by April Pfrogner
I really hated working in early recovery. I quit working at a fast food place because I did not want to deal with the public. The local animal shelter was hiring. I thought that would be perfect for me! Animals don’t talk and won’t get on my nerves! First day on the job I tried to take a dog for a walk but it bit me before I could get it on the leash. So the boss stuck me up in the “cat room” instead.
It was stacked full of cages, one on top of another and another. The pungent smell knocked me back a few steps. Immediately I thought, “and how much are they paying me??” My fellow employees were very nice so I decided that I would at LEAST finish the shift. I cleaned cat cages for 4 straight hours. Yes, it was gross. For some reason, I kept that job for a while. This was a No-Kill Shelter so some of the cats had been there for a year or more. THIS is when the job got interesting!
I noticed that the cats that were there for a long time refused to come out of their cages, while kittens would jump at the chance of escaping. I could coax them out but they would go right back inside. They were “caged” in their minds. Without the cage, they were lost. It was all they knew. I found “powerlessness” outside of a book, outside of a meeting! There it was smacking me in the face every day as I cleaned!
In the beginning, I was like the kitten. I could use and put the drug down and go on my merry way. I was still free. The more I used, the more comfy the cage became. Boxed in, able to see the door but couldn’t go through it. Just like the cats. Fully aware the cage is open, they decided to stay. Probably makes no sense to the kitten that is running amuck and jumping around. Just like our behavior in addiction, it makes no sense to the “normal people.”
Working there reminded me that I was unfeeling toward animals in my addiction. I had no use for them. In recovery I see that they are more than I expected them to be! A couple years ago my husband and I adopted a shelter mutt. He is a great comfort to me when I am lonely or sad. I believe animals have a place in God’s world. They are not meant to be caged and neither are we. Step One brought me out of the cage of powerlessness. I am grateful that I had the awesome opportunity to see it – LIVE and in action! To this day I still look for examples of it in everyday life.