Is addiction a family disease? What does this mean? Those experiencing addictive behaviors are suffering on their own. And their loved ones suffer immensely, too. It goes without saying that living with alcohol addiction or substance use disorder is incredibly difficult.
When someone using alcohol or drugs begins to hurt their family, they may have various behavioral symptoms. They may show disrespect to their friends, siblings, or parents. In addition, they might lash out, challenge boundaries, or project their emotional struggles. Furthermore, other family members may modify their behaviors to manage the stress of it all. Some may try and help the individual using drugs or alcohol to protect them from getting into trouble. Thus, becoming the enabler. Others may take on the role of caretaker and attempt to compensate, providing care that may be lacking. These are only a few examples of the dysfunctional roles that family members might play.
Addiction: A Family Disease
In a recent study at Texas Tech University, the saying, “addiction is a family disease” took on new meaning. Not only is the addicted brain affected by the substances. In addition, the family members’ brains actually change as well. The study found that family members suffer as a result of the addict’s behavior. The prefrontal cortex of one using substances shuts down when faced with temptation or triggered to use drugs. Research shows the family members’ prefrontal cortex malfunctions as well. Hence, studies validate that addiction is a family disease. Parents and siblings can actually crave patterns. They seek to rescue and care-take their addicted family member. Therefore, this is similar to the substance abuser who craves their substance of choice.
The conclusion of the Texas Tech study, states the following:
“The present study provides preliminary evidence that family members’ symptomatic behaviors associated with a loved one with a substance use disorder (such as fear-based behaviors), as hypothesized, may be related to altered brain functioning. Given these findings, problematic symptoms and behaviors may likely not decrease simply because the loved one struggling with a substance use disorder finds abstinence or engages in a process of recovery. Should altered pathways be present in the brains of affected family members as has been found in individuals struggling with substance use disorders, it becomes of great importance to help family members recognize their own personal need for support, therapeutic treatment, and/or recovery. Part of the recovery process should include family-based therapeutic support, and it is therefore important to make sure that the appropriate systemic and relationship training is available to helping professionals.”
Family Therapy Changes Outcomes
This study proves the concept of addiction as a family disease. The entire family needs to participate in treatment. Family members who turn to support groups such as Al-Anon or partake in family therapy find great success. Consequently, they are able to change their behavior. Also, families learn “the three C’s”: You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it, and you can’t control it. If the alcohol or substance user is the only one getting treatment, it’s a vacuum. And then they go back into an environment where the rest of the family is still unwell. Hence, the individual’s likelihood of success goes down. The disease of addiction is viciously contagious. Therefore, it is important for everyone to seek help.
Stories of addiction and drug abuse have worked themselves into our culture in the form of books, music, theater and songs for centuries. Often times, a song we love is actually about addiction and drug abuse and we aren’t even aware of it until we take the time to really look at and listen to the lyrics. This isn’t surprising, considering the fact that addiction and drug use is common among singers, songwriters and musicians that we listen to on a daily basis. We also know of a multitude of extremely talented singers and members of popular bands who have died from addiction and drug overdoses., so it is not uncommon to find stories about drug and addiction in their music.
Just last month, the staff at The Redpoint Center, an outpatient substance abuse treatment program in Longmont, Colorado, shared their favorite movies about addiction and recovery. We therefore found the next logical step was for us to recount our favorite songs about addiction, drug use and recovery. The following is a summary of our musings, in no particular order, along with a link to the song and the staff member who chose it.
Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind- This song is the title track from the rock band’s self-titled debut album that was released in 1997. Despite the easy going and peppy pop sound of this song, it is actually about using crystal meth and the shiny looking outside of people who are sick and hurting on the inside.ur medical director, Dr. Honor Ashbaugh.
Under the Bridge by The Red Hot Chili Peppers- “Under the Bridge” appears on the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s fifth album, titled Blood, Sweat, Sex and Magik. Anthony Keidis, the rock band’s lead singer, wrote the lyrics of this song to depict feelings of loneliness and despondency, and to relay the impact that a heroin addiction had on his life. This song was picked as a favorite by our clinical director, Nikki Summers, and therapist Quddus Maus.
Hurt by Nine Inch Nails- Hurt is a song that appears on Nine Inch Nail’s second studio album, The Downward Spiral, released in 1994. The song includes references to self-harm and heroin addiction. Others contend that the song acts as s suicide note written by the song’s protagonist. Nonetheless, the entire album is about a period in the singer’s life when he abused drugs and fell into a deep depression. This song, and the cover by Johnny Cash, was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s founder, Cody Gardner.
Hurt cover by Johnny Cash- In 2002, Johnny Cash covered the song “Hurt”. Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails lead singer, said he was flattered when Johnny Cash wanted to cover this song, but was worried that it was a “bit gimmicky”. After seeing the video, however, which was best music video of the year by Grammy’s and CMA Awards, Reznor liked what he saw.
Soul to Squeeze by The Red Hot Chili Peppers- “Soul to Squeeze” was released as a B-side on the The Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give it Away” and “Under the Bridge.” It was then released as a single in 1993. “Soul to Squeeze” Is thought by some as depicting the entire mental process between addiction and recovery. It focuses heavily on what recovery has to offer rather than glorifying or self-deprecating the addictive thought process. This was picked a asfavorite by The Redpoint Center’s Drew Dyer..
