Addiction recovery is a challenging and scary process. The early days are much more difficult, but at any point in the process you might find yourself looking for a little more support or a way to feel less alone in your struggles. In addition to the network of peers in recovery that you have, getting a pet or participating in pet therapy can be a great way to help you feel better and stay on track in your recovery process.
We all know that pets are good for people in a lot of ways. These benefits easily translate to recovery. In fact, there are even more benefits for those in addiction recovery programs than there might be for others. Keep in mind that you should not get a pet if you do not have the financial means or time to care for it properly. That being said, here are just some of the ways pets can help during recovery.
1. Feeling Less Alone
Loneliness is one of the biggest risks for relapse among those in recovery. Feeling isolated can be stressful and make you want to revert to old habits. If you have a pet, you have a constant companion that will always be there for you. Many people talk to their pets and a lot of animals are able to sense when things are wrong, providing you with extra love and support as you need it.
2. Health Benefits of Pets
One of the biggest (and often most surprising) perks of getting a pet is how much they can improve your overall health. Because animals generally have a calming effect on people, studies have shown that pet owners tend to see benefits like:
-Lower blood pressure
-Reduced anxiety and stress
-Increased self esteem
-Increased mood and energy
Dog owners, especially, are known to be in better shape in many cases due to walking their dogs and exercising them on a regular basis. Plus, even if you are having a rough day in recovery and aren’t feeling like a walk, your dog needs it so you will probably go out and do it anyway. The mental and physical health benefits of having pets have been studied over time, and all signs point to pets as a good thing.
3. Somewhere to Focus
Boredom is another crippling element in recovery. Whether you are working or not, you are bound to have some downtime. That can be good for relaxing and refocusing, but too much of a good thing can end badly. Having a pet allows you to focus your time and energy on something that is depending on you for care. You can distract yourself by playing with your pet, or even just providing some routine care such as bathing. You have something that needs your attention as much as possible, which means you will have that much less time to think about your addiction on your toughest days.
4. A Sense of Purpose and Responsibility
Taking care of a pet also provides a sense of purpose. You aren’t just taking care of yourself; you have another life to care for. This can be a strong motivator to stay sober and keep on track in your recovery program. Animals need food, water, and other things on a regular basis. If you constantly have that on your plate, you are less likely to feel bored or useless, which is common among people in recovery. You are responsible for this animal’s life. It allows you to show yourself that you can still take care of things and you are a responsible person.
5. Pets Help with Relationship Building
When you enter recovery, you are often letting go of a lot of old relationships and starting new ones. Meeting new people as an adult is difficult, however. Having pets — and especially dogs– can provide you with opportunities to meet new friends. The bond that you establish with a pet isn’t that much different than a friendship, so you are also learning important relationship building skills (even if only on a basic level) when you interact with a new pet.
A pet is a big commitment, but it can be a great asset for people in recovery. Do some research about different kinds of pets to find the best one for you. If you aren’t sure what is best or whether this is the time for a pet, check with your friends, family, and recovery peers to discuss the benefits and if the time is right for you.
To learn more, please visit https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/resources/pet-adoption/.