The Garden – A Story of Reflection

As a part of our Alumni Testimonial series, this blog article features a Pavillon treatment alum’s personal story about the unplanned gifts that reflection and simple steps can bring to the recovery journey. 

One night at a 12-Step meeting, someone brought the March 4th reading of the Daily Reflections, titled “Weeding the Garden,” as a topic for discussion. 

As he spoke, I began to reflect on where I was in my own sobriety, which at that time didn’t feel so great. I was thinking it should be better. I should feel more at ease, be less encumbered by the stresses of life, and be further along in my recovery. 

I had, without knowing it, fallen into alcoholic thinking around my “sobriety garden”: 

  • Comparison: Her garden is better than mine. 
  • Expectation: Mine should have been yielding more fruit by now. 
  • Codependency (aka self-centeredness): What do others think of my garden? Do they see how imperfect it is? What do they think of me now?

This flood of entitlement and insecurity was met by a moment of clarity:

  • What about that time I spend each morning working the 10th and 11th steps? 
  • What about all of that time I’ve taken to build my relationship with my higher power? 
  • What about the soil that I have been enriching with these actions and choices? 

Over the years since I took that last drink, I’ve made many changes. I’ve planted some things. I’ve watched parts of myself wither away, and I’ve seen others sprout and grow. I’ve done some pruning and weeding. 

As I thought of this metaphorical garden, I thought about my actual garden. I was known to have the proverbial black thumb. Everything I tried to grow would ultimately die, and eventually I gave up on trying to grow anything. 

In my fourth year of sobriety, I decided to give it another try. 

I did a little research, built an 8×4 garden box in my back yard, and planted watermelon and cantaloupe. And then the miracle occurred: those vines grew! And grew and grew! 

I was so excited! I was so thrilled at the mere fact that they were growing at all that I didn’t even care that no fruit grew. Instead I planted lavender the next year to attract bees, along with peppers, garlic, mint, lettuce and potatoes. That year I learned even more… and with as much delight. 

There was also an unexpected bonus: with jalapenos and peppers growing plentifully, I was able to share with others, filling my cup even more. I experienced child-like excitement watching this garden grow, and curiosity—not comparison or judgment—when something didn’t. 

As I sat in that meeting, I felt a deep knowing as the lesson came. The reason I am enjoying my garden is because I am at peace with whatever I plant there. I have no expectations. I accept that I am learning, and that many factors (most outside of my control) can impact this garden. 

Lack of production does not equate to failure, and sharing always makes more meaning out of whatever I grow. This is a new lens in which to look at my sobriety. My soil is good, and I fertilize it every morning by working the 11th step.

This year, I used my planter box to compost veggie scraps from my kitchen. When it came time to get the garden ready to plant, I discovered budding pumpkins, tomatoes, and apples. What a beautiful metaphor for the unplanned gifts you get in sobriety from taking a few simple actions.