A planted seed requires nurturing from a number of sources to survive. Growing a beautiful garden is not always a smooth path. It requires discipline and investment. But gardening is also one of earth's ways of giving us the satisfaction in seeing the fruits of the labor that's been put into it.
When Virginia Franklin saw her sister's garden flourishing, she knew Becky was clean.
Becky Burrell had lived much of her adult life fighting drug addiction. After her first husband died, a friend helped by providing the drugs she needed to ease her pain. Soon after, they were married, and Becky was deep into her addiction. "He got so high that it was heck for me," Becky remembers.
In 2008, Becky and Virginia's father passed away. "That was the last time we seen each other," Virginia says. "I couldn't deal with her drug use... She turned into a different person. She wasn't the sister I grew up with." Virginia and Becky cut ties. Becky spiraled out of control, spending 5 out of 7 days a week high. Finally, one day she decided she'd had enough. "I wanted to stay clean. I went to a shelter and started to get cleaned up."
Becky found herself living in a shelter where strict rules were put in place to help people like her break their addictions. There were four people to a room, random drug tests were administered often, and each resident had responsibilities throughout the shelter.
About a year and a half into her time at the shelter, and a year of sobriety, Becky's counselor referred her to Partners in Housing. She was sober, stable and looking to have a more independent life. "They want you to stay as clean as possible (at Partners in Housing). As long as you're clean and don't do nothing wrong, you can stay there," Becky says.
She spent the next year and a half settling into her new life as a resident of Partners in Housing. "I love the support I get from them," she says. Here she found community with her neighbors—an extended family and support system that she had lost years before. The property's recreation room is a common meeting place amongst neighbors, a community haven for conversation and bonding. "We go into the rec room every Tuesday and Thursday. We check on each other. When I'm short of food, I can ask them. When they're short, they ask me."
As Becky began to heal, she asked Partners in Housing if she could start a garden on the property. Becky was raised by a mother who loved to garden, and she longed to reconnect with her roots by nurturing her very own flowers and garden. "Partners in Housing paid for it all," Becky says. "They were supportive and basically just asked me where I wanted to do it!" Soon, Becky had both a vegetable and flower garden to tend, and has been doing it for the last two years. "I go there every day," she says. "If I tell people I'll be out there, I'll be out there. People come out just to talk. It gives me purpose and something to focus on every day."
In the summer of 2013, Virginia’s son reached out to Becky and began to visit with her regularly. "I wasn't sure it was time to see her yet," Virginia says. They had been disconnected for nearly five years. "Sometimes it takes time and distance for loved ones to realize this is for the best," Virginia says.
One day Virginia's son showed her a picture of Becky's garden. "When I’d seen a picture of her garden, I knew she was back." She decided to go with her son on one of his visits with Becky. "He brought her over here and it freaked me out!" Becky says. After five years of being estranged from each other, when Becky saw Virginia on her doorstep, both were overwhelmed with emotion. "We hugged and we cried," Virginia says.
"She was happy! She was laughing again! And I knew with the gardening… that's what gave us our Becky back," Virginia says. "That was our mom. When I seen a picture of her garden, I thought, 'mama taught her well!' Seeing that, I knew she was back. That's all I wanted."
Becky's been clean for over four years and feels better about life now more than ever. "All I look forward to is staying clean," Becky says.
Virginia credits Partners in Housing to Becky's sobriety. "Partners in Housing just seemed to make everything click for her."
Through the drug abuse, death of family and friends, separation from her sister and her family, Becky weathered the storm of life. She was introduced to an organization in Partners in Housing that was willing to help her. Her community and neighbors helped heal her and help her grow into who she's become today. Her journey hasn't been smooth. But similar to a well-tended garden, Becky is now strong. She's stable and self-sufficient. She's reunited with her sister and continues her life of sobriety. "It's better for me now," Becky says. "I've been through all that stuff. Now I've got the pride to stand up again."