Our family dog is the best-ever LADC (licensed alcohol and drug counselor). This rescue mutt came to us in early 2013. He was 14 weeks old and 19 pounds.
Little did we know what a prominent role he would play in our family – particularly in our son’s life as he lives through addiction, sobriety, recovery and relapse.
At the time, our son was 19 and he was deep on his addiction path.
Although I had hope, I realistically knew that tragedy was a distinct possibility.
He was bouncing between living at home, sofa surfing and being homeless.
He was every bit as much in need of rescue as our sweet puppy.
Watching our son meet and interact with the puppy was pure delight. His heart showed. A smile returned. A tenderness came forth. Although he was struggling, he always had a few minutes to play with the puppy, take him outside to go potty and take him for walks around the neighborhood.
It was a bright spot for all of us to observe the bond and it was a reminder that there was a happier, healthier young man waiting to emerge from addiction.
It didn’t happen right away, of course, and even when he decided to go to treatment about a year later it also included a devastating and rapid relapse that once again reminded us how fragile addiction renders its young adults.
Later that year, he would decide again to pursue treatment, sobriety and recovery. This time it took. Our son was three years free from opiate use in July 2017. During this time, he got a job, earned money to return to college and got straight A’s in his classes.
Through it all, the family dog was his constant companion giving new meaning to the cliche “man’s best friend.”
They spent many hours together. The love between the two warmed our hearts, and each one thrived in many ways.
But then there was a shift. Tiny at first, but unsettling. Then another shift, and then another and another.
Here we are eight months later. Our son’s personality – characterized by attitude, mood and behavior – has changed significantly.
We’re all too familiar with his current state and fear the direction it’s headed.
Exaggeration? No. It’s a pattern we recognize, a pattern we’ve experienced before, a pattern we do not welcome but that we must acknowledge regardless. It’s no longer just mom’s and dad’s radar, it’s the dog’s too.
Without a doubt, the dog knows. He waits by the mudroom door.
When will my guy return he wonders. When are we going for an adventure he wonders. When will we hang out together he wonders. Why is my guy always sleeping when he’s home? Why won’t he talk nicely with Mom and Dad? Why didn’t he celebrate his birthday? Why do I see his car down the street instead of coming home? Why did he come home and go right to his room? Why did he leave in the middle of the night? Will he come back?
The routine has changed, and our dog doesn’t understand. He doesn’t want to eat. He just wants to wait for his guy and get back to the sober, recovery days.
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