Thursday, December 8, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: HANDS IN THE AIR, Bob Seger

Bob Seger was a reliable money maker for his record company for nearly two decades. He wasn't quite held in contempt by those that viewed themselves as connoisseurs of fine music during his career, but he was never really taken seriously, either, as a quality artist, or thought of as someone creating music that would stand the test of time. As the twenty-first century progresses and his career moves further into the past, though, Seger actually looks and sounds better and better. His popular songs weren't really standard "pop," and almost all of his hits had a line or two, or evoked an image, that stayed with the listener long after the song ended.
Hands in the Air was not one of his major hits. It was released in 1995, in the twilight of Seger's period as culturally relevant, and by the standards of that time, he wasn't either edgy or young enough to garner a lot of attention. And I confess I did not pay a lot of attention to the song at the time, my addiction was just starting to take off, and although I played the CD occasionally in my car, I thought it was merely a standard take-stock-of-life-and-move-on-song.
And then it was 1999, and I was going to two meetings a day and hearing an incessant drone about the need to "surrender" in my program of recovery. And I remember driving one day and popping in Seger's CD, and this song came on--and suddenly, this song's true meaning hit me like a sledgehammer to the foot. I don't even really need to do an in-depth examination of the lyrics; anyone in recovery will instantly know what is meant but "put your hands in the air." It is a call to surrender, and some of the lines are powerfully reminiscent of actual vignettes of my own life. And more to the point, it isn't necessarily about the active addict, which is why it hit me as hard as it did.
This is a song about people engaging in addict behavior while abstinent--and a devastating indictment of them. The repeated relapsers who justify their actions by saying they never hit the depths others did. The people who hold off on identifying who is owed amends and making them. Those in "committed relationships" 13th-Stepping. And also those that do their best reaching the end of their rope when their character defects are serving as their Higher Power. The guy wondering whether the meetings and the fellowship can truly help him. The shady and the shifty that are reluctantly changing. The broken souls.
And the last two verses can be taken as excoriating those that prey on active addicts. But I honestly think they are directed at a special kind of scumbag, one with his or her own level of hell reserved just for them; the "clean" addict that sells drugs in recovery auspices to those that are struggling to keep it down.
As I said, it really does take being in recovery to fully understand this song. But if you are, you can see it as a masterpiece of its kind. This realization made me search for more information about Seger--and yes, he is in recovery himself. He never trumpeted it like Steven Tyler and a few others, but he has been, for some time now. And as time passes, he's one of the few famous people that I very much would like to meet and shoot the shit with. I have a feeling he would be as down to earth and open as the typical person in any 12-Step meeting I normally attend.

Here's the video:

And the lyrics:

I've seen two time losers running everywhere
Shouting and screamin', "I was never there!"
With their hands in the air
Hands in the air

I've seen bad news messengers avoiding kings
Cheating spouses twisting their rings
With their hands in the air
Oooh, got their hands in the air
As guilty as the wind out on the sea
Affecting who we are and who we'll be

There's a desperation, a real despair
Even the good people are starting to declare
I've got my hands in the air
Ah my hands are in the air

They're surrendering, they're giving in
They'll do anything not to go through this again
They've got their hands in the air
Ooh, their hands in the air

And they're sinking in the quicksand like a stone
Broken to the marrow of the bone, oh

The dealers are dividing up their tips
The gamblers, they're all cashin' in their chips

There's a man in the middle of a parking lot
Wondering which way he should go
There's a star on the horizon
Sinking low, low

All you death wish addicts, you corrupters of truth
You killers of the spirit, you marauders of youth
Get your hands in the air
I want to see your hands in the air

If you're selling these lies, these impossible dreams
You can keep on washin' but you'll never get clean
Get your hands in the air
Let me see your hands in the air

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