Clean: The Story Continues (12/27/21) | Clean | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Clean: The Story Continues (12/27/21)


Published December 27, 2021 at 12:12 p.m.

  • Joshua Sherman Productions
  • Benjamin Lerner
Gently falling snowflakes danced outside of my window as I wandered toward my kitchen table in a pair of comfortable slippers. I was three years sober, and I had just met my first official deadline as a professional journalist.

As I approached the table, I felt my cellphone vibrating in the pocket of my pants. It was the producer who had overseen my arts residency, who also served as the editor and publisher of the magazines that I wrote for. I was expecting him to provide me with editorial suggestions for the articles I had written.

Instead, he presented me with a life-changing opportunity:

“I just received the last of the articles that you wrote for the magazine, and they are wonderful. You really have a knack for capturing the personal stories of the people you’ve interviewed. You and I have been working on a musical project that tells the story of your journey of sobriety for over a year now. I think it’s time to for you to share your experiences in recovery in a different way. The substance use epidemic has touched many people in our community, and you have an opportunity to help people collectively heal through your writing. Would you be interested in writing a weekly recovery column for the Vermont News Guide?”

I felt a wave of electric energy pulse through my body as I pondered his offer. From my earliest days in recovery, I had always hoped that I would be presented with the opportunity to tell my story through a public platform. Still, I was afraid that people wouldn’t be willing to listen to a recovering addict with an open mind.

“I’m open to doing it,” I whispered nervously, “I just don’t know if people are going to be able to accept me for who I am.”

After a long moment of silence, my producer replied in a calm and reassuring tone:

“It’s never easy to take a stand for what you believe in, especially when it makes you vulnerable to criticism. As the Vermont News Guide’s publisher, I’ll also be taking a risk by printing this column. I want us to make that leap of faith together, because I think people are ready to hear your story — and know that they are not alone.”

After agreeing to his offer, I hung up the phone and opened up a blank document on my computer screen. As my fingers rested on the keyboard, I remembered the crucial moment when I had first made the decision to face my fears and live life on life’s terms in recovery. I took a deep breath, gathered my thoughts and proceeded to type out the following words:

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