Clean: 'Reconnecting With Self' (4/25/22) | Clean | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Clean: 'Reconnecting With Self' (4/25/22)

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Published April 25, 2022 at 12:03 p.m.


Benjamin Lerner - JOSHUA SHERMAN PRODUCTIONS
  • Joshua Sherman Productions
  • Benjamin Lerner

My shoulders were tense as I craned my neck over a wireless router in the corner of my bedroom. It was late at night, and I was struggling to remain calm and serene. I was three years sober, and my computer had just lost its connection with the internet. My service had cut out halfway through a gripping episode of my favorite online television show, and I was incredibly upset.

After walking back towards my computer, I attempted to harness all of my technological wisdom to solve the problem. I clicked on my internet connection window repeatedly in an effort to diagnose and correct the issue, but I was only met by more confusion. After recalibrating my system settings several times, a cryptic and disappointing message flashed on my computer screen: “Unable to establish a successful connection.”

I slammed my laptop down onto my bed as I bellowed a series of hoarse exclamations. I was trapped in a proverbial chasm of impatience and ingratitude, but I didn’t know how to dig myself out of it. At the apex of my irate tantrum, I remembered how I felt during the worst days of my active addiction. I had spent many days stuck in an equally confounding state of selfish anger while I waited for my drug dealer to call me back. Although a mindless television show was not nearly as destructive as a deadly substance, I was still being held hostage by a similar pattern of compulsive reliance. Even though I was several years sober and clean, I had become dependent upon an external solution to solve my internal problems. I suddenly realized that my lack of connection to the internet was not the most pressing issue — it was my lack of connection to my own emotional reality.

Moments after my blinding epiphany, I left my computer behind and unfurled a blanket on my kitchen floor. I sat down, took a deep breath and began consciously reconnecting with my innermost thoughts. As I commenced with a series of mindfulness exercises, I felt the stress of the day begin to instantly melt away. My runaway train of thought had slowed its breakneck pace, and I was coasting towards a final destination of peaceful surrender. After reviewing the underlying causes of my emotional dysfunction one by one, I realized that they all stemmed from my need to control the world around me. At the end of my brief meditation, I rose from the floor and walked towards my refrigerator to grab a tasty snack. As I opened the freezer door, I heard the sounds of dramatic music and angry conversations blaring out of my computer speakers. My favorite show had come back on, and its main characters were engaged in a heated exchange. Although I was happy that my computer had reconnected to the internet, it didn’t really matter to me anymore. By drawing on the lessons I had learned in recovery, I was able to reconnect with myself — and no faulty piece of technology could take that away from me.

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 sevendaysvt.com.