Many people may not know that caring for pets can present many benefits for recovering individuals. This is especially true when people are transitioning from a treatment center to their home environment. While family and friends should make up the core group of social support for people in recovery, having a pet is another way of enhancing emotional well-being.
How Do Pets Help Your Recovery?
Just like many veterans get dogs as pets to help with their post-traumatic stress disorder, or like many hospitals use therapeutic animals to help children who are hospitalized, pets can be a great source of emotional support and stress reduction for recovering individuals.
Animals can be therapeutic because they provide people with judgment-free, unconditional love. The physical sensation of petting them, the cute things they do, even just the quiet presence of an animal can make people smile. The positivity from interacting with animals can be a source of motivation for rebuilding one’s life. People in recovery are often healing from a past riddled with negativity and pain. As joyful companions, pets can add some much-needed sunshine to their days.
As a more concrete benefit, adopting a pet can help recovering individuals create a routine and take up extra responsibilities. One’s life can gain structure through feeding, cleaning, exercising, and playing with a pet. The effort caring for a pet requires can motivate people in recovery and help distract them from worries. Raising a pet can be considered a new hobby that provides routine, fills in free time, and is a major mental health boost.
How Can Pets Boost Emotional Health?
Recovering individuals often struggle with mood problems. Pets can bond with them quickly and offer extra emotional support. Observing the actions of pets is like a mindfulness exercise that calms the spirit. Caring for a pet gives renewed purpose in life, which naturally invites compassion and genuine care. These are all positive elements of emotional wellness.
Choosing a pet—the animal, the breed, or the specific companion—can be a fun and empowering endeavor. On days when it is difficult to get out of bed because of depressed moods or low motivation, knowing that one has a pet to take care of can make all the difference. Pets that need to be let outside encourage their owners to get fresh air and exercise, which can boost emotional health as well. Such emotional support can directly boost one’s chances of maintaining long-term sobriety.
How Can Keeping a Pet Change Your Social Life?
Many people face the challenge of socializing during early sobriety. For many people in recovery, substances were the focal point of social activities in the past. Others may find it hard to open up and trust others. In any case, post-sobriety socialization may induce stress, so pet companions can ease the stress by acting as icebreakers.
Even indoor pets can help alleviate social stress. Some people find talking to their indoor pets a helpful way to re-establish communication. Additionally, communication can improve significantly when inviting family and friends to a home with a pet which can be the center of a conflict-free, positive conversation.
Will Keeping Pets Become Distracting?
Pets can demand a lot of time and attention though they offer a positive distraction during recovery. Many recovering individuals struggle with too much idle time which makes them dwell on negative aspects of life or savor past substance use. With a pet companion, they gain something outside of addiction progress to focus on and fill their time.
Keeping a pet can be a replacement activity for many unhealthy ones. For example, people who used to spend Saturday afternoons at the bar or using with friends can now spend that time at the dog park or cleaning out a pet’s cage. Pets are also excellent at distracting people from feeling lonely by providing constant companionship. All these changes are beneficial to recovering individuals’ physical and emotional health.
What Else Should I Consider?
There is a wide variety of pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, hamsters, and guinea pigs. Some dogs and horses are trained as therapeutic animal companions and can be integrated into therapy sessions. Service dogs can help people with specific mental health needs. Different animals require different amounts of care, time, money, and engagement, so each individual should consider the animal’s unique needs and their own abilities to determine the best pet for them.
Adopting a pet is a big step toward taking on more responsibility in life. Once someone decides to adopt a pet companion, they should remember that, in addition to all the benefits of having a pet, it is a major responsibility. A pet owner should not neglect their pet’s needs but should allow caring for their pet to help them take better care of themselves as well. Doing so can rebuild self-esteem and confidence.
Are you considering a pet companion during your recovery? Animals offer many benefits for recovering individuals, including healthy routines, regular exercise, and emotional support. If you are looking for a strong recovery community that welcomes pet companions, look no further than Laguna Shores Recovery Center. Here, our staff and therapists embrace a holistic approach to care and we allow pets at our residential treatment facility. We also provide you with the necessary tools to avoid triggers and relapse. Laguna Shores offers customizable treatment plans which include detox, medication, 12-Step groups, and relationship skills coaching. Our staff not only walks alongside you during treatment but is experienced in designing a relapse prevention plan for you when you transition to your home environment. We also offer outpatient programs that you can use after finishing residential treatment. Change begins here. Call us at (866) 229-9923.