Clean: Euphoric Recall (7/19/21) | Clean | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Clean: Euphoric Recall (7/19/21)


Published July 19, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.
Updated July 19, 2021 at 5:56 p.m.

  • Joshua Sherman Productions
  • Benjamin Lerner
Throngs of cheery revelers swayed in unison as festive jam-band music blasted through powerful speakers. I was two years sober, and I had recently moved to southern Vermont to start my new job at a music studio in East Arlington. After I spent the whole day recording songs with the producer I was working with, he had tasked me with manning the door at a live performance event.

I was weary and drained from a long day’s work, but I was nevertheless grateful to be enjoying some live music. As the flashing stage lights cast soft shadows on the ceiling and walls, I felt as if I had been transported from my former urban reality into a phantasmagorical rustic dreamscape. I found my eyes wandering between intricate networks of hand-hewn beams, which were perfectly complemented by fine artworks and dark-toned leather couches.

As the front doors closed and the concert kicked into high gear, I began to slip in a state of natural euphoria. I had always felt anxious and closed-off in social situations, but I allowed myself to let my guard down as vibrations from the thumping bass line reverberated through my body. For a brief and beautiful moment, my awestruck elation blended seamlessly with the sharp sense of awareness that I had honed in recovery. I was simultaneously present and detached, and I knew that it was possible to be happy, sober and free.

Suddenly, my temporary state of transcendental enlightenment was abruptly cut off when I noticed a scent I was all too familiar with. A tipsy concertgoer had spilled his drink on me, and my upper sleeve had become partially drenched with liquor. As the smell of smoky tequila permeated my nostrils, I felt my deepest addictive tendencies reawakening. I wasn’t prepared to deal with such temptations in my vulnerable, tired and compromised state. I clenched my fists as my eyes shifted toward the bar. My mind began to tie itself in knots in a fugue of panicked frenzy. I didn’t know what to do.

I knew I was putting my sobriety in danger if I stayed there, but I didn’t want to let my boss down and admit I didn’t feel comfortable working at the concert. I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I could either try to save face, grit my teeth and risk a relapse, or I could speak my mind and face the consequences that came with my honest admissions.

It was then that I realized that the only things holding me back from true peace and serenity were my own insecurities. I had allowed my delusional thinking to overtake my sense of self, and only the truth could set me free.

I hung my head sheepishly as I walked up to my boss and told him I needed to leave. A look of pained concern came across his face as he motioned toward the door with his hands and began to speak:

“Go home. Your sobriety is much more important than this concert. Thank you for all you did today. We need you to stay clean another day so you can keep doing what you’re doing here.”

As I said goodbye to my boss and walked out of the door toward my apartment, I knew I had made the right decision. Recovery had given me the strength to resist destructive temptation and the courage to advocate for myself in the times when it mattered most.

Always remember:

Keep moving forward.
Run towards the truth.
Don’t quit before the miracle happens.

Benjamin Lerner is a recovering addict, composer, writer, musician and radio host. He has been sober since June 13, 2016. In his weekly column "Clean," originally published in Vermont News Guide, he shares his personal journey and lessons learned from his life in recovery. Columns published before July 12, 2020, can be found here. Newer installments are available on

Speaking of Addiction, recovery


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