Addiction is often a very lonely place. In my own experience with substance abuse, I felt extremely, unimaginably isolated. Partly because most of the people in my world had either chosen to stop talking to me, or I had pushed them so far away that I wasn’t able to talk to them, even if I wanted to. They didn’t relate. They couldn’t! So, without anyone in my corner, I felt more alone than ever before. But then Patches came along, and for a time that void was filled.
Drug use and drug addiction rob us of so many things, and meaningful connection is typically the first thing to go. Patches — a mutt of no identifiable origin, but with a definitive bulldog appearance — came strolling into my life while my life was still relatively manageable. Yes, I was already engaged in a pattern of daily drinking, however, I was still employed, able to pay my bills, and to socialize normally from time to time. Soon enough, all of this slipped away. The first time I experienced withdrawal symptoms came shortly thereafter, and when it came over me like a terrible flu, Patches was there, pacing nervously as I tossed and turned in bed.
A few weeks later, it became clear to me that what I had experienced was, in fact, alcohol withdrawal. I learned this after coming down with an identical “flu” following a hard-fought challenge to not drink for a few days. Again, it was Patches I turned to for comfort as I battled cold sweats, nausea, shaking hands and intense anxiety. I knew I was in trouble and needed to begin thinking about sobriety. I wanted him to tell me with his eyes how to sober up, and sober up for good. I wanted him to tell me how I could find lasting recovery. When I Googled “drug rehab Ontario” I wanted his little paw to pick up the phone for me and call the facility, because I feared I wouldn’t be able to do it myself.
But eventually, I did. I had to. I knew that after being alone for so long, getting sober alone was likely not an option for me; I would need help.
Once I finally decided to set the ball in motion, getting an admission date happened faster than I thought it would. I was then faced with another problem I couldn’t have anticipated: What was I going to do with Patches!?
I couldn’t take him with me, and the thought of going without him broke my heart. I knew my neighbour from up the block might be available to watch him for me, but the prospect of leaving him at such a vulnerable time seemed unfathomable. He was my rock. Who would lick up my tears on the hard days, or keep me warm on the long nights in a strange, new bed?
And then it dawned on me. Patches had been such a good friend to me, and the closest thing I’d had to family in a while, but had I been good to Patches? I had accepted love, forgiveness, and kindness from Patches for years, but when was the last time I was able to give that back to him? When was the last time I took him to the forest for a run, or to the vet for a checkup? It was very hard to put him first when drinking and drugging was always the priority. And just like that, my mind was made up. I would go to treatment for myself, but also for Patches.
It has been a beautiful few years since then, and my life is now so full. Patches remains the centre of my universe, but it’s different now. We walk, we cuddle, and I give as much as I receive. In treatment, I learned how to love myself, and in doing so I am now able to love Patches in the way he deserves. I am so grateful to Patches and being able to show him that gratitude has been one of the greatest gifts of recovery. He is no longer the only meaningful connection in my life, but he is and will always be my favourite.