How Adopting Pets Can Help in Addiction Recovery


Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows there is something so healing about spending time with them. Owning a furry or feathery friend can make you feel calm, happy, needed, and loved. There is something about the feeling of being needed that really makes you feel loved. Stroking your furry friend and having them lay in your lap can be extremely relaxing.

It doesn’t even have to be a cat or dog that you own as a pet. Fish, reptiles, rabbits, horses, guinea pigs, pigs, rats, llamas, alpaca, and even spiders can be pets to some people and make them feel the same feelings you would get from your cat or dog. Pets can be extremely healing from people working through addiction recovery as they provide unconditional support, even when you relapse that family and friends might not offer. 

Pets and Addiction Recovery 

Adopting a pet can play a very important role in the addiction recovery process. They are able to teach people about the importance of responsibility and can provide unconditional support to someone who might not be getting support elsewhere. Pets are also able to enhance a person's self-esteem. 

Responsibility 

Pets have the ability to play a huge role in addiction recovery. They enable a person to have a sense of responsibility. Pets require food, water, and love. Depending on the type of pet you get, they may even require exercise, bathroom time, grooming, regular doctor visits. All these factors require a person to take on some form of responsibility. 

According to a study published in Neuroethics, one of the biggest facets of addiction is a person’s unwillingness to take on responsibility. People who suffer from addiction must choose not to be that person who was overcome by drugs or alcohol any longer. They need to redefine themself on their own terms by taking hold of their life. Through pet ownership, a person recovering from addiction can develop more responsible behaviors which in turn can further help them on their journey to sobriety. Additionally, people recovering from addiction can avoid relapsing because they know their pet depends on them for their survival. 

Unconditional Support  

Pets also teach a person about trust. Pets are able to offer unconditional support when a person is angry, sad, or upset. This is something that people recovering from addiction need. In cases of potential relapse, family and friends may not understand or accept that it’s an all-too normal part of the addiction recovery process. A pet can be a source of judgment-free comfort when things grow more tense with loved ones.

According to Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education (HOPES), dogs develop complex communication systems with humans and are very interactive. No matter what you say to them they won’t look at you differently. Pets give you the ability to vent about the issues you are facing with your addiction.

The article also mentioned that owning a pet can help decrease your stress levels. Often, stress associated with being alone or feeling like no one understands you can lead to relapse. Owning a pet can help reduce the chances of experiencing relapse due feeling alone.  

Self-Esteem

People who are trying to recover from substance addiction often fear or face judgment stemming from the stigma connected to substance abuse and mental illness. That in turn can create stress and anxiety as well as lower their self-esteem. For a person trying to recover from substance abuse, their family and friends might not understand that substance addiction is a mental illness and causes significant changes to the chemical balance of a person’s brain. As a result, when a person engages in substance abuse or relapses society views them as a failure, which causes the recovering individual to feel like one and as if they have little to be proud of. 

People who own pets tend to have greater self-esteem and are better able to bounce back from rejection, depression, and illnesses. Pets provide unconditional love and accept you as their owner no matter how dark and messy your background is. This helps owners internalize positive messages about themself to increase their self-esteem. Self-esteem is very important in the life of a recovering addict because having low self-esteem can lead to depression causing them to fall short of their true potential and relapse. Increased self-esteem enables a person to fend off the stigma of addiction and enables them to focus on their own recovery journey. This gives them the confidence that they can overcome their addiction and get back to a healthy life. 

Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

There are so many health benefits of owning a pet. If you have ever owned a dog you know they love to get outside and walk or play ball in the backyard. This enables the owner to get outside and exercise. Owning pets such as dogs can lead to regular walking or playing outside which can decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Owning a pet has even been found to help manage depression and loneliness by giving a person a companion.

It is well known that drugs and alcohol use can cause serious health consequences. Therefore, owning a pet and getting exercise can alleviate some of those symptoms and can help your brain heal from the harm your drug of choice has caused. 

Owning a pet also promotes socialization with other people which can connect you to a community. Isolation is a huge concern for people recovering from addiction. Taking your dog to the dog park can even help you make friends with other people who own similar pets because pets are conversation starters. This can help a person in addiction recovery fight off the need for self-medication in response to feeling all alone. Going to the pet store with your pet can also enable you to meet other people who share the same affliction for owning the same type of pet as you. This can enable you to make friends with people who share a common interest.

Final Thoughts 

Adopting a pet can provide so many benefits to a person working to overcome their addiction. Pets are able to teach their owner about responsibility, provide unconditional support, and help increase their owner’s self-esteem. Owning a pet also provides a wide range of health and social benefits, which are critical elements in the recovery process.

Unfortunately, sometimes owning a pet is not enough to help a person overcome their addiction. Sometimes, people need more help than a beloved furry friend can offer. If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance abuse addiction, finding a high-quality alcohol and drug rehab can help. These programs will provide you or your loved one with all the support they will need to overcome their addiction. Through the support of trained mental health and medical professionals you or your loved one will be well taken care of and on your way to a drug or alcohol-free life. 

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them. 


References
Addressing the stigma that surrounds addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Companion Animals and Health. Huntington’s Outreach Project For Education.
Healthy Pets, Healthy People. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Inpatient Alcohol Rehab Centers. Sunshine Behavioral Health.
Personality Characteristics and Self-esteem in Pet Owners and Non-owners. International Journal of Psychology.
Responsibility without blame for addiction. Neuroethics.
The benefits of a family pet. Michigan State University.