- Joshua Sherman Productions
- Benjamin Lerner
The evening sun illuminated the crests of faraway mountains as I walked toward the door of a small apartment building. I was four years sober, and I was looking forward to participating in a lively recording session. A talented young rapper had invited me to listen in on a recording session at his home studio and offer my feedback. Although his lyrical style was vastly different from mine, I was nevertheless excited to lend an ear and provide whatever creative insight I could.
Upon entering his apartment, I saw several musicians congregated in the hallway with smiles on their faces. As I stretched out my hand to introduce myself, I heard one of my favorite hip-hop beats playing in the background. It brought back memories of the unforgettable nights I had spent making music with my friends in my early adolescence. It was a point in my life where I felt like anything was possible. Sadly, it was also the point at which I began using drugs and drinking alcohol. As my addiction continued to escalate, I drifted further and further away from my musical aspirations. After getting sober and clean, I was able to find the freedom that I had formerly sought in addictive chemicals by reinventing myself on a personal and artistic level. Instead of writing raps that glorified drug use, I made music that celebrated recovery and self-actualization. By doing so, I was able to take control of my creative destiny in a way that I never thought possible while I was getting high.
As the instrumentals continued to play, my nose picked up a scent that was all too familiar. It was the smell of liquor and beer, which conjured memories of a distinctly more destructive and hedonistic nature. I was instantly gripped by strong, visceral cravings. Although I had become accustomed to being around alcohol during the years I had spent as a sober bartender, this situation was different. It wasn’t the presence of alcohol or drugs that was triggering my cravings – it was the cultural association. I had built a new life for myself as a sober rapper, but there was a part of me that still believed that my creative persona was inextricably tied to my past substance use. I didn’t want to leave the session, but I knew that I had to get out of there in order to prevent a relapse. Suddenly, I remembered the closing line of a song by my favorite sober rapper, which reaffirmed my commitment to my lifestyle change in an incredibly resonant way:
“I used to dream of living, now I’m living my dreams. No matter what it takes, my goal is to stay clean.”
After taking a moment to pause, breathe, and reflect, I realized that I didn’t love hip-hop because hip-hop culture embraced hedonism. I loved hip-hop because hip-hop culture embraced truth and self-knowledge, and my truth was that I needed to stay sober in order to stay alive. I said goodbye to the rapper and his crew, left the apartment, and walked toward my car. I put my key in the ignition, queued up an inspiring recovery rap playlist and felt my spirits begin to lift as I drove to a meeting. I was grateful to be living in the solution, and I was ready to do whatever it took to stay clean one day at a time.Always remember:
Keep moving forward.
Run toward the truth.
Don’t quit before the miracle happens.