Note from the editor: At Reach Out Recovery, we believe animals, and the occasional God Dog, play an important role in recovery. For many people in recovery, pets are the first ones to show them unconditional love after they get sober. For others, taking care of animals can help build self-esteem and connection. Animals are wonderful for love and care–two things people in recovery must learn again once they get sober. We recently received this article from, Rachel Greenberg. Rachel has her CAP and is going for her MSW and we were moved by her story, as we have rescue dogs as well and had similar experiences. Excited to share this story with our audience and hope to hear your animal stories in the comments!
I was born with a love for dogs in my heart but had no idea the power that was going to bring into my recovery from drugs and alcohol. We always had dogs in my house growing up, but we never mentioned God. I never knew that for me GOD and DOG were the same thing so that didn’t matter. How I got to that understanding was 21 years of using and after 2 weeks of being sober, finally taking the suggestion of getting on my knees to pray. My love and obsession — as many would say — though is for pit bulls, because they are just like us in recovery … the ones that people have misjudged for so long. Let me back up a bit and tell you how this came about.
When I was living in California, I became the proud mama of my first pit, Porkchop. I was blessed to adopt him from the moment he was born and brought him home at 7 weeks old. He showed me the similarities between pit bulls and addicts and alcoholics. They are both judged based on their outsides instead of their insides which are usually filled with love. My advocating for the breed began then. Many days throughout my active addiction, it was Porkchop alone that kept me alive, because I never wanted to be without him.
We moved back to Florida, and I enrolled in graduate school for my MS in Criminal Justice, now if that’s not ironic, I don’t know what is! I received that degree but clearly was not going to be using it for a long time due to obvious reasons. Let’s jump ahead to the good stuff…
May 8, 2011 was my Bubbe’s birthday (that is grandmother in Yiddish), she was the most important person in my life — she was my person. It was also Mother’s Day that year and for the first time in all my life, I was unable to go down the street and see her. I was lying on the bathroom floor too messed up to move. I was so ashamed. I was 35 years old and couldn’t believe this had become my life.
Then, on May 9, 2011, the person who had become my brother asked me to get sober with him and without hesitation, I said yes — as if it was the question I had been waiting for my entire life. On May 10, 2011, I entered recovery, and it has been the best decision I have ever made.
I had never had a relationship with God. I had never prayed before. I didn’t know what that meant or looked like. When I got sober, I was so desperate to feel better. I was so desperate to be happy, because I had never been before. I was 35 and had never been happy, that is not okay!
I was 2 weeks sober, when I told my sponsor that I wasn’t feeling this magical change that others talked about with prayer so I must be doing it wrong. She asked me if I was “hitting my knees.” I didn’t know I was supposed to. She said there was no right or wrong way to pray, but just to try it. I was willing to do anything, so I did, and the magic happened.
At that time, I had Porkchop and my brother’s dog, Hana, had become mine. I got in front of my bed and onto my knees. I put my hands together like I had seen people do in the movies to pray and started talking aloud. And then the most magical thing happened … MY DOGS CAME TO THE END OF THE BED AND PUT THEIR PAWS ON MINE! IT HIT ME AT THAT MOMENT THAT “DOG” BACKWARD SPELLED “GOD,” AND MY CONCEPTION WAS FORMED! Almost 9 years later, this is still how I pray.
I ran with this. I screamed this experience to everyone that would listen and to those that wouldn’t. I knew that my sobriety at that point was going to revolve around dogs. When I was 3 years sober, Porkchop passed away, and it was the most painful, heartbreaking experience. However, it was also beautiful.
Hana and I spent the day with him, singing and loving on him. I didn’t have any need or want to use. I went to a meeting and threw myself into dog rescue. That world is crazy but also so rewarding. After 8 months, God led me to Pete, who is truly Porkchop just in a smaller body. They have all the same mannerisms, and Hana accepted him right away. I rescued him from a very abusive situation, which led me down a path to further explore the rescue world. When I was 5 years sober, I lost Bubbe but God had given me His vessels to soothe me, so He knew I would be okay — He had prepared me ahead of time.
I had the honor of being on the board of directors for a rescue entirely with people in recovery. From there, Sadie came into my heart, soul and home! Her name was Lily, but when I looked at her the first time, I said “Sadie” for some unknown reason. I told Bubbe that and she was horrified that I named my dog after her mother, which I had no idea about! Three months later, Bubbe left this earth.
Sadie was used as a bait dog and has distress from being in a house that was set on fire. She has so much trauma and high anxiety … we are bonded in so many ways. She is on Prozac, and we must do work daily to keep her needs met. Just like my recovery needs daily medicine, so does hers. Taking care of all of them is such an honor and one of the best parts of my sobriety. If I wasn’t sober today, I wouldn’t be able to be a part of their lives. If I didn’t have the relationship I have today with God, I wouldn’t be able continue to grow with them. God made dogs and blessed our lives with them — and for that, I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.
If you want to help, please look into Raining Cats and Dogs, Inc.