For recovering alcoholics, taking a life that is going in a negative direction and turning it around into something positive, is a starting point in the healing process. This is the theme I used for this design when I realized that the site chosen for this project was negative space.
Just as a recovering alcoholic’s life can be rediscovered and reframed as a positive identity, a mature tree was re-framed as a gathering place in the new design. While not beautiful, the tree had character. Shade from older trees cannot be replaced in just a few years, and this tree had a wide canopy. It provided a sense of place, history or heritage.
Many alcoholics were unable to maintain their obligations in society, and they are often viewed as people who cannot be trusted. When they enter recovery, this is a hurdle to overcome because trust takes so long to rebuild. Sometimes it can never be rebuilt. That’s why new paths must be forged to carry on with a normal life again.
A big part of the social support for AA members is in the act of storytelling. It is a way to build community as stories are told and added into the collection of that group’s stories. The individual’s story is absorbed to become part of the collective story of the group that members can relate to and learn from. The group’s stories also help the healing process for recovering alcoholics who have suffered a significant amount of memory loss due to blackouts while under the influence of alcohol. A blackout is a time for which a person has no memory of their time or actions.
The healing garden has proven to be a great place for social interaction within a medical setting and is a strong component for social support. One activity directly related to landscape architecture is horticultural therapy. The sobriety park is designed to be a place where the users can work together to plant and maintain a garden. A sense of ownership is generated while caring for the plants. The garden becomes a part of them while their own history is a part of the garden’s history. When providing input into a space, they take some pride in their work and reap the rewards for their labors. Horticultural therapy can help to develop a sense of accomplishment, ownership and creative expression.
“Gardening combines physical, mental, and emotional involvement and stimulates an interest in the future. What makes horticultural therapy unique is that, unlike most other activity therapies, it is based on a living medium. Caring for a plant is comparable to establishing a contract with that plant. It requires someone with responsibility, time and energy.” (Gough 1986, 165)