Now in its eighth year, the Recovery Idol talent show now has a new winner.

Thousands turned out at the Dell Music Center to cheer on contestants competing to win the first-place honor this year’s face-off.

“There are no words that can describe how I feel,” said Vivian Lewis, whose stunning, winning performance had the audience on their feet in applause.

Recovery Idol contestants are typically recovering from a drug and alcohol addiction. But in Lewis case, neither of those substance abuses were her demon as it was something else that many current and former addicts also face.

“I am living with mental illness and I keep fighting on,” she said.

Lewis, who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, said she attends The Wedge Recovery Center. It was there that she read a sign announcing the Recovery Idol.

“A few times I wanted to give up because it was very hard and a few of the people [contestants] were very talented,” she said.

Lewis’ victory was not a cakewalk as she had to battle through a field of 23 contestants. As the challengers withered, it came down to two finalists — Lewis and Donna Anderson — in the end.

Anderson and Lewis were required to sing several selections before the judges announced a winner. With each round, Anderson had the audience cheering, clapping and at times rising to its feet.

“I’m in recovery for over 21 years and always heard about Recovery Idol,” Anderson said.

Although interested in competing in the talent show, Anderson said she was always late for registration. However, this year was different.

“This year I was able to register on time,” she said. “I just love to sing. I don’t care where I’m at.”

Anderson said she sang often at church, at funerals and at other venues, even the Freedom Theater on North Broad.

Like Lewis, Anderson found Recovery Idol daunting at times, acknowledging she often wanted to quit.

“I pushed through it and got into the finals,” she said.

Lewis took home a $500 first-place prize, a trophy and an invitation to perform at the Penn’s Landing Recovery Walk on Sept. 21. Runner-up Anderson walked away with a $250 cash prize.

“Recovery Idol was conceptualized when I saw a woman who had relapsed and I was thinking of a way we could get her back on track,” said Derrick Ford, who has worked in the field of recovery for 24 years.

The contest began as a fashion show at Community College of Philadelphia and grew into a talent show inspired from the former television show “American Idol.”

“Each year it grows bigger and bigger,” Ford said.

Contact Johann Calhoun at newseditor@phillytrib.com or call at (215) 893-5739

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