We all know that person in our lives that struggles with addiction and we know that addiction is a very personal and often alienating experience. Not many people face those demons and live to tell their stores about overcoming it.
If you’re in need of sone music that will help you cope with what you’re going through, and perhaps serve as a bit of inspiration, here are some songs about losing someone to addiction.
“Kevin” by Macklemore
“Kevin” is a heartfelt tribute to Macklemore’s good friend who was like a little brother to him. Macklemore is full of sorrow and often blames himself for not doing things differently the night he dropped his friend off because – unbeknownst to him – that would be the last time he’d see his friend alive.
What’s most notable about Macklemore’s lyrics is that not only is he lamenting about how an overdose led to the sudden and unfortunate passing of his friend, but he’s also passionately expressing how most, if not all, of us are susceptible to substance abuse.
Instead of blaming his friend for his condition, or sitting in the stagnancy of grief, he channels his emotions into a powerful song in hopes that someone can hear the overarching message about the gravity of our national crisis: pharmaceutical companies have become our new dealer and we think it’s normal.
“Missing You” by George Wolf
“Missing You” was created in honor of George Wolf’s daughter, Charly, who passed away to a fentanyl overdose in 2016. He passionately laments about how crushing it is to lose a child, and no matter how much people insist for him to “get over it”, life is just not that simple.
Forever will a giant Charly-shaped piece be missing from his heart because “you can heal a heart that’s broken because the parts are still there; but when a giant piece is missing, there’s nothing left there to repair”. He knows he will get through this tough time but refuses to rush it.
No words of comfort or solace can speed up his time of grief, so he will continue to “quietly ache” and miss his dear daughter who passed away at the tender age of 21, and “hope that ‘someday’ comes”.
I cried so much listening to this heartfelt song and I’m extremely grateful that George Wolf gathered the strength to share this with the world; we don’t often get the privilege to just be sad, but Wolf gives us full permission to do so because, well, what else can be done?
“Once an Addict” by J. Cole
One of J. Cole’s most notable tracks begins in a dreamlike state portrayed in a dark lullaby that carries us to the past with him like a lone boat on murky waters. Cole describes the despair he grew up in, due to his mother’s depression that morphed into alcoholism when he was just a kid.
Faced with confusion, sadness, anger, and helplessness, he feels so many emotions at once and doesn’t know how to help his mother. He knows she’s struggling with her own emotions toward his father who abandoned them, but there’s nothing he can do that will bring him back to them.
All he can do is watch as his mother drinks to numb her pain. At the end of this song, he conveys his feelings of regret for not doing more to help his mother, and instead chose to run away.
Fortunately, that is not all of the story. His mother survived her condition, and Cole was able to not only reunite with her, but also retire her, get her the help she needed, and forge a stronger relationship with her. He bravely shared his story with the world so that those who have lived a life similar to his does not grieve alone.
In my personal experience, this song helped me to cry for my mother whom I relationally lost to a gambling addiction, even though she didn’t physically pass away. Addiction is a very personal struggle, and sometimes, though we may want to help others get better, only the individual person dealing with the addiction possess the power to seek help and healing.
“Breaking the Habit” by Linkin Park
One of Linkin Park’s most popular tracks tells a story of someone struggling with addiction. The first verse begins in this person’s room, where he’s tearing himself apart with his own thoughts and fighting the urge to turn to substances for relief again.
He knows deep down that he’s the one creating this war within himself, yet he has no idea what he’s fighting for, nor why he is overcome with anxiety. In the end, he resolves to break the cycle in which he’s been stuck because he knows he’s “not alright”
Therefore, he is “breaking the habit tonight.”
This song is very profound because the entire theme is like a double entendre. On one hand, the person in the story seems to be alluding to taking his own life because he can’t bear the endless tug-o-war in his body that’s craving the drug.
He’s exhausted from burning every bridge in his life for the sake of satiating his addiction. On the other hand, the person may have had enough, and resolves to quit his habit of using substances and fight to get better. Either way, the person is discarding his old self in desperate search for an easier existence.
“How to Save A Life” by The Fray
The first verse of this well-known pop hit depicts an uncomfortable conversation with the singer, Issac Slade, and his friend who is suffering from addiction. While they both are polite with one another, it’s clear Slade isn’t getting through to his friend, in an effort to quell his self-destructive behavior.
Unfortunately, his friend succumbs to his dependency, leaving behind a number of confused and sorrowful loved ones. Slade regrets not trying harder and wonders endlessly where he went wrong. If he had only known how to save a life, he would have “stayed up with you [his friend] all night”, if it meant saving him from himself.
Just by skimming across the various commentators of this song on websites, there are numerous people who wanted to save the lives of their friends, but failed to do so, for various reasons. This song commemorates those people and hopefully reminds them that their powerlessness does not stem from weakness, but rather from a lack of control over one another’s actions.
“Lost” by Chance the Rapper
Written like a love song, Chance the Rapper’s “Lost” has a meaning that is far from the cozy feelings of love. He sings a song of two lovers who are addicts. Throughout the song, Chance can’t tell if they share a mutual love for each other, or a mutual love for their drug of choice.
One of my favorite lyrics is “I’m so deep, girl, probably ‘cause you’re empty,” where the first part implies that he’s able to reach the depths of her body because she has strong feelings for him. But the second part implies he’s able to penetrate so deeply because her addiction has turned her into an empty shell of her former self.
The unhealthy couple spins in distorted cycles, thinking their love will cure their illness and massacre their demons, but in reality, they both have become lost in their addictions and only serve to support one another’s vices.
