24 Jul How Gardening Relates to Addiction Recovery
Before Foundry Treatment Center had even opened its doors, Ali Givnish and Kim Brooks began working on the garden. They were hired to grow food to bring into the kitchen, adding a vegetable-rich diet into the healthy lifestyle that the Foundry encourages as part of treatment. The work, and garden, quickly evolved into a labor of love.
We began to incorporate Horticultural Therapy into the program the first year that we accepted participants. Many of life’s lessons can be modeled in the garden – from the meditative monotony of necessary weeding, to the angst of planting the seedlings you’ve cared for all spring, to accepting and adapting to unforeseen setbacks – gardening affords both an opportunity for escape and for interpersonal growth.
It is this self-awareness – along with the exercise, teamwork, and practice of working towards the future for those who come after us – that we encourage participants to embrace. We hope to inspire our participants to find new, healthy habits, and maybe those who aren’t yet, will become life-long gardeners themselves!
Q&A with Horticultural Therapist, Kim Brooks
What do you enjoy most about working with Foundry participants?
It surprises me how much I look forward to and enjoy working with our participants. I never know how the mood will be, and so we take some time to check in with everyone at the beginning of each activity. Sometimes, a participant in the program has never gardened before, or has negative memories associated with it from his childhood. He’ll drag himself outside and will be reluctant to participate. It’s important for us to slow down, chat, and listen, which, in the informal setting of the garden, often puts people at ease and allows them to open up as they get their hands dirty.
The physical activity, and working together towards a recognizable goal, usually changes attitudes. For those who enjoy gardening already, sometimes doing familiar tasks can be comforting in the uncertainty of where they are in their lives. I love seeing the moods lighten over the course of our times together. And, of course, sharing my passion for good, healthy, fresh food is a great reward also!
What would surprise most people about residential treatment?
People who have never been in treatment might be surprised at how close the participants get with each other. In order to move forward towards the new life they seek, they need to go through some heaviness and face some hard truths. In the group setting, everyone is opening up, and getting vulnerable, and there is surprisingly little judgment and a whole lot of support. They really form a new, tightly knit family, even if at the outset they seem to have little in common with each other.
What are you most proud of about your work?
I am proud of my work at Foundry for a couple of reasons. First, it’s not easy to grow food at 7,000 feet elevation on a ranch in Northwest Colorado! But we persevere, and innovate, and are continuously learning and adapting, and we grow some beautiful, tasty food that goes into the kitchen. But, I could do that on any farm…what I am truly proud of is how our team works together to tailor a recovery program that fits for each individual. Not every activity will be a favorite for each person, but we work hard to help our participants find a new healthy lifestyle that they can continue after they leave. Seeing the change in each man from when they start the program to when we say goodbye is truly an incredible thing, and I am lucky to help each participant find his new self.
What does daily wellness/mindfulness look like for you?
Working at Foundry has helped me become a better person as well. I am learning every time I walk into work, and seeking a more honest and open approach to my daily life. I try to remember this as I come home to the busyness of raising two young kids, and all the frustrations that that can bring. And, I can bring what I have learned about relationships into my own, too. I slow down to enjoy the messiness of family life, and encourage my kids to be inquisitive, to think for themselves, and to be kind. I try to do the same.