In Vernon Hills, Illinois, outside of Chicago, women in treatment for addiction are gardening to support their recovery. It’s a simple idea, but one that has a lasting impact and that helps these former addicts feel a sense of purpose, to get exercise and to resist the urges to use again. It’s an idea that could spread and be used in other addiction communities to help all types of former addicts find a way through the difficulties of early recovery.
Gardening in Recovery
The patients at the Women’s Residential Services Center at the Lake County Health Department Treatment Center were the recipients of a thoughtful gift last year. The nearby Lincolnshire Garden Club chose the organization for the gift of rose bushes and other flowers. This year, they included more plants and gave the women in addiction treatment a new hobby: gardening. The members of the garden club not only gifted the treatment center with plants, but also worked with the patients to teach them gardening skills. In addition to beautifying flowers, the gardeners started a veggie patch, transforming an outdoor space of grass and concrete into a beautiful landscape. The patients in residence were enthusiastic about the project and the partnership. One woman reported that the gardening helped her forget her problems and her past. Other participants also noticed the relaxing effect and the distraction that gardening provided. They also described the desire to beautify their home at the treatment center, and that it felt good to make improvements to the space and to care for something. Thanks to the development of new skills and the completion of a useful project, the women feel more hopeful and confident.
Importance of Hobbies and Purpose in Recovery
The gardening project at the Lake County treatment center illustrates the importance of finding a new purpose and enjoyable activities for addicts in recovery. Research has shown that developing a balanced lifestyle after addiction treatment, which includes establishing meaningful activities to replace drug use or drinking, is crucial to staying sober. These replacement activities are often hobbies that an addict once enjoyed, but that lost out to drinking or using drugs. An addict in recovery can find a great sense of joy and fulfillment in rediscovering these old interests. New interests are useful, too. Getting involved in and committing to any positive activity is helpful to recovery and avoiding relapse. Gardening is a great activity for addicts in recovery for several reasons. It is a hobby that can act as a distraction and can also provide purpose. It is a useful activity that may give a recovering addict an important sense of purpose and improved self-esteem. Additionally, gardening is a physical activity. Research indicates that new activities are useful in recovery, but so is exercise. The health improvements that addicts get with exercise support sobriety and help to prevent relapse. The women of the Lake County treatment center were fortunate enough to discover gardening, and it will continue to enrich their lives and their recoveries. Because it has proven so successful, the staff hopes to continue the gardening project for future residents. If other facilities and garden clubs could create similar partnerships, many more addicts in recovery could benefit from the joys of gardening.