Jadav Payeng, an Indian man who is the star of a short documentary, named “Forest Man.” He’s the living example of how a daily practice can transform the world. His venture started after walking home from class one day in the early ’70s when he saw dozens of dead snakes. The local forest was suffering due to deforestation from local builders; the snakes had washed ashore in a flood and died in the hot India sun without tree coverage to recover in the shade. Seeing the dead snakes, he decided to do something; although he started small, his actions would eventually have an outsize impact on the world around him. Jadav went and got 50 seeds from a neighboring village and 20 bamboo sprouts which he planted. Every day for the next 37 years, he continued planting trees and various plants in the sand and silt. Rain or shine, monsoon, personal issues, whatever life threw his way Jadav continued to do his daily practice.
Those 50 seeds and bamboo sprouts and other trees have grown into 1,360 acres of dense forest. Payeng grew a forest in a desolate area and in terrible condition, an area beforehand that was a vast desolate desert. With love, dedication, and a commitment to his daily practices, he managed to regrow an entire forest. The Molai Forest is now home to 5 Royal Bengal tigers, over 100 deer, wild boars, and various species of birds. The forest is even home to a herd of 115 elephants for about 3-4 months during the year.
How Does This Relate to Recovery from Addiction?
When most of us enter recovery, we represent the barren wasteland. We are hopeless and on the verge of certain death. We have waved a white flag, and we surrender to placing our lives into the care of something or someone else. We start attending meetings and clear our bodies of substances. We are offered a small reprieve, like the small amount of shades those first plants offered. The seeds were still planted in less than spectacular conditions, and we aren’t in the best condition when we first enter the fellowships or treatment.
If Jadav had just planted the seeds and cared for them for 30 days then left, what would have happened to them? They would have wilted, died and the wasteland would have returned as if nothing was planted. It’s the same for those entering recovery. When we go to treatment for 30 days and start to feel better, we have those seeds of hope planted in us. We must nourish them for more than 30 days or 60 days if we want something to flourish inside of us. That is why long-term treatment is so highly recommended. It gives you a longer time in a controlled environment where you can tend to your recovery. We must feed our recovery every day just as you must tend to a plant for its entire life.
Daily Practices are how we Maintain Recovery
Jadav continued to plant trees and various plants and tends to the forest every day even after 37 years. If he leaves the forest unattended, the animals that call it home are poached, and his cattle will suffer because they rely on him. We have to treat recovery the same way. If you’re praying every day, attending a 12-step meeting, doing step work and talking to another alcoholic or addict, doing service within the fellowship and maintaining your spiritual condition, you are continuously feeding your recovery. When we begin to ease up on these essential aspects of recovery, our sobriety forest begins to wilt.
We can immediately see the effects of even a few days of lacking in our recovery program. We can quickly become restless, irritable, and discontent over the smallest of things. These simple practices are especially important to remember in the beginning; we must tend to our recovery every day. Without doing these simple practices, we will revert to the barren wasteland. It is a continuous journey in recovery to grow a beautiful life, and a life beyond our wildest dreams is possible. As long as we keep planting the seeds of our recovery daily, tending to them carefully, we too can turn the desolate wasteland of addiction into a flourishing forest of recovery.