Guest post by Charlie Baulm
Farming: Rich soil, bright sunshine, and … addiction recovery? Strange as it may sound at first, people are farming to help them recover from alcohol and drug abuse. When you learn “why,” their reasons make a lot of sense. Whether it be to build a sense of community as in the past with communal farming or a new wave of Green Care Therapy, the benefits of farming as a form of therapy is trending up in America.
Farming and Community
Many addicts cite feeling lonely and different as the main reason why they used drugs or alcohol. Working with others in therapy, to realize they are not alone, is a great way to help them accept their addiction and flaws, but that can only do so much. To actually work with a team of others to contribute to something bigger than themselves shows addicts in recovery the many benefits of team building as well as gives them a sense of purpose.
Getting back to the Earth is nothing new. Hippies and members of the counterculture created communal farms as part of their communes in the 1960s and 1970s. They created the farms to be self-sustaining in the hopes of creating a new type of society.
Communal farms have long been popular in other areas of the world. In the Middle East, a kibbutz is a type of community that started in Palestine (now Israel) in the early 1900s. Early kibbutzim (the plural form of kibbutz) featured communal farms, but many are now privatized and feature other sources of revenue, including manufacturing.
These communes and kibbutzim encourage people to explore their spirituality. The communities recognize that farming is physical work that can touch various aspects of a person’s life. Working outside can provide ways to engage with this spirituality. According to community gardener Fred Bahnson, “To grow and share food with others in a garden is to enter a holy country.”
Farming and Spirituality
Other programs connect farming to spirituality. Some also address other concerns, such as the needs of people who have struggled with drug or alcohol abuse.
Participants in such programs have said that farming is like meditating and appreciated the fact that they could see and enjoy the products of their hard work. Organizers of such programs said that farming teaches valuable job skills that can help people find jobs and improve their lives. It is also a way to give someone who struggles with drug and alcohol abuse a sense of responsibility and structure which tend to be lost after years of drug and alcohol abuse.
Farming and Recovery from Addiction
While farming and agricultural pursuits might be an alternative to rehab, sometimes rehab facilities themselves incorporate farming in their treatment programs. Some rehab centers have on-site farms or have partnered with farms in their areas. Other facilities encourage people in treatment to take care of animals, such as horses or dogs.
At these facilities, clients undergo detox and participate in therapy and sobriety support group meetings, much as they would at more traditional rehab centers. But, these facilities also encourage residents to help care for the farms and the animals that live there. This gives the patients a sense of purpose and can even be an introduction to a new hobby or even a new career after leaving treatment.
Such treatment might help a person with a dual diagnosis, a condition in which the person has both a mental illness (such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, an eating disorder) along with a drug or alcohol addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment centers treat both the mental illnesses and substance abuse of their patients so that one condition does not influence the other. This can only do so much as people enter back into the real world after treatment and still need to find ways to cope with their triggers for drug abuse as well as their mental health.
People believe that farming can encourage spirituality and provide help from addiction by allowing people to shift their focus. Instead of concentrating on their own addictions and problems, working in the soil or caring for animals allows people to focus on their tasks. This focus could boost people’s self-esteem when they complete those tasks. So many struggle to see something through, and when they do, it can greatly impact how they feel about themselves. It could provide them with a sense of purpose, which might help them with their treatment and their ongoing recovery.
Farming enables people to contribute to society, encourages them to explore their spiritual natures, and serves as a therapy in their healing. Digging in the ground, feeding horses, and performing other tasks can help people recover from substance abuse and rebuild their lives. There is nothing better than completing a hard day’s work, although the physical labor can be tough, the sense of accomplishment a person can get from farming is a great motivational factor.