Pets and Recovery

Pets can be a great recovery help, and as best friends are known to help people cheer up and make those bad days in recovery more tolerable. Many coping or dealing with health problems have found that pets can provide them with the emotional and spiritual support they need by being around and offering an unconditional love that only pets can.

As pets are playing a larger role in our lives, it is becoming popular for hospitals, recovery rooms, retirement homes and addiction treatment facilities to include animal-assisted activities as alternative therapies within their programs. Many register their pets as a service animal as they provide companionship and services for their owners.

Anyone who loves animals knows that there is nothing like coming home to the love of a pet. Dog owners know that very well. That wagging tail greeting you at the door after a long day’s work is an immediate mood booster. By providing genuine and unconditional love, pets do make a positive impact in a recovering individual’s life by not only offering companionship but also by reducing that person’s stress. Below are some of the benefits that owning a pet in addiction recovery can provide:

  • Building confidence and self-worth: caring for pets increases confidence in doing a good job. Pets give gratitude for small gestures of love and care which can inspire more selfless loving acts from the person in recovery
  • Help reduce stress: studies have also found that spending time with pets releases oxytocin, sometimes called the love hormone, which reduces stress. The better your relationship with your pet, the stronger the bond and the more oxytocin is released.
  • Learning emotional intelligence: pets respond to emotions, and being around animals can help people in recovery learn to control how they respond and adjust to the pet’s emotional needs more than their own
  • Teaching responsibility: pets need care and support. When providing for and taking care of something other than one’s self, it helps us to think about something other than our own struggles

No matter what animal you choose, one of the greatest qualities about pets is that they are non-judgmental. They don’t know about your past or your fight for sobriety. To the animal you choose to care for, you have one major role: savior. So in a way you become each other’s saviors. The moment the pet realizes he is yours and you are his, you become instant partners. Dogs are especially known to be by your side whenever you need them because all they care about is you. Dogs will be your loyal best friend with everlasting support for anything you do.

If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, animals can support a recovery alongside professionals, therapists, and psychiatrists. There is a lot of work that needs to happen in recovery and animals can provide the comfort and care humans often times cannot provide during the tough emotional, physical, and spiritual addiction treatment process.