At the Bottom of a Bottle

I want to talk about addiction.

I’m not sure how to go about that without sounding callous.

Addiction sucks. It sucks for the community. It sucks for the family. It sucks for the person. Just downright blows.

The other day, I overheard a friend talking about their family member who is off the wagon. And while the decisions their sibling had made were terrible, I wanted so badly to step in. I wanted to scream that addiction wasn’t about them.

Yeah, people are caught in the crossfire. They are hurt and sometimes killed. It’s not okay. But I doubt the average person understands what it’s like to have your life ruled by a substance.

The poor decisions and the pain caused to love ones are rarely about others. It’s about them. Addicts are self-centered. How else would an individual sacrifice just about anything for a high?

So, quit it. Your cousin that causes your aunt so much pain isn’t doing it maliciously. The stealing and the lying aren’t because they hate the world. Chances are, it’s because those are the means in which to reach a high. Because that’s the goal. We want to feel something else.

I want to feel something else.

For me, it was alcohol. I struggled. I rationalized the shit out of my drinking.

“Oh, it’s okay. It’s after 5pm.”

“Oh, it’s okay. It’s the weekend.”

“Oh, it’s okay. Today was Monday… Wednesday… Thirsty Thursday… Finally Friday. Better tie one on.”

“Oh, it’s okay. It’s summer!”

“Oh, it’s okay. I’m young; I’m supposed to do this.”

“Oh, it’s okay. It’s only 3pm.”

“Oh, it’s okay. It’s after noon.”

“Oh, it’s okay… it’s almost noon.”

And then there’s actually getting my hands on it.

Normal, happy, healthy people don’t spend extended periods of time in the liquor store deciding on what wine to get. Well, they don’t spend that time checking the alcohol content on the bottles to figure out which wine will get me more drunk for less money.

Normal, happy, healthy people don’t start freaking out when the alcohol is getting low. They don’t consider driving 45 minutes to the nearest store that sells off sale after 10pm.

Normal, happy, healthy people don’t do that. They don’t.

And it’s impossible to explain to someone just how mindless an addict feels.

How you spend SO much time during the day thinking about your next high or your last one.

How you might now have any money, but you certainly can find enough to purchase your vice.

How you once said that you would never be in this position, but here you are. And you don’t know how you got so low.


I am frustrated.

I am frustrated as I listen to people discuss addiction, especially when they have never encountered it personally. I am frustrated as people look so far down on addicts.

It’s so easy to categorize people as good and bad. But honestly, some of the best people I know are addicts.

Chances are, there is more to their story.

Chances are, there is some sort of trauma—physical, psychological, or otherwise—that somehow brought them here.

Chances are, this is all they have ever known.

Everybody is fighting something. Some demons are easier too see.

Mine comes in a bottle.

But yours might be your own shadow.

Musical Rehab

I grew up listening to music. I use music to help me through whatever I’m experiencing at the time, be it positive or negative. Music was also there for me when I quit drinking. Today, I have been sober for 377 days.

I have compiled a list of songs about addiction and recovery. I’m hoping that this list can help other people in living lives clean and sober. BUT! Don’t get me wrong! These are amazing tracks that anyone can enjoy. If you have a favorite recovery song that you think should be included in this list, feel free to post a comment!

So, without further adieu, I present my Top Ten Recovery Songs:

  1. “One Day At A Time” by Joe Walsh

Well it started with a couple of beers/And it went I don’t know how many years/Like a runaway train headed for the end of the line

Joe Walsh is perhaps best known for his membership in The Eagles. Walsh struggled with addiction for a number of years and has been in recovery since 1995.

 

  1. “Cleanse Song” by Bright Eyes

And if life seems absurd what you need is some laughter/And a season to sleep and a place to get clean/Maybe Los Angeles, somewhere no one’s expecting

Bright Eyes front man, Conor Oberst experimented with drugs and watched friends succumb to addiction. While never formally entering a rehabilitation center, Oberst spent time in a Florida community becoming clean.

 

  1. “Hate Me” by Blue October

I’m sober now for three whole months/It’s one accomplishment that you helped me with/The one thing that always tore us apart/Is the one thing I won’t touch again/In a sick way I want to thank you/For holding my head up late at night/While I was busy waging wars on myself/You were trying to stop the fight

Lead singer, lyricist, and guitarist Justin Furstenfeld entered recovery in 2003. Written as an apology to those he harmed, “Hate Me” describes some of his experience with his addiction and depression.

