It’s an undeniable fact that animals, especially dogs, are some of the most wonderful creations that have graced this Earth and the lives of human beings. They’re loyal, adorable, and petting them can soothe the soul and make you feel all warm inside.
I owe years of sobriety to Billie, the coolest and most huggable German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix that came into my life when I began rehab therapy.
This is how adopting a dog helped me with recovery:
Motivated me to be responsible in all areas of my life
As a former addict, I had no desire to take care of myself after an alcoholic or drug-related episode. However, when I was taking my first steps toward recovery, I quickly realized that I couldn’t half-ass taking care of a dog. This is a creature that completely depends on you for its well-being and survival. Evidently, taking care of Billie made me conscious of how I need to be responsible in every other area of my life. So naturally, I had to be responsible for everything as a whole and not just the well-being of a dog! You know, I even found joy in picking up his poop because damn it, I began to crave being responsible in every sense of the word. It made me feel I now had a purpose: give Billie the best life possible (and prevent accidents from happening in my house).
Feeling unconditionally loved by a dog is validating beyond belief
When a dog loves you, it’s for life. As an addict, you never really give yourself self-worth or love. But for some reason, my dog found something in me worth loving. Billie was always happy to see me, loved to cuddle, and gladly waited until I sobered up during moments of relapse. To this day, I still don’t know what exactly Billie sees in me, but I know for a fact that his love saved my life and validated my existence.
Forced me to go outside and be active
Every day, after breakfast, I would take Billie out for a walk in the neighborhood or park. After a while, I got tired of the same scenery every single day. Therefore, as a result, I sought out different areas to walk Billie. I started visiting the beach more, took up hiking, and found areas around me that were cherished by locals and tourists. Billie made me want to explore, sight-see, and stop wasting my time on drinking and getting high. When you start to truly understand and appreciate the world around you, everything that makes you feel less than deserving becomes insignificant. Also, a dog will get depressed if it isn’t active, much like a human being (go figure).
Opened me up to making new friends
Unexpectedly, I also blossomed into a social butterfly during walks because fellow pet owners or people passing by will sometimes stop you and ask about your dog. Before you know it, you’re having a conversation about why your recovery animal is so great and get to know another person. Boom! You also process that you interacted with another person while sober and maybe even made a friend knowing you didn’t need to be wasted to talk to them. Also, let’s be honest, any person would want to stop and ask to pet a cute dog.
About the Author:
Trevor McDonald is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who has been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources and addiction awareness. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.