Benjamin Lerner is a recovering addict , composer , writer , musician , and radio host . He has been sober and clean since June 13th , 2016 . In his weekly column , CLEAN , he shares his personal journey - and lessons he has learned from his life in recovery . Benjamin lives in East Arlington , Vermont .
The sound of clattering forks and knives echoed through a large dining room as I dug into a bowl of spicy pasta . I was five years sober , and I was enjoying dinner with a friend from my recovery circle for the first time in several months . I had been so busy preparing for the expected birth of my son that I had neglected to maintain my positive social connections . It felt great to see my friend face-to-face and catch up with him , but I was still fighting feelings of guilt and self-centered fear .
Whenever I had resentments or thoughts of returning to destructive patterns , I turned to him for guidance and support . Sadly , the stressful instability that I had experienced after temporarily moving back into my mother ’ s house had made me ashamed to reach out . I had managed to extricate myself from my anxious state and pick up the phone , and I was grateful to be reconnected with him in my time of need . As we savored our entrees , my friend dropped wise gems about dealing with personal issues in recovery . His affect was cool , calm , and serene , and I felt validated and reassured by his words . Suddenly , the conversation shifted its tone without warning when he asked the following question :
“ I hear you ’ re living at your mom ’ s house again . Do you really think that you ’ re ready to raise your kid if you can ’ t even figure out a decent living situation ?”
I felt a shiver of electric anger pulse through my spine . I had already arranged to move into an apartment of my own , and the move-in date
MIND & BODY
was scheduled for several weeks down the line . Nevertheless , I was taken aback by what I perceived as a tactless affront to my capabilities as an expectant father . I grit my teeth and clenched my fist underneath the table as I readied a scathing retort . Before unleashing my impulsive tirade , I remembered the wise words of another close friend who had guided me in early recovery :
“ Whenever someone poses a question that offends us , the question that we must ask ourselves is why we feel so disturbed by their inquiry . If we look within , we can usually address the root of the insecurities and fears that they have triggered . We can then detach from the illusion of victorious anger – and we can maintain our emotional sobriety regardless of what anyone says .”
After taking a deep breath and clearing my throat , I smiled at my friend and responded in a reserved and even tone :
“ I already have an apartment lined up that I ’ m getting ready to move into next month . I have a lot of doubts and fears about my abilities as a father , but I ’ m doing my best to address those problems by working on my character defects and asking the advice of trusted friends like you . It really hurt to hear you say that you think I ’ m not ready , but I want to learn everything I can . Do you have any advice for how to stay sane as a sober parent ?”
After taking in my response , my friend ’ s face lit up with happiness and surprise . After apologizing for his insensitive question , he continued to speak freely and share his experience , strength , and hope . I heaved a sigh of relief as I scanned the sugary selections on the dessert menu . I had managed to maintain the health of my social connections while standing up for myself and speaking my mind at our dinner . As a result , I didn ’ t just walk away with a clean plate and full stomach - I left the restaurant with a clean slate and a full , grateful heart .
Always remember :
Keep moving forward . Run towards the truth . Don ’ t quit before the miracle happens .
Visit aa-intergroup . org / directory . php for a comprehensive list of online and phone-based AA meetings .
For local meetings visit tpcbennington . org or call 802-442-9700 .
February 26 , 2024 Vermont News Guide 21