“The Needle and the Damage Done” by Neil Young
This woeful acoustic song feels like taking a walk and observing the multitude of sad scenes of daily life that haunts us all. The first line that struck me was the polarizing verse that says, “I caught you knockin’ at my cellar door; I love you baby, can I have some more?”
This seems to describe a romantic “relationship” built on the foundation of drug abuse. Over and over, Young seems to come across people who are lost to their dependency on substances, expressing that as he travels through the city, he watches “the needle take another man”, and though not many people understand why he sings for these people, he knows it’s his love that refuses to let them be remembered as only “junkies”.
He has “seen the needle and the damage done” and knows that no one is resistant to addictive substances. He narrates addicts to be like a sunset: they’re beautiful, they sometimes bring forth feelings of sadness, and no one can do much about them except watch in helpless awe.
“The Girl You Lost” by Sia
The upbeat start of this track almost instantly tells a story of a long, hard road Sia has been walking in uncomfortable shoes for several days. She is fed up with trying to be anything and everything for her lover and decides to walk away; but before she came to this conclusion, she lost herself in the process.
She expresses her relationship with her lover as being his “crutch, smell, sight, and touch”, often having to soothe him from his meltdowns, and take him home when he’s blacked-out drunk. She endured so much suffering in the name of “love”, that she turned to cocaine to get her through each day.
She finally decides to take that one big step out of her lover’s life, and confidently states, “No I’m not your mama, so I’m walking away; I’m just a girl that you lost to cocaine”. This final line makes us question if Sia truly did walk out on her own volition, or if she traded one unhealthy addiction for another.
“Goats in Trees” by Foster the People
I’m not ashamed to admit I can recite this song from memory, as it was relatable throughout my late teens and early 20s, as my addictions slowly graduated from food and video games to drugs and alcohol. There are a couple of insightful lines that eventually led me out of the darkness.
The song wastes no time to describe Mark Foster’s addiction, with the first couple of lines being “Well, I was caught inside the wreck; never found my way out, I was filled with indifference”. Foster describes his struggles with addiction as a “wreck”, and the subsequential depression it caused as “indifference”; these two words perfectly sum up the quiet despair one endures as they slowly rearrange themselves until they’re unrecognizable, in the name of their dependency and insurmountable guilt.
In the hook just before the echoing chorus of “don’t give up on me now”, Foster describes how the euphoric feeling of being high allows him to bury his wrongdoings and guilt with his youth, in an effort to kill his past self, not realizing he’s on the path to killing his present self.
Just before the outro, as the chorus is still a distant echo, Foster says he’s “on the outside” where it’s warm; he’s convinced himself that being dissociated feels good and he’s content with the reality he’s fabricated for himself as he wanders aimlessly through his life like a ghost. But the chorus is begging him to not give up, and suddenly, he snaps out of his trance and declares feeling warm on the outside is a lie, thus he wails into the void that he doesn’t want to “fall apart”.
Still in a trance-like state, he repeats the same melody three times, fluidly illustrating the painful cycles one goes through while trying to stave off his addiction. He describes clawing and fighting, encroaching numbness, knowing that his darkest and most feverish days are upon him and anyone else who wishes to get better.
In the end, he’s once again howling in the desolation, but although his tone rings of despair, there is a twinge of hope in his voice that eventually carries him to sober freedom.
“Language I: Intuition” by The Contortionist
This spiritual progressive metal song has been in my heart for years. Contrary to popular belief, “Intuition” isn’t just about feeling the constant life, death, and rebirth of the universe’s song, but it was created in honor of singer’s, Michael Lessard, friend who passed away from drug overdose:
Lessard was overcome with the anguish and shock of his friend’s passing, that he created the lyrics for the album, Language, to commemorate those lost to their sorrows, and hopefully remind them that there is a source energy of love in which we are all connected. This anguish is reflected in the lines “we will be the salvation the Mother seeks; traversing in all…directions”; as he soothingly sings these lyrics, there is a distant and simultaneous screaming of said lyrics.
He communicates that our vision must be restored because we are the divine, ever-expanding language of the universe that is often expressed through intuition. It reminds us that to be alive and conscious is an utterly amazing and awe-inspiring feeling. We all deserve a place here on this earth, and one day our bodies will return to the earth, but our energy will remain because, in true reality, we are eternal.
Lessard begs us to “drift with the ebb and flow” of life, and repeats “ebb and flow”, hoping that the realization that life will have natural ups and downs and it’s simply okay, will sink into us who are suffering.
Suffering is a part of life, but it is not the end of life. Quite the contrary, it is a reminder that we are alive. Lessard perfectly illustrates the euphoria of human existence as “ intuition sets in…branching out from your seed to seek”; a natural “contrived sense of inception”.
Lastly, he breathes, “Intuition speak to me”. The millions of years of human evolution has provided us with the privilege to perceive, reflect, imagine, and ultimately grow into amazing creations of love and light. Wow, what a heavenly time it is to be alive!
Whether we have lost a loved one, a mentor, or even ourselves to addiction, we know that with this illness, comes a long and convoluted road of broken memories, frayed relationships, and unassailable grief.
There’s no straight path that leads us to clarity, understanding, and relief from our loss, and many times, all we can do is cry. It is my hope that these songs about losing someone to addiction provide a safe and open space for you to cry; I know I sure did and will continue to do so as I lead a life that both honors my loved ones and myself, who have struggled with addiction.
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This article is written by contributing writer Randa.
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