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Blog Post | November 28, 2017

Sir Sly: Is Music Helping or Hurting?

I’ve recently come across an extremely popular song by the group Sir Sly. The song is entitled “High,” and according to various interpretations available on the internet, it was written to reflect an experience with drugs the group’s front man had on a day off during a concert tour. It wraps a powerful, haunting lyric around a highly compelling musical composition . . . and seems to me to capture the author’s relapse from some kind of addiction recovery.

I don’t know whether to hate this song or to hold it close. I absolutely hate it because an addict in recovery listening to it may well reach the conclusion that relapse is inevitable, and would be a welcome release from the struggle of recovery. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if my son may have listened to it, and that it weakened his resistance to relapse once he left his in-patient treatment program and had the opportunity.

However, I hold it close because it reminds that addiction is such a pernicious disease . . . and of the addict’s terrible struggle within it, particularly those trying so valiantly to resist relapse from opioid addiction. It reminds me of the demons that somehow became embedded in my own son Jonathan’s brain—and from which he so desperately wanted to be free—but who won in the end. Because my spouse and I have chosen to not run from the challenge of conquering addiction, it will stay on my playlist. But this earworm-inducing piece still disturbs me.

I’ve pasted the lyrics in below . . . Here are a few that speak to the relapse :
When the writer talks about “running from the devil,” it seems he is running from withdrawal, which is the mechanism by which the demon of addiction takes such strong hold.” The inevitability of the writer’s relapse comes through in the phrase “It’s finally done, the battle’s lost yet I feel I’ve won” because the old feeling has returned. His helplessness in the face of his addiction comes through when he says “I’m along for the ride as I’m taking flight.”

The writer is “smoking on the peace pipe”, saying he has taken “another breath and I’m up another level.” It “feels good for the first time in a long time” because the euphoria of opioids is so powerful. Many addicts who use heroin describe it as like meeting God, especially the first time they use it. This is reflected when the writer says “What comes next, I see a light” and “It feels good to be up above the clouds.”

This song is an eerie, disturbing, compelling ode to the power of addiction’s grip. Yes, I wish the song had never been produced because I shudder to think that kids in junior high and high school may listen to “High” and think it’s OK to drift into using highly addictive drugs. But the song also underscores the need to continue to raise public awareness that opioid addiction is a disease, not a moral failing.

Perhaps we can fold this song into better educating our kids about the process and costs of addiction rather than simply scolding them not to do it. We have to do this before they enter a potential gateway path (e.g., peer pressure, over-prescription for an injury, or self-medication for a mental health issue). If we do, we may have a chance to make progress on one of the several inextricably linked paths that could lead to conquering this disease.

Sandy Winnefeld