Former addicts and those undergoing addiction treatments are well aware of the importance of a good social support system in the early stages of recovery. However, nobody says this support has to come exclusively from your fellow humans. For me, I personally draw strength from my Frenchie buddy in my journey of recovering from alcoholism.
Animal-assisted therapy has been extensively utilized in a wide variety of settings to help patients cope with acute and chronic illnesses. Thanks to the numerous benefits registered, animal therapy is now looked upon as a positive learning and healing experience in addiction recovery.
During the therapy sessions, animals can help addicts work through negative emotions like anger, hostility, anxiety, and tension. These furry friends can also teach addicts compassion, trust, empowerment, and self-esteem, as they learn how to care and love an animal that is completely dependent on their support.
A tale of one man and his cat
Last summer, USA Today published the incredible story of James Bowen, a former drug addict, and his ginger tomcat, Bob. James is a 34 years old Londoner, and also the author of ďA Street Cat Named BobĒ, a book that occupied the first few positions in Sunday Timesí list of bestsellers for an entire year.
Today, James is extremely successful and very involved in charity work. However, fate didnít always smile upon him. Even though his life-long dream was to become the next Kurt Cobain, James ended up spending over a decade struggling with heroin addiction and homelessness. Since heroin is expensive, he ended up playing his guitar on the streets for money that he would later use to get the next fix.
All that changed in 2007, when James found an injured tabby cat lingering in his apartment building. Even though he spent most of his earnings on heroin, Bowen made sure that the kittenís severe case of fleas was treated accordingly.
After he nursed the cat back to health, James sent the cat away on its own, thinking he will never see it again. Little did he know that the cute tabby cat had other plans! Because Bob didnít leave his side, James decided to bring the cat along with him on the daily performances. The moment Bob became part of the act, people started paying more attention to him, as James recounted.
Very soon, the two became inseparable and Bobís constant presence was that motivational lifeline that James needed to give up drugs. Although a tabby cat, Bob is nothing like the iconic lazy and cynical feline you know from the movies. In fact, he is a four-legged life force that offers James his friendship and, most importantly, the perspective needed to turn his life around.
You can watch a short summary of their magnificent story here:
What can we learn from this viral story?
A cat like Bob may not be the only factor that weighs heavily in recovering from addiction. Like many pet owners can attest, cats and dogs can be a powerful source of support, hope, and responsibility.
As numerous studies show, pet ownership has long-term positive effects, both physically and psychologically. Considering the efforts we face during recovery, we undoubtedly deserve this type of unconditional love and support.
Do you have a four-legged friend cheering you on towards your road to sobriety? Share with us!