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Clean: 'Admitting Faults'


Published May 9, 2022 at 8:35 a.m.
Updated May 9, 2022 at 11:49 a.m.

  • Joshua Sherman Productions
  • Benjamin Lerner
The rustling sounds of tree branches outside my window tickled my eardrums as I woke from a restful slumber. I was three years sober, and it was a beautiful, sunny spring day in southern Vermont. I walked toward the kitchen and saw my girlfriend drying off a massive salad bowl. She placed the bowl down on a wooden dish rack, and she greeted me with a warm embrace. When her arms relaxed their grip, I grabbed a dish and joined her in her housecleaning efforts. It had been several weeks since she had moved into my apartment, and I was gradually adjusting to the rhythm of our new living arrangement.

I was grateful that I had been able to balance my work assignments with my romantic relationship and my recovery program, but I was still plagued by doubtful ruminations. I had improved my interpersonal skills over the years I had spent in recovery, but I had never shared my space with another person. Although our interactions had been mostly harmonious, I was still afraid that I would not be able to handle a confrontational situation with a person whom I was living with.

As I handed off the final dish, my worst fears were realized when it fell to the ground and shattered. I had failed to notice that my girlfriend had been busy drying off another plate, and it was clear from the angry look on her face that I had made a grave mistake.

Over the following several minutes, an argument ensued that caused us both to become trapped in a state of frenzied irritation. She insulted my inability to properly communicate during household chores, and I countered with a series of self-defensive exclamations that were deeply rooted in insecurity and fear. As the argument escalated, feelings of anger and frustration welled up inside of me that were hard to contain. After a particularly heated series of exchanges, I stormed out of the room. As I sat on the bed in a pensive funk, I realized that there was only one way to move past the argument and find a peaceful solution: I had to admit my faults and come to terms with my weaknesses.

After taking a moment to reflect, I understood that I had been too proud to admit my mistake, because I didn’t want my girlfriend to think that I wasn’t perfect. I knew that it was time to take responsibility for my side of the issue.

I walked out of the bedroom, approached her in the kitchen, cleared my throat and spoke from the heart.

“I’m sorry that I got angry at you for pointing out my flaws. The truth is … I’m scared that I’m not ready to live with someone. I still have a lot of growing to do, but I want to make this work. Is there any way that we can sit down and talk about this?”

I expected her to greet my admission in a standoffish and indignant manner, but she didn’t. She walked towards me, gave me a big hug and began crying on my shoulder. She then told me that she had also been unwilling to admit her faults, because she felt the same fears that I did.

As we stood in the kitchen and cried together, I felt a sense of closeness with my partner that I had never felt with anyone before. I might not have been able to put our broken dish back together, but I was able to help mend our relationship by drawing on the lessons that I had learned in recovery.

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