Lost in the Cold by Twiddle- “Lost in the Cold” was also picked as a favorite by Drew Dyer. In his own words, the song reminds him of “grabbing onto the fear of recovery and facing it rather than hiding from it.”
Heroin by The Velvet Underground- The song “Heroin” was released by The Velvet Underground on their 1967 debut album called The Velvet Underground & Nico. The song was written by Lou Reed and beautifully depicts heroin use and abuse. The song “Heroin” neither endorses nor condemns the use of heroin, which has made it a troubling song in the eyes of some listeners. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s wellness coordinator, Shane Niemeyer.
Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth, by The Dandy Warhols- This song was released in 1997 on the second studio album released by The Dandy Warhols, called The Dandy Warhols Come Down. The song, according to front man Courtney Taylor-Taylor, was written about his girlfriend (at the time) who got addicted to heroin while he was on tour. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center therapist, Desmond Cohen.
Down on the Bottom by The New Basement Tapes- Down on the Bottom was the first song recorded by The New Basement Tapes on their album titled “Lost on the River.” The lyrics were written by Bob Dylan in 1967, and are interpreted to be about drinking and hitting rock bottom with nowhere to go but up. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s Katie Fischer.
You’ll Never Walk Alone by The Dropkick Murphy’s- This song first appeared in a 1945 musical called Carousel. It has been covered by many different bands and musicians, and appeared on The Dropkick Murphys album “11 Short Stories of Pain and Glory” when it was released in 2017. This song, explains bassist and vocalist Ken Casey, came on when he was leaving a wake for a friend who had overdosed on opiates. It summed up to him how he was feeling at the time- sad but knowing that there is hope. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s therapist Stephanie Winkler.
Lover I Don’t Have to Love by Bright Eyes- “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” was released by the American, Indie Rock band as a single in 2002. The Redpoint Center’s family advocate, Taylor Cole, picked this song as a favorite about addiction and shared her words. “I listened to this song throughout the throws of my addiction when I was touring with a band the year before I got sober. I knew I was an addict and I was not ready to get sober. I wanted to put myself into so much pain it would force me to get sober or I would just not make it. Every time I listen to it, I remember that feeling and am grateful that I don’t have to live like that anymore.”
Staying Alive by Cursive- The song “Staying Alive”, by Cursive, was also picked by Taylor Cole as her favorite song about recover. She quotes, “Bad ass song that makes my insides feel warm and fuzzy. Choosing life and looking forward.”
Suicidal Thoughts by Biggie Smalls- “Suicidal Thoughts” was the last song on the debut album, “Ready to Die”, released by Notorious B.I.G. in 1994. Although not strictly about addiction, the song was listed as very meaningful to The Redpoint Center’s founder, Cody Gardner, who states that he “used to write the verses of this song on all his notebooks” while in rehab.
Alive by Sia- “Alive” is the lead single from the Australian singer songwriter’s 7th studio album, titled “This is Acting.” The Redpoint Center’s admissions director, Rachael Messaros, notes that this song is one of her favorites about recovery. In her words, “On my 6th sobriety birthday I put all of my songs on shuffle, and this song came on. I cried because I was like, holy shit, I survived.”
Billy Walker, by Israel Darling- Billy Walker was released in on the album by Israel Darling titled “Dinosaur Bones & Mechanical Hands.” This song was picked as a favorite by one of The Redpoint Center’s therapists, Jay Fullam. In his own words, “I heard this song when I got sober at an open mic. It really stuck with me and I listened to it regularly during my first year of sobriety.”
Needle and the Damage Done by Neil Young–“Needle and The Damage Done” first appeared on the Harvest album which was released in 1972. This song was written by Neil Young to describe the destruction caused by the heroin addiction of musicians he knew, including his friend and Crazy Horse bandmate, Danny Whitten. It previews the theme of a later album, “Tonight’s the Night”, that expresses Young’s grief over the subsequent overdose deaths of both Whitten and Bruce Berry, who was a roadie for Young and Crazy Horse. This song was picked as a favorite by The Redpoint Center’s Executive Director, Donnie Hagenbart.
Rehab by Amy Winehouse- Rehab appeared on Winehouse’s second and final album, Back to Black, in 2006. The lyrics are in fact autobiographical, and describe Winehouse’s refusal to enter into a rehabilitation clinic for substance abuse and addiction. The song won three Grammy awards at the 50th Winehouse, as most know, subsequently died of alcohol poisoning on July 23rd, 2011. This song was picked as a favorite by one of the Redpoint Center’s adolescent therapists, Bridget Camacho.
Mansion by NF- The song Mansion, by NF (which stands for Nathan Feurstein) is a song on this American rapper’s debut album, titled the same, which was released on March 31, 2015. This song was picked by The Redpoint Center’s Samantha Jackson. In her own words, “I like this song because for so long I was in my head about a lot of things and I thought keeping that to myself was a lot safer than talking about it or getting help. Also, I thought using was a good way to take care of my problems, but it just acted as a temporary fix. This song is a good reminder to myself that I don’t want to be in such a dark place again. It also puts me in the mindset of when I was still using and how much I didn’t like what I was doing.”
We hope you enjoy this compilation of The Redpoint Center staff’s favorite songs about addiction, drug abuse and recover. If you think you or your loved one might have an addiction or problem with drug or alcohol use, The Redpoint Center can help. Please call us with any questions, as we’re here to help.