• Troy L Love, LCSW

Pulling out a Palm Tree

Over ten years ago, my family moved into a new house. Three young palm trees, each about 12 feet high, grew near the front of my house. My wife and I were not really excited about the palm trees. Our realtor offered to pull them out for free. We chose to leave them because it sounded like a big mess.

As the years went by, my wife and I commented on how much we really didn’t like those trees. But, we continued to tolerate their existence because we just didn’t have the energy to do anything else with them. Instead, we planted some nice flowers around the trees and called it good.

The trees started getting so big they began leaning on our house. Waiting any longer could actually do costly damage. Our procrastination was over. We needed to do something about the trees immediately.

Now, I had dug out some trees in my day. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard. I was uneducated about how palm tree root systems work. There was a network of noodly roots growing underground like buried spaghetti — iron spaghetti even a shovel couldn’t break through easily.

This was going to be a much bigger job than one man could handle. I called up some buddies for help. They showed up with shovels and pick-axes — digging a deep hole around the trees. It didn’t take them long to realize that shovels were not enough.

It took six guys, a pick-up truck, a chain, and two chain-saws to pull out the trees, and seven hours. I surveyed the aftermath. A giant, gaping hole, like a cavity in the back of one’s mouth, lay open in my front yard.

Filling it would require about a ton of dirt. I didn’t own a truck and didn’t want to bother the guy who had just lent his to us for the last four hours. So, the hole sat open. Days turned into weeks. Random piles of trash blew into the hole. Dead leaves blew into the hole. It looked like a miniature dump minus the scavenging birds.

After a few months, My wife asked me what I was going to do with the hole. She didn’t have to remind me of how trashy it made our house look. I borrowed another truck and the restoration process began.

I reflected on this experience and realized that it was a parable for my life in recovery.

Early on in my addictive behaviors, I could have gotten help and the issue been resolved easier. The recovery process would have been simpler, less intensive, and less painful. But I didn’t understand recovery at the time. I decorated my life hoping that no-one would notice just as I decorated our front yard so that trees looked nice among the landscaping.

In the process, I ignored the growing issue hoping that it would resolve itself. Just like the trees, however, my addiction continued to grow. Soon it threatened the safety and emotional well-being of not only me but my family.

I started out trying to root out the problem alone. It didn’t work. I didn’t realize just how deep and snarled the roots had become. I had to reach out for help. There were those who knew what they were doing came to my rescue. They had tools and equipment that I did not have and were willing to use it to help me. I had to surrender to the truth that I needed help.

Once we started making progress in rooting out the addictive behaviors, I realized that there was a hole left behind. There was a hole in my heart. The addiction had been filling up the spaces where the wounds of abandonment, rejection, and neglect had festered. Now that the numbing behaviors had been removed, I had to do something with the hole.

At first, I didn’t want to. Instead, I tried to ignore the hole. Soon it was filled with trash — other versions of numbing. It didn’t look pretty and it continued to affect the well-being of my family. There was still work to be done. And so I began again.

Eventually, the landscape looked different than before. It was filled with beautiful flowers, decorative rock, and colorful foliage. But the work is not done. There is still weeding to do. Removing and replacing plants that die, making sure to add enough water.

I learned a lot from the experience of removing palm trees. I have learned a lot about recovery. I am grateful for those who have been willing to help along the way. I know I could not have done it alone.

© 2020 Troy L Love, Finding Peace Consulting

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