 

  1. “Starting Over” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Feeling sick and helpless, lost the compass where self is/I know what I gotta do and I can’t help it/One day at a time is what they tell us/Now I gotta find a way to tell them

This song describes the after effects of Ben Haggerty’s (aka Macklemore) relapse in 2011. Macklemore checked himself into a rehabilitation facility in 2008. Well known for his raw and honest voice, Macklemore uses his music to share messages of hope, pain, frustration, and acceptance.

 

  1. “Leave the Light On” by Beth Hart

I ain’t that bad/I’m just messed up/I ain’t that sad/But I’m sad enough/…/I don’t know what to do/Can the damage be undone/I swore to God that I’d never be/What I’ve become/I leave the light on

Hart’s blues-rock music creates a window through to her personal battle with drug addiction and mental illness. Beth Hart has been clean and sober for over a decade and continues to share the lessons she learned in life through her music.

 

  1. “Young Homie” by Chris Rene

Living life with loved ones close to me/Shh, ahh, this is the remedy/And I got/the recipe, I don’t need no Hennessy/Yeah, it’s been nine months now/Haven’t had a drink and I’m starting to see clear now/I’m putting all my fears down/I can hear the cheers now/Seeing peace signs when I look around

Chris Rene rose to the public eye as a finalist on the X-Factor USA 2011. Shortly prior to the beginning of the show, he was released from rehab where he sought help for a long standing drug and alcohol addiction.

 

  1. “Water into Wine” by T. Graham Brown

Tonight, I’m as low as any man can go/I’m down and I can’t fall much farther/And once upon a time, You turned the water into wine/And now, I’m on my knees, I’m turning to You, Father/Could You help me turn the wine back into water?

Known for his incredible songwriting and radio/television jingles, T. Graham Brown has experienced his fair share of challenges. “Wine into Water” tells the tale of Brown’s own addiction.

 

  1. “High Cost of Living” by Jamey Johnson

As soon as Jesus turned his back/I find my way across the track/Lookin’ just to score another deal/With my back against that damn eight ball/I didn’t have to think or talk or feel

Jamey Johnson co-wrote “High Cost of Living” with James Slater. Neither artist has reported any addiction problems. However, many fans have reached out stating their ability to connect with the lyrics. “High Cost of Living” sings of the harsh reality an individual may experience in the throws of addiction.

 

  1. “If the Brakeman Turns My Way” by Bright Eyes

Hey, where have all the dancers gone? Now the music doesn’t play/Tried to listen to the river but you couldn’t shut your mouth/Better take a little time to level out/I never thought of running/My feet just led the way

Yet another track by Bright Eyes, “If the Brakeman Turns My Way” speaks about journeying through life. Oberst explains the brakeman as the person who alters a train’s direction. He illuminates the lyrical meaning by stating, “[Hobos] They didn’t necessarily care where they’d end up – they just knew they had to leave, and they’d jump on the back of a train, and it was kind of all up to the brakeman, to fate, which direction you go.” While this track does not specifically reference addiction, parallels between moving through life and recovery are noticeable.

 

  1. “You Don’t Know Jack” by Luke Bryan

But you don’t know Jack/Double shot, eighty proof, on the rocks/Until you’ve lost it all/And you can’t go back/To your life, and your kids, and your ex-wife/With just a telephone call/If you think it’s just a bottle/In an old brown paper sack/You don’t know Jack

While Luke Bryan has faced questions in the public eye regarding drinking and driving, he has not reported issues with alcohol. Both the songwriters and Luke Bryan present a scenario of a man who lost what he valued to alcohol. “You Don’t Know Jack” serves as a reminder of just how far down an individual may spiral.


Because everybody loves a bonus, here are a few pick-me-up songs! These aren’t really related to living clean as much as to just dealing with everyday life. So, enjoy dance by yourself and remember that your life is beautiful.

  1. “Shake it Out” by Florence & the Machines
  1. “Carry On” by FUN.
  1. “Timshel” by Mumford and Sons