying sober and if you feel like you need more support, that’s okay and completely normal. In addition to physical sobriety it is also important to focus on your emotional sobriety and staying sober. At Above it All, we offer relapse prevention programs designed to help you work through recovery and transition back into the chaos of life.

Find hope. Find recovery. Begin a commitment to lifelong recovery today – for yourself, your friend, or for your loved one.
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