Of dogs and addictions


Our six-year-old cocker spaniel has learned a new trick. After having lived with us for over 1.5 years, she has figured out that she can open the pull-out cabinet drawer that contains our trash. This only happens when we leave her penned in the kitchen. I suspect we left some wonderful smelling meat scraps in it one night and the desire enabled some higher level problem-solving skills (she’s not the brightest dog in the world). Now that she has learned how to do this, we’ve taken to bungy cording the drawer. A few nights ago, we forgot and came home to a mess of coffee grounds and torn up trash all over the floor.

Interestingly, our dog responds in quite a predictable manner. Normally, when we come home, she is at the door to greet us by dancing around and putting her front paws on our legs. But each time we have come home to a mess she has made, we see her cowering and ready to bolt. The last time we came home to this mess, she squeezed out the door before we could get into the house so she could run away. No, we don’t beat her. She knows she has done wrong.

I’ve wondered what goes on in her head during the time she is into the trash. Does she know it is wrong? When does she start feeling bad. The moment we arrive? Has she been cowering and feeling guilty as soon as she spreads trash around? One more funny behavior: when we send her to her crate (in the basement) for a time out, she goes right away. But then, after a bit, we see her outside of her crate but sitting patiently. Then, she’s at the bottom of the stairs looking to see if we will let her up. Then, her front paws on the first step, waiting in anticipation that we’ll say all’s forgiven.

And this relates to addictions how?

Most individuals who struggle with an addiction have the strong feeling of guilt even as they partake. Guilt rarely is enough to stop us from acting out. Even knowing that we may well be caught does not stop us as much as you might think it would. The desire to have what is right at our fingertips can easily overwhelm all sensibilities and logic–that will race back to us as soon as we finish partaking or as soon as someone finds out. Our initial response may include running away. Guilt and shame prevail for a time and then we creep back into life hoping that the troubles we have caused will blow over and life will return to normal.

Of course, we are not dogs and so we must use the gifts God has given us (a brain capable of higher order planning, the Spirit) to learn from our mistakes and misdeeds. We can

  • remove ourselves from proximity to the addictive agent
  • plan for accountability, especially during vulnerable times
  • examine the roots, shoots, and fruits of our addictions with a trusted friend/counselor
  • remind ourselves of the power to say no and the foolish, false promises of addiction

For more of what I have written about addictions and interventions search the word in the seach box at the top of this page.

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Filed under addiction, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, Psychology, sexual addiction

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