My dog Charlie features in all my photo collections over the last thirteen years, he’s been the constant in my life, and without meaning to sound dramatic, he gave me a reason to live, and a reason to make changes and pursue a different life. Many people who face addiction are often driven to seek recovery due to external reasons such as family, children or freedom. I’ve seen it whilst working in substance misuse services, people arrive wanting to change because social services have become aware of their substance use and possible addiction, or they’ve been ordered to attend treatment as part of a drug rehabilitation order. Before such acts of intervention these individuals may have had no desire to change, and in many cases this can be the catalyst that leads to change, but often it just makes things worse and people go to extra lengths to hide their drug use, and try to manage it so that authorities will not be concerned. As long as drugs are criminal we cannot have balanced conversations about drug use and the impacts of such, if we were to decriminalise drug use for personal use then people could speak freely and not fear the consequences of their disclosure, people would likely seek help earlier as they wouldn’t fear the stigma and stereotype that often accompanies the label of drug user or addict.
I however, had no such external drives, I’m not a parent, my mother had passed away and I’m estranged from the rest of my family. There was nobody urging me to stop my drug use, I had no external pressures, it was up to me and what I wanted. I remember a time when I visited an escorting client in the middle of nowhere, he was not a pleasant man and I had to leave the appointment abruptly as he started to become aggressive and was pushing the boundaries of what was allowed and acceptable. I told him to stop, I tried to make light of things at first and joked about his over zealous ways, when he realised I wasn’t playing and would enforce my limits he became nasty. I managed to make it out of the appointment but was bombarded with insults and accusations.
As I drove away I thought to myself that nobody would notice if I just disappeared, who would actually care if I wasn’t here anymore, there was nobody who knew where I was, nobody who would miss me if I didn’t turn up tomorrow, I wondered how long it would be before anyone realised I’d vanished. Then I thought of my dog Charlie, he would miss me, he needed me, and if nothing else I would make sure I stayed alive and safe just to get back to him, and I always did, although there were a few close calls. Charlie gave me a purpose, and despite my heroin addiction, his happiness was of major importance to me, even in the chaos of addiction I made sure Charlie had what he needed. He was always well walked and fed, he had rules, boundaries and limitations, he was a priority in my world, even when I was arrested and living in a tent the police commented how funny it was that my dog had organic dog treats, a comfy dog bed, toys, and high quality food, and yet I was living in a tent, hungry and struggling to get by.
Charlie has loved me no matter what, when I became a heroin addict he didn’t judge, when I had a break down and lost the plot, he didn’t judge, when I was grieving and had become living woe, he didn’t judge, he was just there, eager to walk, eager to just be with me. I love looking at photos of Charlie, he looks so young in the photo’s above, and I wish he could live forever, but as that’s not possible I’ve just committed to making sure the rest of his days are happy, stable and full of love.
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