The path to long-term recovery from substance use disorder isn’t easy. Having family participate in the recovery process is important, but a history of dishonesty, manipulation and conflict can make it even more challenging. However, bringing a pet into your home can be an effective form of therapy by reducing stress, easing depression, and giving the recovering addict something to focus on besides themselves. This is positive as it gets people out of their own heads and concentrating on the care of their furry friend instead of their own thoughts.
Benefits of Having a Pet in Recovery
The benefits of having a pet as a companion have long been acknowledged, even among those who are not recovering from substance abuse. Research shows that even the minimal act of petting a dog or a cat can reduce blood pressure, relax nerves, and provide a better feeling of overall wellbeing.
Pet owners normally have boosted opportunities to exercise, get outside, and connect with other people. Having a pet is more conducive to an active, healthy lifestyle. It gets people off their smart phones and out into the world. Pets are also great conversation-starters, giving people an opportunity to socialize with other people. For instance, dog owners who take their dogs to park, spend time with other owners and usually talk about their pups.
How Pets Help with Recovery
In recovery, most people have a hard time adapting to a life without drugs or alcohol. They feel a void (or even a sense of loss), realizing they can no longer go to bars or hang out with friends with whom they used drugs.
Taking care of a pet is therapeutic and can fill the space left by the rituals of drinking or using, giving them a new sense of purpose and joy. The mere act of going to the store to buy dog food, dog toys, a leash, or a collar can indicate the beginning of a new chapter in the person’s life. For example, a dog needs to be walked and fed. These activities can motivate a person who otherwise might be lazy to move off the couch and do something for someone else.
However, the most amazing benefit is pets provide people in recovery with unconditional love. Something, they likely haven’t felt in a long time. Dogs are oblivious of your addiction consequences and will welcome you at the door with a wagging tail every time. Cats will cuddle on your lap or rub their heads against your legs. Receiving such affection from a furry friend will improve your self-esteem in a period where your things don’t feel so great. Pets are a game-changer!
About the Author
Matthew Koenig is the principal of Last Call Marketing, which devotes their efforts to Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Website Design and SEO, primarily in healthcare and tourism concerns. Mr. Koenig is based out of South Florida. His sober date is June 10, 2013.