Addiction is a brain disease that can affect many facets of life. Overcoming a substance use disorder and staying sober during recovery isn’t easy. Triggers are everywhere, and staving off cravings can prove difficult.
But an unlikely form of therapy may help people eschew substance use: music.
Music has a number of physical and mental health benefits. Research has shown that music can ease stress, calm emotions and improve the body’s immune system, according to a 2013 literature review published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
A number of musicians have written songs about their past drug or alcohol abuse to convey hope and inspiration to others. These songs could even motivate people in recovery to sustain their sobriety.
Rapper Macklemore discusses his struggles during recovery in “Starting Over.” He starts by alluding to his relapse, noting how he squandered away three years of sobriety. He discusses the pain and embarrassment of relapsing as a public figure and wonders how his loved ones will react to it.
The song exemplifies the challenges recovery presents. Between 40 and 60 percent of people who receive addiction treatment eventually experience relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But Macklemore also accepts the concept of starting anew, ending the song by saying, “If I can be an example of getting sober, then I can be an example of starting over.”
Released as a single in 2007, “Life is Beautiful” by rock group Sixx:A.M. encourages listeners to focus on positive life experiences. The song provides hope for people enduring challenges, including substance addiction.
The song was included on “The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack,” an album conceived to accompany guitarist Nikki Sixx’s memoir on his battle with addiction. In a 2017 interview with Billboard.com, Sixx explained that the inspiration behind the memoir and the soundtrack was to “help people either understand addiction, or if they are addicted, understand that you can get out.”
In “Under the Bridge,” Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers refers to a lonely time in his life when he used drugs under a freeway overpass in Los Angeles. The song is a retrospective story about how the singer’s cocaine and heroin addiction fractured his relationships and nearly killed him.
In the song, Kiedis expresses his desire to remain sober. In a 2016 interview, Kiedis said that he enjoys sobriety because it allows him to spend time with his son and play music.
Rapper Eminem inspires listeners to conquer difficult life situations in his song “Not Afraid.” In this uplifting track, the rapper briefly alludes to his past substance abuse problems and reasons why he decided to stop using drugs. He also assures listeners that they are not alone in their own personal struggles.
For years, Eminem was addicted to several prescription painkillers, including Vicodin. In 2007, he accidentally overdosed on methadone. He eventually entered long-term sobriety, and he continues to release music.
“I’m Movin’ On” by Rascal Flatts is about overcoming mistakes. While the song makes no direct mentions of addiction or recovery, the lyrics symbolize moving on with life after dealing with past difficulties.
The song has affected listeners. In an interview with USA Weekend magazine, lead guitarist Joe Don Rooney said that the band was approached by a man suffering from addiction who said “I’m Movin’ On” helped inspire him to achieve sobriety.
Music can embolden people to live healthy lives despite past struggles. Sometimes what you really need when you feel like you’re barely hanging on is to hear the raw, honest words of someone who has been there to remind you that you can recover, that you can put your life back together, one day at a time.
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