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The Tenacity of a Tulip
Lessons from an Unlikely Source
About twenty-four years ago, I was raking the last of the winter leaves from the yard of the recovery home I opened and ran.
The leaves were dried up, torn, and stuck together with the last remnants of snow. When I got down to bare earth, I saw a tiny green shoot barely breaking the surface of the ground. It gave me pause.
I saw how tenacious a tulip was. That longing, if you will, to grow, to fight for survival and thrive; to blossom and show itself in all its splendor and beauty.
Still, it is not without struggle. Imagine; buried under layers of dirt, starting life as a seemingly lifeless bulb; certainly with potential, yet conditions had to be right. Enough water, just the correct amount of sunlight, and then experiencing the shedding of the outer casing and sending out shoots into the unknown in the hopes that it would flourish.
Analogies for Us and the Tulip
Each of us is born with a potential to be all that we can be. We each have talents, limitations, strengths and weaknesses.
I heard about my potential from my father; not in a derogatory way, yet over the years, there was more sadness in his voice when he spoke of mine.
I was simply still in the bulb stage of my existence. Then drugs and alcohol fueled me, and I became more like a distorted version of all that I could be.
Driven by hundreds of character defects, shortcomings, and self-serving motives, I became the worst version of my potential. Not a beautiful flower but an insidious blight, overtaking and smothering those I cared about in my life.
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Second Chances and Renewal
In 1988, my employer cared enough about me to have an intervention. However, I would not have made a good candidate for the show of the same name; I caved when I saw the four by six index cards.
Imagine if you will, the office of the president of a small southern women’s college, replete with all of the requisite diplomas and pictures of important people.
Soft, subdued lighting, and normally, a place, where if invited to participate in a meeting, was an honor.
On this day, five deans and the president all looked exceedingly uncomfortable; shuffling their feet, looking at one another for guidance and perhaps a measure of strength.
I took this in and processed what was about to happen. I knew that each of them had their evidence of my misconduct - drunken exhibitions in the dorm reported by students. Or, variations on my disrespect when I would bring Bailey’s Irish Crème to my classes in an overly large coffee cup, sipping through the lectures.
I did not have the courage to hear what I knew they would tell me about my behaviors. Within two minutes, I quietly said, “What do you want me to do”?
The collective audible sigh from these six people seemed to set the pace for the next phase. I would have until 8 PM that night to check myself into treatment. They had given me the ultimatum and it was up to me to follow through.
“The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid. And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.” ― Daniel Abraham, The Price of Spring
Treatment Works: Then and Now
Twenty-six years ago, there were only limited options. My medical problems from my Xanax use and daily alcohol consumption meant that I needed a three-week detox, followed by three additional weeks of intense treatment. I know that without this nurturing, safe and locked facility, I would have relapsed and never achieved all that I have.
I would encourage anyone who is struggling with an addiction, to inquire about all of the many methods, philosophies, and modalities for treatment today, as well as the many types of recovery support meetings.
Tulips Multiply and Continue to Grow
There is another interesting thing about tulips and recovery. Tulips reproduce additional bulbs, spreading their flowers.
I closed the recovery home in 2011 after twenty-one years. I stay in contact with many of the graduates, and all are familiar with the message of the tulip.
They in turn have spread the message of recovery from Georgia to California.
Closing the house has also allowed me the time to write about the experiences of addiction and recovery; another way to populate the world with the realities of recovery.
I am grateful for the many avenues I now have to reach just one person. I can let them know that redemption, renewal, and recovery allows us to change, grow and become all that we were meant to be; finally, living up to potential.
“Sometimes you only get one chance to rewrite the qualities of the character you played in a person's life story. Always take it. Never let the world read the wrong version of you.” ― Shannon L. Alder
© 2013 Marilyn L Davis