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Gardening provides a fresh outlook for a former drug addict

Shelley Steeves, reporter
September 30, 2011 — A former addict learns how to take care of a garden -- and how to take care of himself.

Basque gardens in Moncton, New Brunswick
Basque gardens in Moncton, New Brunswick

There's barely a chill in the air.

Yet Jeff Basque feels one down his spine when he thinks about how he got here -- churning up dirt in a community garden.

“I got in some kind of a mess before coming here, cause I was involved in drugs and stuff like that,” Basque said.

This 18-year-old had turned into someone he no longer wanted to be.

“I was a good kid and all, I was just doing bad stuff. I knew I was doing the wrong stuff.”

So after spending months in rehab, Basque headed to Moncton, New Brunswick, to see if he could rid himself of drugs for good.

In Moncton, he took on the huge responsibility of taking care of a community garden.

“We thought a job like this would be great for him,” said Cathy Manuel, associate director of Moncton Youth Residence. “It would be good to be outside, and he is a very personable person too. It would give him a chance to interact with more people.”

But he was nervous. He had never gardened in his life.

He was still struggling with his drug addiction, and the weather was about to make his journey much more difficult.

Gardening helped Basque learn to take care of himself
Gardening helped Basque learn to take care of himself

“We had vegetables that were rotting because of all the rain,” said Manuel. “They were rotting in here, so he was trying to learn about everything all at the same time.”

Basque was frustrated. But his struggles in the garden started to unearth regrets in his own life.

“My mom kicked me out when I was 16, so it was hard a little bit to be able to do that. But it's not her fault, a lot of mom's pass through that kind of stuff.” Basque said. “I think I was pretty rude to my Mom.”

Basque knew he would have to figure out a way to deal with his past -- and the weather.

People were counting on him to make this project work. And even though he was still dealing with his drug addiction, he didn't want to let them down.

And he didn't. Learning how to care for the garden, rain or shine, taught Basque to care for himself. Despite the weather, the project was a huge success.

And while Basque puts this garden to bed for the season, it marks a new beginning for himself -- he's putting his drug addiction to bed with it.

“I think that if I continue to have little goals, one step at a time, day by day, I think this stuff is never going to come back into my life.”

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