An Addict in the Family

As someone who has treated people with alcohol and drug problems, as well as other issues, I never dreamed that I would one day have an addict in my family. The addict in my family is my dog, Dafka. He is addicted to his kong. For those of you who don't know what a kong is, it is round, three-tiered and pyramid-shaped. It is made of very heavy rubber which is puncture resistant, very bouncy and chewer friendly. He can keep playing with it for hours. I realized that he was addicted to it one day when I let him out and I was carrying the kong. He sat and started to shake all over before I gave it to him. It was kind of funny, seeing this big black dog so totally and absolutely focused on this little red rubber thing in my hand. He never concentrated on anything else in that way. If he is offered a treat, he totally ignores it if he has the kong. The kong comes before eating. The biggest surprise was discovering that the kong came before a walk. Previously, when he heard his leash, he would be all excited and come running. Now, if he has the kong, forget about the walk.

When I started to write this, I thought that it would be kind of a cute story. I came to realize that it is actually an almost perfect metaphor for someone with an addiction, and it is neither funny nor cute. As anyone who has dealt with addiction in any form knows, whether it be drug or process, whatever the addiction, feeding the addiction comes before anything else--family, friends, work, play, sex, health, food--you name it.

An integral part of addiction includes the ritual involved in obtaining the coveted item. A person with an addiction may or may not include others in her/his ritual. I, of course, am an inseparable part of Dafka's addiction ritual. He cannot get his beloved kong without me, and we do have a ritual. When he gets up, he has to go outside without the kong; come back in when he's ready and eat. When he is finished eating, he comes into the kitchen and just stares at the kong on the kitchen counter. He absolutely does not move anything except his rib cage as he is breathing. When I finally pick up the kong, we go to the back door. I open it. He has to sit quietly (very hard for him to do as he is already shaking), no barking, and I give him the kong. I guess that you could say that I'm being codependent, and enabling him.

If you see yourself in any of this, either as as someone suffering from addiction or as a codependent, I would strongly urge you to find someone to talk with. Help is available and you deserve to take care of yourself.