How My Dog Helped Save My Life


Sober Recovery Expert Author

I still remember the day Troy came into my life. My stepsister and I decided to visit an animal shelter to look at the dogs. I had no intention of owning one at the time but have always had a special bond with animals. On this particular day, I was immediately drawn to a 20-pound, honey brown, wirehaired terrier with ears like Yoda. He was the cutest thing. As soon as I found out his time at the shelter was running out, I knew I had to take him home. I adopted him on the spot and in that moment began the most remarkable friendship I had ever hoped for.

Over the next 11 years we formed an unbreakable bond. He was the perfect companion and showed me unconditional love. Together, we traveled back and forth from my residence at California to my family’s home in Indiana. It was around this time that my drinking and using also began to escalate.

Being a “pet parent” is a big responsibility, especially for someone who is fighting addiction. One writer tells the story of how her love for her dog helped give her a fighting chance.

Life in the Fast Line

In my mind, I was living life like it was one big party. Drugs became more and more prevalent in my life and I was also starting to suffer serious consequences from my drinking, such as car accidents and getting pulled over by the police on several occasions. It's a wonder that I never got a DUI and that Troy was a constant through it all.

Eventually, my drinking got so bad that I had to leave California and move back home to Indiana to live with my mother. There, I immediately began hanging out with my old drinking buddies, my stepmother being one of them. One night, while hanging out with her on the stoop sharing a fifth of a gin and Miller’s Genuine Draft, I had a moment of clarity. For the first time, I observed how alcohol had frozen her in time. Nothing in her life had changed since I was seven, and here I was doing the same thing—following in her footsteps.

I knew I didn’t want that for my life and the first step seemed to be to get out of Indiana. An old friend from college had mentioned that she was planning to move to California to pursue an acting career and I desperately wanted to go with her. However, with no financial means of my own, I knew I needed my mother’s help to make the trip. I approached her on this topic and, to my surprise, she said she would help me. But under one condition: I got help for my drinking problem.

Checking In…and Out

Initially, I was reluctant but deep down I knew my life was spiraling out of control. Besides, if that was the only thing in the way of me moving to California, it was worth it. I checked into my first and only rehab for 30 days while my mother looked after Troy.

Unexpectedly, I experienced a psychic change during my time there. After reading through the Big Book, I was relieved to discover why I behaved the way I did. It wasn’t because I was a bad person but, rather, because I was sick. I began to see that I was suffering from alcoholism. I also learned that I had an allergy to alcohol, which manifested as a phenomenon of craving and explained my sprees. I came face-to-face with the hole in my gut, which I tried to fill with people, place and things. The specialists at the rehab center called that “a soul sickness” and said that the crux of my problem centered in my thinking. The only cure was complete abstinence. It was a lot to swallow at the time, but I was open to the ideals I had learned about.

After successfully completing my stay in rehab, I moved to California sober and with Troy in hand. I got myself involved in recovery and managed to continue in sobriety for a little over three years. I went to meetings, had commitments, went to sober dances and had a sponsor. In my circle of friends, I was even a bit popular. It was an amazing time, but unfortunately my behavior hadn’t changed in certain areas. I never really let anyone get to know me and still wanted to protect my image. As a result, I began to suffer silently in my recovery. I wore my sobriety-time like a badge of honor and because of this I couldn’t let anyone know about the things going on behind closed doors. Eventually, the pain grew to be too unbearable and I picked up a glass of alcohol.

At Home with Troy

I was only planning to drink for a day or two, but instead it ended up lasting two years. Troy was a dedicated little son the entire time. He would get anxious when I drank especially if drugs were involved. It was like he knew I was in trouble. After all, he’d been with a sober mommy for the past three years and saw the good that I was doing.

It was clear that things were really getting bad when I went on a spree one day and forgot to take him out for his walk. I was sitting in a bog of self-pity and hopelessness when I happened to see Troy, sitting on what looked like smeared blood. He was looking at me patiently and curiously despite desperately needing to pee. I inspected him more closely and saw that he was bleeding from his genitals. I fell to my knees in tears and immediately took him outside to relieve himself.

I was overcome with guilt and shame at the thought of it all. Troy was such a good and sweet little baby that he refused to have an accident in the house, despite the condition I put him in. It hurt me to my core. Troy took care of me all our years together but I wasn’t taking care of him. This snapped me right out of my addiction and made me see that I wasn’t just hurting myself in my drinking and using—I was hurting him too.

A New Me

Now, I was ready to be fully sober. I didn’t check into another rehab because I already knew what was required of me. Instead, I began going to meetings every day. Sometimes, even two or more a day. I also created relationships with other people who were going to a lot of meetings and they became my “trudging” buddies. I found a sponsor and finally became willing to take directions and let someone really get to know me. Most importantly, I became extremely willing to practice the 12-steps in every area of my life while understanding sobriety doesn’t mean my life would be perfect. As a result of my relapse, I understood that a sober life was better than a drunken life, regardless of the challenges I might face.

Troy and I would go on to share another three years together sober. He was 11 years-old when he passed away and I was devastated. Everyone kept telling me to get another baby. Reluctantly, I did, and was lucky to fall in love all over again. My new dog’s name is Chance. He looks just like Troy, only white. In all our 10 years together, he’s never seen me drunk or loaded. Today, I am happy, joyous and free. Sobriety has given me a life beyond even my wildest, drunken dreams.

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