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Location: Northern California

Monday, April 30, 2007


Hurt so green

Cala Lilies: After
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
The anniversary of my fourth month of sobriety came and went last week. To celebrate, I decided to cause myself much pain by doing some work on our patio garden. Halfway through my DIY project, I realized that it had become a metaphor for my sobriety at this point.

See, the planting bed that I decided to revitalize was looking pretty good before I started my project. To many people, it was just fine the way it was. But I knew that it could be better. And I knew that even if nobody else cared, I would very much appreciate the fact that it was better. For one thing, I would like it more. I also knew that this wasn't a project that I wanted to outsource. I wanted to challenge myself. Recovery, sobriety, becoming healthy: some things you have to do the hard way; you have to do them yourself.

Many times during this DIY project I thought about giving up. As I loaded up a Home Depot shopping cart with 160 pounds of bricks, 6 gallon pots of star jasmine, 3 pieces of 24x90 inch trellis, and a pair of gardening gloves, I wondered if I was taking on a task so monumental that it might be impossible. Or just plain stupid. Sometimes I wonder if giving up alcohol was a bad idea. I question whether I made the right decision to give myself this difficult task of living in our crazy world without the most popular anaesthetic known to man.

But when nobody looked askance at my loaded down cart and when two women on two separate occasions helped me navigate it down a crowded aisle and over a nasty bump that threatened to topple the whole thing, I realized that what I was doing was hardly unusual. And in fact, other people have undertaken similar projects and have lived to return to Home Depot, maybe even in order to help me get my cart out of that damn store. Quitting drinking is hard work and it's scary, kind of like navigating a careening cart around a crowded Home Depot. But even though I am the one doing the hard work of quitting drinking--I'm the one steering that cart--sometimes a friend helps me over a bump or through a rough patch.

Today my body aches because two days ago I spent many hours putting up trellises and amending soil, re-building the brick retaining wall, and planting new plants. And despite my current discomfort, my project has a long way to go before its final glory is realized. The trellises are in place and the plants are in the ground, but whether or not the roots will take hold and the vines will grow is up to Mother Nature. All I can do now is fertilize the plants, water them, and protect them from pests and harsh elements. Which is also what I'm doing at this point in my sobriety by nurturing myself and by making sure that people or situations that have the potential to jeopardize my fragile state are kept at bay. At this point, I no longer have my old mechanism (drinking) of dealing with things. Now, I just don't know how to handle situations that aren't right with me. That's something I need to learn. When I've learned how to truly handle life and its trying situations without self-medication, I will consider myself fully-rooted in my sobriety.

This post is at risk for becoming extraordinarily cheesy, but it's also what I've spent the past several days contemplating.