From heroin to hero?
Perhaps it is being too dramatic to say “from heroin to hero?” Not for Andy and not for his dog Bailey. His relationship with his dog has changed how he sees himself. Having a pet gave Andy a sense of purpose. It gave him a sense of love and connection with another being. And having a pet to care for gives him a reason to be clean, to have a home and to ensure that he has enough for food for both of them.
Andy has a sense of meaning that helps him when things are tough. He didn’t get clean because he took the right steps or attended the best therapy. His steps, his therapy came with fir… and claws.
Andy admits that he takes care of his pet better than himself. But his relationship with Bailey is more than a pet-owner relationship. Having a dog creates an anchor. Andy believes that having a pet has made him more human, he feels that he ‘counts’ to someone… to something.
He even went so far as to try to commit suicide but having Bailey with him made him stop. He cared about his dog enough that he knew that if he died, Bailey would have no one.
In a way, having a pet makes Andy more willing to experience whatever difficult and painful realities he will face. Andy has a sense of meaning that helps him when things are tough. He didn’t get clean because he took the right steps or attended the best therapy. His steps, his therapy came with fir… and claws. For sure, pet’s won’t replace medications or important therapy for us in our recovery but they can help in untold ways.
As Andy says, a pet gives you another heartbeat that’s on your side. And sometimes, we all need a friend who just won’t let you go.
I often say to people that I don’t have pets, instead I have children. Children can be great… but pets don’t talk back to you. And pets won’t argue with you when you want to go for a walk (at least most dogs won’t) or when you need them to just sit close to you and not say anything.
A recent article in Psyblog discussed research based on 17 different studies into the ways that pets impact our mental health. The studies found that:
- Pets are calming and supportive
- Pets can sense when we are struggling
- Pets are a healthy distraction from our own distress or anxiety
- Pets help us stay active and give us a way to help others
- Pets help us by giving a way to feel that we are doing something good
- Pets accept without judgement
If you enjoyed this piece, I invite you to read “When is it Toxic to Hold out Hope for Change?”
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Keep it Real
Photo adapted from Youtube