Pets can often give humans a purpose in life. When you are recovering from a substance use disorder, it is incredibly important to look beyond the pain you are facing and have something else on which to focus. For some people in addiction recovery, the focus, at least initially, is internal. Understanding and conquering the old fears, anxieties, and issues that led you to substance use and addiction is critically important to healing.
However, at some point, the healing will open doors to a new life and it is at this point that a companion animal might be a great way to facilitate the healing process.
How can a pet help those in recovery continue on a path of sobriety long-term?
Four-Legged Addiction Recovery Help
“There have been many times I’ve wanted to use and literally the only thing that stopped me is knowing that no one can take care of my babies (in this case, dogs) better than me.”
-From a former heroin addict, now four years clean Metro UK
An article in Mother Nature Network suggests that scientific research shows the positive impact of pets on your life. Pets can:
- Decrease blood pressure and heart rate
- Lower stress and anger
- Reduce depression
- Improve your immune function
One 2017 study followed 3.4 million people for about 12 years. They found that when people lived alone, dog ownership could reduce their risk of death by 36 percent. Another 2017 study showed that newborns living with cats have a lower rate of childhood asthma and pneumonia. Yet another study showed that people living with chronic pain or recovery from surgery needed less pain medication after spending time with a therapy dog.
Of course, there is also the benefit of becoming more active if you are a pet owner. After all, Fido needs a walk and you are just the person to help your furry friend get enough exercise.
If you are considering pet adoption in addiction recovery, all the signs point to the long-term positives that bringing a furry, feathered, or scaly friend into a home can bring. PsychCentral says there are six key ways that companion animals can help you in addiction recovery:
- Pets are soothing and serve as a positive presence in the home.
- Pets love you unconditionally, especially at times when you struggle to love yourself.
- Pets change your behavior – for the better. Petting a dog or cat calms nerves and relaxes the mind; something everyone can appreciate.
- Pets take you out of your own head, distracting your cyclic thinking patterns.
- Pets are cuddly touch-fiends. Petting the head of your dog or cat gives your immune system a boost and reduces stress hormone production.
- Pets force you to be responsible for another life. They reinforce that you are very capable of loving and caring for another creature.
Adopting a homeless pet could be an important step toward addiction recovery. While it is certainly not recommended when you are in the throes of active addiction, at the right time during recovery a pet could help speed the healing process.
If you are undergoing care at a Washington State addiction treatment facility, the addition of a pet may help you get better faster after rehab. To learn more about addiction treatment resources including pet adoption, contact us today!