Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garden Triggers

Once upon a time, I LOVED to garden.  Now I only LIKE to garden.  And that is totally fine.

Back in the day, in my ongoing quest to have my outsides look perfect, my yard had to be spectacular.  Like all things, I learned as I went.  In our first house, we had beautiful gardens. But, because I had way too many kids, we had to move and I had to start all over again.  Which was totally fine for me.

Until my addiction got to a place where I would never leave the house, I gardened (in the summer, duh) like a madwoman.  I would google plants, drive anywhere to get that "one kind" of perennial, I had drawn out plans, and I obsessed.  I would dig up whole parts of the yard and plant thirty plants in one afternoon.  I would work morning till night.  Weeding and fertilizing and replanting, and splitting up and work, work, work.  I wore headphones and felt like superwoman.  Pretty weird for an addict/alcoholic to go so overboard right?

My yard looked perfect.  A little coke or meth or diet pill and you can spot a weed from 1/2 mile away and not give up until it's done PERFECTLY.  For me, it was magical.

Once I got to a place where outside became too scary, I took many years off.  I just let it go.  Not able to muster up the "give-a-shit" (as John MacDougall, from Hazelden, always says) to care.  I would walk out the front door in the spring/summer, wanting to be able to WANT to garden, and feeling like a failure, because I knew I was too sick.  Seeing the grass jump the rock boarder hurt.  Watching the Creeping Charlie replace all of my grass made me really want to crawl into a hole and hide.  It was a constant reminder of how bad my life got.

Not to mention, my neighbors must really think we are assholes because of our shitty yard, right?  Oh, wait, probably more because of the "fuck you" screams coming through the windows from days gone past.  But I'll get to that another day.

This year, finally, I decided to get back out to the yard and see what I could save.  It wasn't as much fun and I didn't have as much energy.  I didn't care about every weed and didn't feel like splitting up the plants.  I really only have the attention or care to do it for an hour or so at a time.  And that is okay.

I am surprisingly triggered by this activity.  One part of me loves to do it.  But the other part, the addict in me, knows what would make the job easier.  And I DON'T want to get stuck there.  So the recovering addict in me knows how to play that tape all the way through, and see what will happen if I give in to that nagging little addict.

The warm weather, the yard work, the smell of summer, are all triggers for me.  But I know that triggers happen.  And I can acknowledge them, and move on.  I won't be afraid of that feeling, because I have to be aware and realistic.  I can work through it with my people and I will be fine.

So, I just garden a little at a time.  It looks a LOT better than it has in years..  It doesn't look as good as the perfectionist in me thinks it should.  But the life that goes with it is for sure, much better.

This isn't a sober garden, I'm afraid.  But very nice.  To me it is beautiful and ugly at the same time. 

This is a sober garden.  Not as good, but so much better.

Please comment and share this if you would.  I like to hear what you say.  Even it you want to say I suck.  Let me know.  


  1. I think when someone goes through something, it does something to a person. You have lived a lifetime in a short time at your young age and recovery is saving you. In your darkest hour, you still had the sense to ask for help so that's still did not lose yourself completely. I would not have understood this whole thing if I hadn't gone through depression the last couple years. (Although my lifetime problem with overeating also helps me to understand compulsive behavior.) And even though the depression was not really a severe depression, but it was bad enough for me and I went to my doctor and went on antidepressants. Now I am ready to go off the meds and I will tell him when I see him in July. That's why I can't imagine the hell you've been through. My drepression setback was nothing compared to your problem but for me, it was bad enough and now I feel I am coming back but I don't believe I will ever be the same. Also I notice age makes me feel different but in a good way that I have to get use to so I don't know why I got depressed. Anyway your blogs are interesting and scary....and I hope scary enough to help people not to follow the same path. Love from Linda

  2. Well, if you feel better, you should stay on the meds. Your brain chemistry changes throughout your life and you may need them. It is chemical, so that is the reason you got depressed. It has nothing to do with who you are or anything like that. Addiction is also a brain disease. My hope for this blog is not to scare anyone off of drugs. Because nothing scares an addict. The reason I share is to try and take away the shame of addiction and show that recovery is possible. I am not sorry for anything that has happen to me, I am sorry for the people I hurt, but that is their story too.

    Thanks for sharing too!! Don't feel bad if you need to stay on your meds. Love you!!

  3. I love your insight on the cycle of perfectionism/shutdown. I've experienced the same things with depression and substance abuse. There's something very rewarding about striving for perfection. The reality is, it means nothing when it's all smoke and mirrors.

  4. Betsy,

    I definately think the sober garden is much more beautiful than the non-sober! There is so much more of the real you in the sober garden!!!

    Also, Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am reading every day and then re-reading some more. There is so much each person can take away and apply to their own lives. I so know how it is to appear "perfect", but then when the doors's scary to see what really happens. Please keep are a tremendous blessing to all who know you!

  5. Wow, so nice of you. Thank you so much.

  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE this line:
    So the recovering addict in me knows how to play that tape all the way through, and see what will happen if I give in to that nagging little addict.
    Learning to "play the tape all the way through" is such an important tool for recovering addicts. Thank you for reminding me.
    You are able to communicate things you are going through in an unbelievable way. The way that you look at things is really unique, and I just can't tell you how much I've enjoyed reading about your experiences. I'm working on the balance thing as well. I love the sober garden, and everything it represents. Trying to look perfect on the outside while dying on the inside would be such a waste of your beautiful life.

    1. Thank you so much for all of your kind words. I am glad you understand and enjoy reading my stuff. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed this. It was walked me through many things, even so early in the blog world, and sorted some of my own recovery out. It means a lot that people get it and accept it. We have to make this disease normal, so people can get help without shame. Thanks again. You mean a lot.

  7. In the first picture, you have everything lined up in perfect little rows so no one can tell you're out of control on the inside. But as you gain control of your inside, your outsides (your gardens) are much less rigid and more natural.

    I can see that in your garden. But all I see in mine, is dirt and dead flowers. Funny how we can be more forgiving of others than we can be of ourselves, huh?

    thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Thank you for reading. And yes, I am my own worst critic.