Hi, my name is Melanie Jacobs, and I’m a recovering alcoholic. My full-time job as an addiction counselor keeps me busy, as part of my job includes helping people begin their recoveries. In my free time, I run a micro-sanctuary for roosters, where I also help them begin their recoveries from their prior living conditions. I have been sober for more than 10 years, and in that time I have learned that recovery from alcoholism involves spirituality and believing in something greater than myself. Having identified as an atheist most of my life, I assumed there was no place for me in recovery—until I met a rooster named Butler shortly after I went vegan more than three years ago. Through Butler, I discovered that spirituality comes in many forms, and that roosters are often viewed as loud, aggressive, and obnoxious, which was interesting because that sounded a lot like me when I used to drink. My drinking days might be finished, but I still feel as though my roosters are keeping me sober. Here are five ways I am thankful for their presence in my alcohol-free life.
1. Waking up early is not only for the birds
Roosters wake up early and crow. I used to be a lazy person who slept the day away nursing a hangover. However, my responsibility and commitment to our 14 birds gets me out of bed every morning, and I enjoy getting up at 6:30am to feed them. You couldn’t have paid me to do that when I was active in my drinking. Today, I look forward to letting each rooster out of his bedroom in the morning and listening to the tidbitting sounds that alert the others to the fact that there is food. Each rooster has his own personality, personality traits, and beautiful looks, and it’s this uniqueness that gives me gratitude for my life on a daily basis. Roosters give me a reason to get out into the world during the peaceful mornings that I used to sleep through.
2. Going to any lengths
During recovery from alcoholism, a question we often ask ourselves is, “Are we willing to go to any lengths for recovery?” What I have learned as a rooster rescuer is that I have to go to any lengths to protect our birds from predators and extreme weather. That means I can’t procrastinate, I can’t skip things, and I can’t take half-measures. Once, I drove round-trip from Minneapolis, MN, to Omaha, NE, in one day to pick up an ex-cockfighting rooster named Kipper. He was found almost dead after he escaped the horrid life he was living. Kipper was rehabilitated for a few months by a veterinarian prior to me adopting him. I learned that I was willing to do anything for this bird to help him live a peaceful life.
3. I can’t keep what I have if I don’t pass it on
In addition to my mission to rescue roosters, I also aim to educate. I have learned that in addition to the residents at our micro-sanctuary, I can also help many other homeless, exploited, or unwanted roosters if I educate people on how to adopt a one or two (or 20) as companion animals and by helping people understand and respect rooster behavior. My education has come from many mentors, including Chicken Run Rescue and The Microsanctuary Movement.
4. Life is not dull or boring with roosters around
There is often a fear for newly recovering alcoholics and addicts that sobriety will be dull and boring. For me, it was the other way around—drinking every day was dull and boring. Living with roosters is an adventure in itself: one day, I might be taking Cain to the veterinarian to get antibiotics for respiratory issues, and the next day I might be giving Sir Henry a bath in the tub followed by a blow dry to get rid of mites. One day I will have a rooster in my living room mistaking a towel for a hen, while the following day I can spread the ashes of a rooster who has passed on.
5. Roosters are not disposable, and neither are alcoholics or addicts
I have learned how similar roosters are to alcoholics or addicts because the common misunderstanding of rooster behavior is what often leads to their demise. This also happens in the addiction world. Family, friends, and loved ones stray away from alcoholics and addicts because of their past behaviors. I believe roosters are just asking to be understood and loved. Cuddling an ex-cockfighting rooster who was taught to kill is something that I cannot describe, and doing so makes me feel good inside. I know this radiates out to the animal, which truly helps me stay sober and vegan.
Melanie Jacobs is the founder of Rooster Redemption and The Chicken Lady, with a mission to smash the stigma put upon roosters.