The Humane Society reports that 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet. Are you one of those households? If so, I encourage you to allow your dog, cat, gerbil, horse or bird to be a part of your recovery journey.
From the first day of treatment to maintaining sobriety every day, your pet can be a lifeline. Learn more about how pets can help in recovery, and see your best friend through new eyes.
Pets Balance You During Treatment
I understand that you might feel anxious about starting recovery, and you may struggle to open up about your addiction. Let your pet’s presence comfort you and help you connect with others. A pet can give you peace of mind so that when those seemingly insurmountable obstacles emerge, it will be easier to tackle them on level ground. Having a steady, judgment-free companion to love and take care of may do wonders for you.
Pets Alleviate Negative Emotions
Recovery is a deluge of painful, erratic emotion. Stress, anxiety, fear, depression and guilt are all wobbly stepping stones along this journey. These emotions can be risky, especially if drinking or drugs were used to stifle them in the past. A pet can help. It listens without judgment, offers a consolatory lick when you’re feeling sad and loves you unconditionally when you’re struggling to love yourself. Simply petting your furry companion can drop blood pressure and ease tension.
Pets Offer Acceptance
Society often treats recovering addicts according to unfair stigmas. I’ve witnessed acts of anger, hurt and judgment. As long as you do your best to love them, pets will never condemn you. They are thrilled just to spend time with you. They won’t be furious and belittling if you are tempted to relapse. Your pet’s unconditional acceptance may urge you to also accept yourself and your flaws. Self-discovery and shining light on our own dark places is an essential piece of recovery.
Pets Restore Trust
Over the course of your life and addiction, you may have developed distrust for people who lie and cheat. Moreover, you may have lost complete faith in yourself. A pet relies on you for survival and companionship; as you nurture a pet you will once again grow trust within yourself. This will bolster the confidence you have in your ability to stay true to recovery. If you can keep a beloved animal happy and healthy, you can do the same for yourself!
Pets Promote Positive Relaxation
Recovery requires that you discover new ways to relax completely devoid of drugs or alcohol. As mentioned before, a pet can lower blood pressure and boost feel good hormones. So, sit down to a happy movie and massage your pup, take a long ride on your horse or play for bit with your cat and a string. Besides, we could learn a lot from those serene lifestyle gurus who can plop down and take a nap just about anywhere!
Pets Prompt Laughter
Recovery is often taken so seriously that we forget the magic of laughter! HPMC Occupational Medical Services reports that laughter reduces stress, boosts your immune system, increases your physical endurance and jogs your memory. Pets aren’t stand-up comedians, but they are famous for their crazy, hilarious antics. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gotten sucked into hours long dog and cat video binges.
Pets Provide Companionship
Recovery should never be a lonely road. A strong, active support system and plenty of encouragement are key ingredients to success. That group can and should include both people and animals! There is just something so reassuring about the quiet, steady companionship of a pet. Dogs can feel empathy towards you just as a human friend would, so you’ll never have to feel alone and misunderstood in your journey.
Pets Teach Empathy
Speaking of empathy, we could all learn to be more giving and compassionate. Many recovering addicts swear by the power of service; it keeps them and others on track. By caring for a pet, you can foster a healthy sense of empathy in yourself. Pets are also wondrously caring towards us; even rats show empathy! We can all benefit from a loving animal-human bond.
I know recovery is a struggle, but our pets are more than happy to walk alongside us and help carry the weight in their own way. Let your best friend, whether it’s furry, smooth, soft or prickly, join you as you pursue a happy, clean life.
By Angela Lambert
Photo by: Mosman Council (Flickr)