Do you have a pet at home?
If so, you might find it comforting to know that they can support your recovery from substance abuse.
You’ve probably heard about the various types of therapy that incorporate pets such as animal-assisted therapy and equine therapy. But you don’t need to be a part of one of these programs to benefit. Having a pet at home can offer you the same types of benefits, and perhaps even more, because there is already a bond formed.
Let’s take a look at the different ways that your pet can help boost your recovery from drug or alcohol abuse.
1. Pets offer unconditional love.
One of the ways that you will progress in recovery is by building healthy relationships. It can be difficult to establish these types of bonds in early recovery, which is why it might feel easier and more natural to start with a pet who already loves you unconditionally.
Your pet isn’t going to put you down for past choices or make you feel guilty about what you’ve done. Animals live in the present and are able to be the stable, reliable friend that you need right now.
2. Pets reduce stress levels.
Research continually shows that pets reduce stress levels in humans. Not only can your pet lower stress, but also they can encourage you to think more positively and worry less about the problems in your life.
Positive thinking is crucial when going through early recovery because stress can trigger a craving or relapse. When you realize that you’re having a bad day, hold your pet closer and watch some of the stress fade away.
3. Pets encourage responsibility.
As you get further out in your recovery, you will take on more responsibility. But it can be scary to take on some of this responsibility in the beginning – and some people may be hesitant to give it to you – which will only create more self doubt.
Having a pet is a great place to start with accountability and demonstrate to others that you are dependable. Pets are entirely reliant on their owners, so it will be up to you to take your pet to the bathroom and to the vet, clean up after them and ensure they have fresh food and water.
4. Pets get you out and having fun.
Your pet is a positive influence on your life. You’ll notice that when you play with your pet (i.e., tossing around a ball or dangling a piece of string), you’ll smile more and boost feel-good chemicals in the brain. These chemicals will make you feel calmer and more relaxed, which is good for reducing cravings.
Also, if you have a dog, you’re encouraged to get outdoors and reap the benefits of physical activity. And you just never know who your dog might introduce you to at the dog park!
If you don’t have a pet in your life, consider adopting one, visiting a friend or family member’s pet or volunteering your time at an animal shelter. There are plenty of ways to get involved! Just make sure that if you do decide to rescue an animal, you are prepared to take on the responsibility. It’s not fair to bring a pet into your life if you’re not ready. When it doubt, try a plant first!