After leaving a center for alcohol and drug treatment, you are equipped with various tools and coping mechanisms to take on the world as a person in recovery. From relapse prevention plans to 12-Step fellowships, there are numerous ways to live life as a sober individual.
However, many people do not consider the benefits of owning a pet in recovery. Different kinds of pets can provide you with tools to help you manage your sobriety out of treatment. Learning about the benefits of various types of pets in recovery can help you determine whether or not a pet can help you in your sobriety.
The Benefits of Owning a Pet in Recovery
Owning a pet in recovery can benefit you in many ways, including:
#1. Pets Facilitate Social Contact
Loneliness is a challenge many people face after leaving treatment. Leaving the people you met in treatment behind can be a jarring experience, and it can be difficult to create new social circles at first. Luckily, pets can help facilitate social contact.
Not only do pets give you something to talk about with new people you meet, but they can also be the catalyst to finding new peers. For example, if you own a dog, you can go to a dog park. Here, you can meet other dog owners and regularly connect with others.
#2. Pets Can Get You Out of Your Head
Getting stuck in your own head and becoming preoccupied with worry and stress can cause your mental health to decline. However, having a pet to take care of forces you to set aside your problems and care for something else. Pets need attention, food, and warmth. Learning to value your pet’s health, safety, and happiness expands your awareness, making you less focused on what is going on inside your head. Having an animal that depends on you also gives a sense of purpose and boosts your self-esteem.
#3. Pets Encourage Exercise
Specific types of pets can encourage you to get out and exercise. For example, dogs typically need to be walked once a day. Getting out and exercising can reduce anxiety and depression and boost your overall mood.
#4. Pets Reduce Stress
Studies have found that spending time with pets releases oxytocin, which reduces stress. The better your relationship with your pet, the stronger the bond and the more oxytocin is released. Caring for your pet also reduces stress. When you try to make an animal feel happy, you feel happier yourself.
#5. Pets Help Keep You on a Schedule
In treatment, you most likely had a schedule that you followed. Having a schedule in recovery can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, and luckily, pets can help keep you on a schedule. Most pets let you know when it is time to get up, when it is time to eat, and when it is time to take a walk.
What Type of Pets Benefit Recovery?
The most common animals people get to benefit their recovery include dogs. These animals are often cuddly, fun creatures to have in the home, making them the most sought-after pets.
However, many other animals can benefit in the recovery process. You may like the idea of getting a cat, rabbit, reptile, guinea pig, or bird. While these animals may not be “man’s best friend,” they are often more low maintenance than dogs and can be great for first-time pet owners.
Other animals such as horses and dolphins also significantly benefit the recovery process. While it is unlikely you can own these animals as pets, many facilities offer equine-assisted or dolphin-assisted therapy programs outside of treatment that you can participate in.
Experiential therapy is a therapeutic group modality that engages our patients in activities designed to inspire feeling states and insights that will help foster long-term recovery.More info
Is Owning a Pet Right for You?
Deciding if a pet is suitable for you and your lifestyle is a crucial factor in owning a pet. A few things to keep in mind when debating getting a pet or not include:
#1. Pets Need Your Time and Energy
If you are too busy or not home often, it may not be time to own a pet. Animals like dogs require a lot of time and energy, including walks, specific feed times, and bathroom breaks.
#2. Can You Afford a Pet?
Money can be a significant factor in owning an animal. The pet itself, any cages or homes, food, bedding, toys, accessories, and vet bills can all add up. If you are considering owning a pet, take the time to look at your monthly expenses and determine whether or not you can keep up with the regular costs of owning a pet.
If a Pet Is Not Right for You
Whether you can’t afford a pet or don’t yet feel like you are in a place to take care of an animal, there are ways you can still reap the benefit of pets in recovery. Shelters often welcome volunteers to play with the animals and walk dogs. You might also volunteer to take care of your friends’ pets while they’re traveling. These activities strengthen social bonds and give you a good idea of what caring for a pet entails.
When you leave treatment, you are often given a wide array of tools and coping mechanisms to help you along your recovery journey. However, many people do not consider the benefit of pets in recovery. Pets, from dogs to rabbits, can provide numerous benefits to you on your sobriety journey. Pets can help you socialize, get you out of your head, encourage exercise, reduce stress, and keep you on a schedule. Even if a pet is not suitable for you or your lifestyle, there are still ways to reap the benefits of animals in recovery, including volunteering at shelters. If you or a loved one are struggling in your recovery journey, Hawaii Island Recovery is here to help. Our treatment center in Hawaii offers a continuing care program to those who have completed residential treatment and are looking for extra support. For more information on how we can help you, call us today at (866) 390-5070.