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Oxford Treatment Center’s paths and patios reflect recovery’s journey, offer therapeutic tool

Lucy Schultze

Oxford Treatment Center

From the early hours of morning, Bill Hewitt crouched down on his hands and knees, pulling jagged pieces from piles of rubble and fitting them like a puzzle on the forest floor. The owner of a landscaping company in Franklin, Tenn., Hewitt employs more than a dozen people. But this was a job he had to do alone.

“My crew knows how to make things look nice,” he says. “But this project was different. It reflects the brokenness you feel when you finally face your addiction.”

Over the past several months, crews from Hewitt Garden & Design Center have been transforming Oxford Treatment Center’s residential campus and adding new outdoor spaces for therapeutic use. The new 12-Step Walk, a trail of gravel paths and small stone patios, represents the journey of recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Oxford Treatment Center provides medical detoxification and residential treatment for addiction at a 110-acre campus in northeastern Lafayette County. Follow-up and outpatient care take place at its Oxford Outpatient Office on University Avenue.

At the main campus, Hewitt and his team carved a path through the woods south of the main lodge, taming undergrowth to open up a shaded level spot for each step along the journey. The path circles elements of the center’s ropes course before cresting a hill at Step 5 and descending towards a lushly planted lakeside garden at Step 12.

Hewitt’s team has also added several stone fire pits and small patios to the campus. The additions build upon Oxford Treatment Center’s approach of using its environment as an effective tool in the treatment process. Patients and therapists use outdoor spaces for group and individual therapy sessions, as well as for simple relationship building and personal reflection.

“When someone has been in active addiction to drugs or alcohol, they’ve experienced a disconnection from the world around them and the people who care about them,” said Interim Clinical Director Chip Peterson, M.Ed., LPC. “Learning how to rebuild those connections is an important part of recovery.”

At Step 1, that disconnect is laid bare. Rough-cut internet cables with exposed wires jut out from either side of the pieced-together patio.

At the narrow entrance, a spike-shaped rock stained with splatters of red paint blocks the way — disruptive and ugly, like the addiction it represents.

Surrounding the space is a collection of unwanted shrubs and trees. Broken boxwoods and crooked pinetrees, they’ve been picked over for years; customers chose more handsome specimens at Hewitt’s landscape center. The patio floor is a mosaic of rejected sandstone, leftover bricks and old pieces of concrete.

“There’s a lot of meaning in that little patio,” Hewitt says. “The whole thing is made of rejected materials. But at the same time, for me, all those pieces represent the people of the world. Whether you’re a big piece or a little piece, you’ve got your place. You’re important.”

See Hewitt, page 7A