In the past two years, I've become quite the apartment gardener. I started with a few mangy succulents from Jewel-Osco, a pretty fern I dug up from an alley, and a gift of three yonic-looking lithops (or "living stones") from my boyfriend. At that phase of my Chicago life, I had gotten laid off, enjoyment from drinking had plateaued and I had virtually no money. I needed a hobby bad.
In my garden-level apartment, which we'd eventually flee when it became overrun with fuzzy green mold, it was a relief to be able to cultivate something tender and pretty. As much as I preened and fretted, the discount foliage I bought from the grocery store required minimal tending. Like me, it was happiest when left alone.
Sadly, the lithops were tragically murdered by an upstairs neighbor, who dumped a cooler over our deck and drenched them beyond repair. (That same neighbor was threatened by a mystery man late one night and moved out the next morning. Serves him right, eh?!)
When Kyle and I moved to our new apartment, my plants multiplied. While I'm guilty of spilling soil in the sink from time to time, I haven't counted but I'd guess that I have close to a dozen unique succulent varieties. I have two hardy shamrock plants that keep getting too big for their pots. Because Kyle complained that plants were taking over the apartment, the two rescue poinsettias (now just big green leaves instead of red blooms) are thriving on our back porch.
On days like today, where I'm home bound because I literally can't afford to go out, I like to carefully inspect my garden. The curling, finger-like tendrils of the fern, the deceptively sharp hairs of the old man cactus and the tiny sempervivum babies sprouting from the rocky soil make me marvel at nature's weirdness. The giant, deep purple "black knight" (now sprouting a small baby) is my latest acquisition and I fuss over her every day or two. I dream of one day owning the alien-looking haworthia cooperi.
I don't always nail it - the weary-looking spider plant got too hot and is scorched in places, my beloved dragon plant is perpetually losing leaves and the baby aloe is always near death - but usually I manage to keep things lush and green. I haven't missed the obvious - that the healthier I get as a newly sober person, the more capable I am of tending to these plants. Investing in myself has been life-changing, but I'm not out of the woods yet.
In addition to going to meetings, consulting with my new sponsor, reaching out to sober friends and journaling, tending to these little creatures is just one more thing that keeps me sober. If I have a garden to water, my desire to of wake up tomorrow increases a little. Kyle's only rule now is that I cannot bring more plants home until I make space for them. Today, I bought a new shelf.