Last year, we shared a blog on our favorite recovery songs – whether the message of the song helps you get through the hard times, or reminds you of where you never want to be again – they all “strike a chord” and therapeutically support our recovery goals. Music has that way of hitting deeply to the inner feelers we keep so protected. Listening to these songs is an amazing way to subconsciously reach deeply into your emotional core and help re-trigger your passion for sobriety. Check out these songs, some you may know, some you may never have realized had an addiction premise, and others you may be hearing for the very first time. We hope you enjoy the interpretation of each of these artist’s messages.
“I took a pill in Ibiza”, Mike Posner
The pop-dance-electric singer gained fame when he released his first hit songs, “Cooler Than Me” and “Please Don’t Go”, in 2010. Just a year later, Posner was struggling with depression. Posner himself explains, “I found myself in the fame race. I was constantly posturing for more money and more fame. I got addicted to the attention.” After working through his insecurities and self-proclaimed addictions, Posner exclaims, “I used to think my imperfections were flaws, but now I know they’re actually my greatest strengths. I still just feel like a kid from Michigan who is really, really blessed”. His latest studio release, “I Took A Pill In Ibizia”, is clearly an illustration of his growth. The chorus remind us all why we got sober to begin with: “But you don’t wanna be high like me. Never really knowing why like me. You don’t ever wanna step off that roller coaster and be all alone. You don’t wanna ride the bus like this – never knowing who to trust like this”.
“I’m moving on”, Rascal Flatts
Considered the most successful country group of all time, Rascal Flatts has consistently graced fans all over the world with hit album after hit album since forming their iconic sound in 1999. While the group members themselves are not considered recovery advocates, many of their songs help those struggling with addiction, like “I’m Movin’ On”. Released in 2001, it won song of the year from the Academy of Country Music, and in an interview following, lead guitarist Joe Don Rooney said of the song, “One time, a guy told us he was addicted to drugs and was considering suicide, then he heard our song ‘I’m Movin’ On.’ He didn’t say that the song alone changed his life. But it opened his mind to the thought that he could change his life, and he did”.
Some Devil (Album) Dave Matthews
Another iconic group, The Dave Matthews Band, has been captivating an eclectic audience since 1991. However, many consider his most influential album to be the solo record release by Dave himself entitled “Some Devil”, which landed in 2003. The album is full of deeply moving music, much of which is directly relatable to addiction. It is so profound, we couldn’t just choose 1 song. “Too High” speaks to us as an abstract representation of the grips of heroin and opiate abuse, whereas “Some Devil” speaks more to alcoholism. We simply recommend listening to the entire thing!
“Don’t Go To Nightclubs Anymore”, Van Morrison
Beloved artist through the decades, Van Morrison is a cultural favorite and brings his iconic voice to a twangy, classically performed song about leaving the “party life” behind in “Don’t Go To Nightclubs Anymore”. Mid-way through the song, Morrison sings, “I’m not a legend in my own mind. Don’t need booze to unwind.” We especially like this tune because it is told from the perspective of the solution. Morrison reminisces about his years of drinking but ultimately tells a tale of regrettable days left behind.
“No No Song”, Ringo Starr
Another legend bring his experience to his artwork is Beatles icon Ringo Starr, who released “No No Song” in 1974. Ironically, Starr concedes that he recorded this tune during a time when he was deeply in his own addiction following the breakup of the Beatles. The writer, Hoyt Axton (and David Jackson), who himself struggled with addiction, wrote the song to poke fun at himself. In a 2007 Time magazine interview, Ringo was asked about his most memorable guest artists in the studio. His reply: “Hoyt Axton was one of them on the Ringo album. We were doing ‘No No Song’ with the biggest spliff and a large bottle of Jack Daniel’s.” Years later, in 1988, Starr famously entered rehab with his wife and has been a recovery advocate ever since.
“That Smell”, Lynyrd Skynard
Unlike some of the other songs on our list that are open to interpretation, this classic from Lynard Skynard is point blank about addiction and abuse. Released in 1977, “That Smell” is said to have been written about one of the bands guitarists, “Prince Charming”, and is based on several actual events that happened to him, like getting into car accidents, one of which actually paralyzed him. This seedy song helps anyone who’s contemplating going “back out” to reconsider the consequences.
“Needle and the Damage Done”, Neil Young
Yet another classic artist whose music has survived generations, Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done” has an eerie correlation to the modern day heroin epidemic. This soft song, released in 1972, is as true today as it was then. Young sings, “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done. A little part of it in everyone. But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun”. The song, simple and true, is a reflection of the difficulty to quit even though you see the deadly implications if you keep using.
“When I Drink”, The Avett Brothers
While many of the artists on our list are household names, we think this song from the Avett Brothers, “When I Drink”, will be a first listen for you. Simply written and performed with a guitar, this song explains both the causes and effects of drinking. The line, “But when I drink, I spend the next morning in a haze. But we only get so many days. Now I have one less. Just do your best”, is a simple yet true reminder for us all of how alcohol affects our days, and our lives.
“Not An Addict”, K’s Choice
This is a millennial throwback to 1996, in the wake of the grunge movement and the profound overdose deaths of artists like Kurt Cobain. “Not An Addict” illustrates the illusion that drugs are cool, creative and make you feel alive in their chorus: “It’s not a habit, it’s cool, I feel alive. If you don’t have it, you’re on the other side.” Mid-way through the song, the lyrics shift in consideration, and finally the dialogue is clear: “It’s over now, I’m cold, alone. I’m just a person on my own. Nothing means a thing to me.”
“The Cave”, Mumford and Sons
We’ve all heard this song hundreds of times, but have you ever listened to the lyrics? World-famous indie rock band Mumford & Sons released “The Cave” in 2009, a song later nominated for Best Rock Song at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. The entire storyline, imaginatively written, is about a rebirth, a breaking free and a new start. It’s a powerful motivator for anyone who has “cleared away the wreckage of their past”, no longer bound by the invisible chains and weights of addiction.
“The Weary Kind”, Ryan Bingham
This song, written for the 2009 movie “Crazy Heart” was made famous by receiving three of the highest awards in popular media: a Golden Globe for Best Original Song (2010), an Academy Award for Best Original Song (2010), and a Grammy for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture (2011). But this isn’t why we love this song. We love it because of lines like this: “Whiskey has been a thorn in your side, it doesn’t forget the highway that calls for your heart inside”, followed by, “Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try” reminding us about the daily struggle of addiction, and to keep moving forward one day at a time. Whether you have 3 months or 30 years, recovery is something you have to achieve each and every day, despite the inner voice and the outside factors that will always threaten your sobriety.
“Young Homie”, Chris Rene
In 2011, Chris Rene received national visibility when he performed his original song “Young Homie” on the popular TV show, The X Factor. At the time of his audition, Chris had been sober just 10 weeks after leaving a rehabilitation program at Janus Rehabilitation Center in Santa Cruz, CA. Rene wrote the song “Young Homie” about his experience growing up, feeling invisible with his friends, and ultimately succumbing to the grips of addiction. He is a self-proclaimed recovering addict and alcoholic. In speaking about the song, Rene explains, “So it’s me talking to my younger self and to all the young brothers out there, telling them that life’s too beautiful to live like that.”
For more recovery songs, check out our original post, “Our Top Songs For Recovery & Addiction.”