Discussions of addiction and dependency have come to the fore as the world struggles to cope with an unprecedented pandemic and the personal and financial devastation it wreaks. The lead single “Reasons I Drink” on Alanis Morissette’s freshly released album Such Pretty Forks in the Road bravely explores the nature of both addiction and recovery, its poignant music video featuring a variety of characters confronting their demons at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Acknowledging that there is a problem:
“These are the reasons I drink /
The reasons I tell everybody I'm fine even though I am not . . .”
Morissette opens the up-tempo tune with a confessional theme, the music video amplifying the lyrics’ vulnerability as it features her sitting in a circle with fellow AA members. As she bears her soul to a group of like-minded strangers, one can almost hear the brave self-introduction at AA meetings: “Hi, my name is ＿＿＿＿ and I am an alcoholic.”
These opening lyrics provoke an emotional response in the listener because they embody the first essential step of confronting dependency issues, whatever those issues may be. In the case of Morissette’s first character portrait in the video, she accepts and admits that she has a drinking problem. What’s more, she admits that she’s not okay. Her presence at the meeting signifies that she acknowledges this truth and that she wants to face her issues head-on, in order to get better.
Addiction as a coping mechanism
“And so that's it, I am buying a Lamborghini
To make up for these habits, to survive this sick industry.”
For Morissette, as for many other public figures, working in show business proved extraordinarily difficult. The music video features another Morissette character portrait signing autographs and dealing with harassing hair and makeup artists.
The music video further expands upon the concept of compulsive and addictive habits as a way to deal with personal pain as it depicts another of Morissette’s character portraits as a breastfeeding mother. Perhaps this character deals with Postpartum Depression (PPD) and consequently uses alcohol or another substance as a way to escape the excruciating sense of loneliness that plagues so many new mothers.
Finally, the video also depicts another character portrait of herself mourning the sickness and death of a loved one. She is shown pushing away a clergy member who reaches out to offer comfort. Presumably, she seeks solace in isolation and her addiction, instead of connecting to another person.
The difficult journey of recovery
“I feel such rapture and my comfort is so strong, oh /
One more sip / It feels so helpful in my need for some long overdue respite . . .”
As Morissette’s character portraits confess dependency on alcohol or other substances, “The Reasons I Drink” brings into focus the struggles of people trying to cope with life’s hardships. While unhealthy coping mechanisms provide a momentary sense of relief, even ecstatic joy, Morissette sings on, acknowledging that her addiction damages those around her:
“These are the ones whom I know it so deeply affects.”
Another tenant of AA is admitting you are powerless to your addiction. To this point, Morissette sings that she does not know if she will be able to successfully conquer her addiction.
“I am left wondering how I would function without it,” she sings before the song slips into its final refrain.
In a multilayered way, Morissette depicts the different ways in which painful life experiences lend themselves to dependency on toxic coping mechanisms. The first step is acceptance that there is a problem. Taking a good hard look at one’s life—both past and present—is also key. Whether Morissette’s character portraits were moments from her own life or snapshots of different people’s journeys, we may never know. But either way the message is successfully conveyed: the path toward recovery is incredibly challenging, laced with temptations and hardships and setbacks. It requires brutal honesty, like that conveyed in the song’s lyrics. But it’s a path worth taking.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.