Many people keep pets because they enjoy the companionship of animals. Pets offer many health benefits to people who are recovering from substance addiction. Especially for those who have recently entered sobriety, pets can provide much-needed social contact that helps them overcome loneliness and manage stress.
The Importance of Social Contact
Substance use disorder (SUD) may rob people of meaningful relationships. If a person devotes much of their time to securing and using drugs and alcohol, this individual might gradually lose touch with family and friends. Their communication and interpersonal skills decline. Worse, some people become deceptive and break the trust others had in them.
If this situation applies to you, know that recovery is a time to rebuild social relationships while maintaining your sobriety. However, you may need to progress in your healing to a certain extent before you begin repairing relationships. There may be a relationship vacuum in early sobriety.
Loneliness and isolation are some major challenges facing people in early recovery. You should not go back and socialize with old friends who still use substances. These social triggers are to be avoided. Meanwhile, to protect yourself from isolation, you need some kind of social contact. Pets are ideal options for this need.
How Pets Help You Heal During Early Sobriety
There are many health benefits of interacting with pets during the early stages of recovery. First of all, pets such as dogs and cats usually exude happiness when they see their person: you. They are happy when you are around, and that joy can be infectious, so you feel happy when they are around.
Pets need to be fed and exercised. This gives you structure in your day. Do not underestimate the healing effects of predictable household chores, like caring for a pet. These activities can distract you from cravings and stress and fill your time productively. When you feel needed by another living being, you get a sense of satisfaction.
Exercising your pet by walking or playing can help you build an active daily routine. This also facilitates social interactions with other pet owners in a casual, low-stakes way. Keeping a pet can open a new door to social interactions for you.
Pets Help You Manage Stress
Having a pet can alleviate stress in your life by reducing loneliness and isolation. Spending time and playing with your pet is a natural relaxation technique. You may feel content when you’re with your pet, caused by the brain’s release of oxytocin, sometimes known as the “love hormone.”
Because they help manage stress, pets can begin a beneficial cycle of healing for you. When you feel happier and have more social interaction, you can heal and become ready for more social interactions. With time, you may gain a better sense of well-being as you interact with and care for your pet.
Time Management and Pets
Keeping pets requires you to stick with a regular schedule. This is an important part of rebuilding a healthy lifestyle. Pets need routine. They will alert you when it’s time to get up, time to eat, and time for a walk in the park. As living beings with concrete needs and daily routines, having a pet can help you develop better time management skills.
The importance of time management as an essential life skill cannot be over-emphasized during recovery. Besides the absence of substances, this is probably the biggest change you must make after recovery. In active addiction, you may not even have a schedule of how to spend the day because your brain was hijacked by artificial sensations created by substance use. Now, your pet is a sober companion, reminding you to stay on schedule.
Other Things to Expect When Keeping a Pet
Believe it or not, pets are less selfish than human beings. If you observe pets for long enough, they may teach you about selflessness and commitment. Having a pet who gives you love and attention unconditionally can greatly boost your self-esteem, which is a foundational motivation for self-care.
If you are considering adding a pet to your recovery support system, be realistic about what this might require. Do you tend to feel overwhelmed when needing to care for another being? Is this the right time to bring a pet into the home? Can you afford the financial responsibility of having a pet?
Conduct a self-evaluation of the pros and cons before taking up the extra responsibility of a pet. You may also want to test the idea with family and friends who have pets. If you decide to get a pet, remember that this is a commitment. Choosing a treatment facility that allows pets may help you learn more about the benefits and responsibilities.
Laguna Shores Recovery in Mission Viejo, California encourages the use of emotional support animals to help people through addiction treatment. Most of our staff have been through recovery and have benefitted from having animals as part of their treatment. Our residential program allows you to bring your pet with you for a more comfortable and effective recovery experience. We offer plans that include detox, medication, 12-Step groups, relationship skills coaching, and animal-assisted therapy, all of which can greatly enhance your experience on the road to long-term sustainable recovery. We believe in an integrated and holistic approach to treating the whole person. Do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with a licensed mental healthcare professional or therapist at Laguna Shores Recovery today. You will find a strong recovery community with wonderful opportunities for healing and growth. Call us at (866) 906-3203 to find out more.