My parents introduced me to many amazing things in my childhood. They would take my siblings and I to spiritual meetings every week, and we enjoyed gardening together as a family. My childhood was filled with fun meetings with like-minded spiritual people and time jumping off compost boxes, eating snap peas, and trying to beat my brothers to the best strawberry.
As a young adult, I neglected my spirituality and my gardening, turning instead to substances. Through my own recovery, I regained my childhood passion for spirituality and gardening. Turning a seed into something beautiful is a daily commitment. It is easy to read the parallels between the slow and careful nurturing of life in a garden, and the slow and careful path of recovery.
Here are some of the things I found in gardening that helped me in my own personal recovery:
1. Just 15-20 minutes of sun boosts Vitamin D levels, which in recovery is really important for the immune system as it helps with calcium absorption, something that is easily depleted in any sort of addiction. Vitamin D also helps with neuromuscular system!
2. It’s a TOTALLY fun way to exercise and meditate at the same time. I have time to meditate and reflect while I’m sweating out toxins in my greenhouse. Sweating helps organs regain homeostasis and return to vital health. Raking, hoeing, shoveling, digging – these all increase heart rate, tones muscles, and toxins are removed. For me, this is spiritual meditation and hard work, and it also means better sleep at the end of the day.
3. Seeing the results of my hard work creates purpose and a sense of wellbeing. Gardening also teaches patience, which is often something that’s lost in addiction. This is not something the produces immediate gratification, which too many alcoholics and addicts are used to. This is a waiting game, and a very gratifying one!
4. Reaping the benefits of enjoying and sharing fresh produce with friends and family! For me, growing and selling produce helps with environmental responsibility. It also creates a spiritual gratitude of being able to reap what we sow.
5. The process of gardening can also apply to relapse prevention. Ideally, every seed that goes into the ground becomes a prosperous plant or flower, but that doesn’t always happen. This doesn't mean it’s a failure. With continued vigilance, maintenance, and hard work, you can get back on track. Honesty, and a positive spiritual attitude will get you to the place you need to be – both in gardening and in recovery!
Gardening is one of the most calming, satisfying, accessible activities to adopt. Witnessing a garden that you’ve nurtured turn into a vibrant ecosystem is phenomenally rewarding. Working with nature helps put life in perspective - the best way to take care of yourself is to is to care for something else! So get to digging!
- Ashley Mcauliffe is a restaurant, food, and horticultural concierge hoping to teach the world to self-sustain! She is a frequent spiritual presenter at The Foundry.