Sober Plant

I have killed every house plant I ever owned. Except one.

When I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 years sober, my sponsor gave me a beautiful little plant. It has since burgeoned into a thriving monstrosity. I named it “Sober Plant” and it has survived multiple moves and other various and sundry forms of abuse. Sober Plant is an excellent communicator; it droops dramatically when thirsty and perks up like a stretching cat when satisfied.

Soon after my wedding in July, I was mortified to discover that Sober Plant’s soil was growing mushrooms. Though they were little, they were insidious. When plucked from their newfound home, they filled our apartment with an earthy stench that made me gag. I sent in my braver, stronger stomached wife to finish digging them out. She did, bless her heart.

Despite taking measures to extract the contaminated soil, the mushrooms grew back. Then they exploded and spread their nasty spores all over Sober Plant. I researched anti-fungal remedies but most were not guaranteed to work. I worried that Sober Plant might not be savable.

Truth be told, I’ve always seen Sober Plant as a kind of living metaphor for my sobriety. And truth be told, my sobriety has been feeling kind of stagnant. Don’t get me wrong. My life is incredibly blessed. But I have been skimming along doing the bare minimum to stay sober and grow as a woman of grace. I have struggled with this “bare minimum” complex over the years. As a result, I turn into a dry drunk or I become restless with complacency. You may have heard the saying “Alcohol (drug of choice, compulsive behavior, etc) is but a symptom of the disease”. This is certainly true for me. I have a brain that is wired to deal with life in a maladaptive way. Recovery is a conscious decision and subsequent effort to engage in a complete rewiring. When I stop rewiring, my brain stays stuck, or worse, reverts to old wiring. If toyed with, this old wiring could start a fire.

Complacency creates the perfect environment for “mushrooms” to grow in my sobriety. When I think I have this disease in the bag, I am in trouble. It is waiting for any opportunity to kill me. (When I honestly admit “why” I used substances, it’s because I wanted to be unconscious, unfeeling, emotionally “dead”). Every “mushroom” in my “plant” brings me one step closer.

By now, you all probably think I’m a little crazy (guilty as charged). When you start empathizing with your house plant, it might be a good time to take stock and take action – which is exactly what I did. Does anyone remember the week of the Blue Moon? It was absolutely magical. Doors opened and I intuitively knew I should walk through them. I wasn’t taking small risks either. I quit my job (again) and took a position that allowed me to work part time.

Now you probably think I’m even more crazy. My house plant gets gross and the moon gives off a little lunar energy and suddenly I’m quitting my job (again!) only WEEKS after getting married? (Did I mention my wife is a rock star?)

Yup, that’s the long and short of it.

Recovery has taught me how to trust myself and to recognize when the timing of the Universe is aligned with my intentions. When these two things are in alignment, I know I am doing the right thing. Wildly enough, the more I take these risks, the more success I have.

My life before sobriety was driven by fear. My life in recovery is driven by faith.

Let me explain without metaphor and generalization:

I don’t think I understood quite how stressed out I was at work until after I left. Less than two weeks after my resignation became effective, someone said “You look more relaxed than you have in months”.

Let me reiterate the stance I have taken in the past: I am not here to burn bridges. I needed to have that experience and I am immensely thankful for the opportunity. I had to do so many things that made me uncomfortable and, as a result, my confidence level increased one hundred percent. And I learned. Oh, boy, did I learn.

But here’s the thing: the helping profession will chew you up and spit you out. You either have to be okay with that or you need to find something else to do. That’s not to say that I don’t ever want to work in the helping profession again. I care about people and I’m willing to take a little of the chewing up and the spitting out; I just refuse to endure it to the total detriment of my well being.

I left first and foremost because it was the self caring thing to do. However, I also left because I had a whole lot of “something else” weighing heavily on my heart. I needed to create some space to explore it.

When I was a sophomore in High School, I took a grainy black and white photo of carnations in the snow. I was never the same again.

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They say it physically hurts an artist when he or she is not able to engage in the process of his or her choice. I can definitely attest to that and I finally did something about it. I created space. I started a photography business. I designed a logo, launched a Facebook page, ordered business cards, and now I dedicate my free time to creating a quality portrait portfolio.

Most of my life I received messages about what I “should” do. I “should” hold down a job whether I like it or not. I “should” have a certain kind of job. Success is measured by salary and stature. Taking care of myself was supposedly “selfish”.

Today I measure success in peace of mind. I was born with certain intrinsic skills. When I ignore them, I am being dishonest with myself. When I am dishonest, I am unhappy.

Though I mention this last, it certainly is not least. After quitting my job, I joined an intensive group in my recovery program of choice in order to do “the work”. It’s going to help me grow and keep my recovery fresh. It’s going to help me look at some of my surviving maladaptive patterns and do something about them (I am going to look at why I keep finding myself in toxic job situations but I have a feeling I already solved the mystery… see aforementioned dishonesty with self). One of the chief things I hope to work on is my hatred for alcohol. My reasons for hating it are certainly understandable but I do not attract others to sobriety with bitterness and contempt.

What I have essentially done over the last seven weeks is repot my plant. And that’s what we did to Sober Plant, too. We bought Sober Plant a new pot and a new bag of soil. We rinsed its leaves and its roots. We put it in a whole new window. When we went on vacation, our neighbor lovingly cared for it (I’m not sure what she did, but Sober Plant came back looking like it had been at a spa for a week). Sober Plant is mushroom free and has never looked better.

I still have a way to go before I feel like Sober Plant and I are on par with each other. I need to go to the doctor for my bad foot. The dentist and I have a long overdue date. I’ve had the phone number of a new therapist for months. My meditation mat has become a laundry station. However, I feel like it’s unfair not to acknowledge my progress. I’ve made my recovery a priority. I’ve aligned my spirit with the intention of the Universe. For the first time in a long time, I’ve been able to bake from scratch and finish an entire book. I’ve cleaned out years of burdensome paperwork and unused possessions. I’ve made space to stretch toward the sun.

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