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April 19, 2020

A Raging Wildflower – One Woman’s Growth Against the Odds of Addiction

One of my favorite quotes is “Like wildflowers, you must allow yourself to grow in all of the places people never thought you would.”

As someone who struggles with PTSD, often crippling anxiety, depression, and eventually, an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, this quote has always resonated with me. Over the years, I’ve re-coined it just a smidge to say, “Like wildflowers, you must allow yourself to grow in all of the places YOU never thought you would.” After all, for those of us with mental health and substance issues, self-limiting beliefs is sort of our native tongue, is it not?

Wildflowers thrive, not because of their environment, but in spite of. No one plants wildflowers, prunes them, nor nurtures them. There’s no rhyme or reason to how they end up where they do. They aren’t protected before a winter frost or spritzed during a particularly arid summer. They weren’t gifted intentionally for a special occasion or cooed at in soothing tones like their houseplant counterparts.

They’re simply scattered; Seed kicked up and blown about, until eventually they find a place to land – usually not where they ever planned and often on their own. That’s when one of two things happen: they die off or start a wild, new root system right there. Be it in a patch of mud, between rocks (and hard places), among weeds and wilderness or in spite of bitter weather. Wildflowers learn to trust nature since the whole nurture thing didn’t quite work out. And because the order of the universe provides sunlight and rain on it’s own timetable, they never take the basic meeting of their needs for granted.

Wildflowers are beautiful, though not in the traditional sense. They have a rugged beauty, unique charm, and character that comes from thriving against all odds. They weren’t in anyone’s plans, but their beauty is everywhere, a magnificent tapestry across the topography of the planet – in all of the places no one intended.

I relate to the wildflower in ways that only those who’ve faced ongoing mental health issues may understand. Starved of nourishment, abandoned, constantly in survival mode, scattered and left to the cold more times than I can count, I couldn’t ever seem to find hope or home no matter how hard I tried or who I clung to. Over the years, I coped with PTSD and anxiety by self-medicating until it became desire and desire became need and need became dependence. I didn’t recognize myself, couldn’t figure out how to stop, but also couldn’t cope with daily crippling anxiety without substances. I was in a death spin that I knew was going to end in fiery destruction and still could. not. break. free.

Yet somehow, I sit here today, not just sober, but thriving – joyful, happy, alive.

And beautiful!

I don’t feel beautiful in the way a bouquet of lilies are beautiful: predictable and pristine. More like when you’ve been lost in the wild and you stumble upon a brambleberry bush: sweet, refreshing and maybe a little thorny to the touch. Yet delicate. With tender roots and the emotional structure of a Faberge egg.

Each day is a new and unplanned gift in sobriety. I never know when sunshine and rain are coming and that has to be ok. I have to learn how to navigate life regardless of what’s blowing in from the East. I have to flourish in spite of dry spells and floods. I have to grow.

I went as far as a could before letting substances go. I was nothing but a shell, a hole, a raging, lost coward.

Sobriety was not something I looked forward to, but in only 100 short days, it’s brought back what I thought was gone forever: the soul of a beautiful, raging wildflower.

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