Building a Community for People in Recovery from Addiction
People recovering from addictions who can manage stress through the experiential therapy of Horticultural Therapy gardening have better outcomes for longer-term wellness. Stress management is imperative for people in recovery to be able to function successfully (manage their family life, jobs, college/trade schools) after leaving our addiction treatment program. Keeping up this health practice after treatment ends will ensure that these stress-relieving measures help patients maintain sobriety in their new healthier lifestyle.
The following testimonial from our alumna, Sally R., helps justify the need for our gardening therapies:
- I was a patient of NDFW in 2009 having struggled with compound challenges of addiction, depression, PTSD and anxiety. My life was quickly fizzling away toward death, when I was advised to fly clear across the country to New Directions for Women with the possibility of saving my life.
- I quit arguing, and flew to an unknown place called Costa Mesa, and unknown people. I could write a book about all the kind, caring women I met, lessons learned, and hopes rekindled, yet a few miracles stood out. One such miracle was a small garden which needed quite a bit of work, but glowed with the beauty of some living blooms which to me represented my chance to re-bloom was real and possible.
- Now I know what it takes to support a garden, and it means work, but when I was given the opportunity to put on gloves and get messy in the dirt, my whole soul smiled. I took orders on what I was to do and how. I fully engaged in preparing the soil so the plants could have the best chance at life. After all, that was all I wanted too. In my work, I began to see the metaphors in a garden; metaphors for all of life, from preparation, to planting, to pruning, supporting, photographing, cultivating, and beginning again in fresh soil. I saw the constant dance of clearing or making space, and creating and allowing for something new to breakthrough. This was recovery in a nutshell. We release the old broken habits, so we can build new health and positive creations.
- Our small group would meet in the garden with many faces. Some dreaded getting messy and being told what to do. Some just wanted to be outside, but groaned at the prospect of work. Others sang, shared, and told stories of good times. Little by little, the positive energy rubbed off on those who needed it most, and over time, a caring sense of community arose as we gathered to check on our little blooms daily. Horticultural therapy is now a well documented technique for building community, and recognizing the awesome resilience of life when given healthy chances.
New Directions for Women provides so much positive ground for women of all ages to regrow themselves. Our small garden is where I found healing so visible, tangible, and interactively therapeutic. I only hope that others have the same chance to experience the garden.