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Kristen's Story: My Sobriety, My Garden

I planted my first vegetable garden when I was about two months sober. I was bored and restless in quarantine and needed an outlet, something to do with my hands. I had no idea what I was doing so I scoured the internet for tutorials and advice and tried to learn everything I could about the process. The optimal growing conditions for kale and cabbage vary greatly to those of tomatoes and peppers. Zucchini can flourish without a lot of pruning and weeding while delicate lettuces need constant weeding to keep them from being overtaken by clover and grass.

Certain steps need to be taken to ensure you’ve set your garden up for success, preparing the land not the least of them. “Black Gold,” is what I hauled back from a lawn and garden shop in the countryside where I live. Two year old compost, rich and fertile, filled with nutrients and food for my plants was tilled efficiently into the ground and turned twice again. I carefully planned out my garden plots, placing compatible vegetables alongside each other to increase their chances of survival. Broccoli is surprisingly friendly with pickling cucumbers and if you plant a row of dill in between the rows of cukes, your pickles will sing.

After I’d decided the layout, it was time to plant. Sewing seeds is a holy process. I spent the better part of a day on my knees, in the dirt, and talking to God. “Please let this little seed sprout,” “Please let at least one stalk of corn grown above my waist,” and “Please don’t let all this work be in vain.” Then you water and you wait. You pick the weeds, you water, and you wait some more.

Well, the squirrels got the corn but that’s my fault. (There’s a reason why cornfields are miles long.) However, after about a month I walked out one morning after a particularly hard rain and saw a dozen or more bright green sprouts, an inch or two above the earth and nearly wept with gratitude. It was quite honestly one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen. Something I had planted had grown. Something I had watered had blossomed.

That summer my garden grew bigger than the humble fence I had posted around it and before the end of July I was feeding my family fresh salad and roasted vegetables that I picked myself. That garden had become the living, breathing account of my early sobriety journey. Some days were better than others, and some days I’d wake up to find slugs had taken out a whole row of broccoli or an entire tomato plant overnight. Nonetheless, I’d curse at the sky for a minute and get back to work on what remained. I started to see the garden as a metaphor for my body, my spirit really. If I cared for it gently and intentionally, it grew strong. If I skipped a few too many days of watering it went a bit limp. What I put in I got out. Storms passed over, droughts hit hard, and predators were everywhere, but, we were resilient.

I’m proud to say I’ll be planting my second ever vegetable garden this year at one year and two months sober. If you are thinking of getting sober or cutting out something toxic from your life, I highly recommend growing your own food and getting your hands dirty. If that’s not possible for you this year maybe just talking to God on your knees for the better part of a spring afternoon will help, too.

You can connect with Kristen at @creativesobriety.

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