Service dogs aren’t the only type of pet that helps people. Cats, rabbits, birds, even ferrets or pigs can be enlisted as service animals. Animals aren’t only used to service police offers, those with physical restrictions, or people with Alzheimer’s. Pets have been proven to help others as well. They are now being used in treatment for those with mental health issues such as ADD, PTSD, stress relief, and in recovery. Yes, you heard correctly. Pets help people in addiction recovery. Do you want to know exactly how?
As a recovering addict, I love animals. I always have. By nature, I am a person who loves to care for others. It’s not a control issue or to make me feel important. It’s the look in their eyes. Knowing that someone loves you wholeheartedly, its unconditional love. And yes, animals have that love for humans.
Think about it for a moment. People say that a dog is a man’s best friend. Pets rely on their human companion just as a child relies on their mother. You love them, play with them, feed them, care for them, and so on.
Your first year of recovery is the hardest. Trust me, I know so my first year of recovery I got two pet ducks and they were able to help me more than anyone will ever know. We had a bond. Even my husband said they were the coolest pets. Come on, who has a duck that doesn’t live on a farm? Now, I’m not telling you to run out and buy ducks because they are a lot of work, I mean a lot. A dog, a cat, even a goldfish will work just as well. Pets help people in addiction recovery. Plain and simple.
How Pets Help People in Addiction Recovery
- Stress Relief: It is a medical fact that having a pet helps to reduce your stress. Think about how stressful you are in early recovery? We are on edge at all times. Detoxing from drugs take a toll on a person, both mentally and physically. All the emotions start coming at you full force. You think about the damage you have done and the hurt you have caused. Your stress levels skyrocket. In all seriousness, having a living creature there to comfort you and who doesn’t talk back can lower your stress levels immensely.
- Personal Health: Did you know that there are actual medical benefits to people who own pets? Not only is having a pet just awesome, they work wonders for your overall health. Having a relationship with a pet has been proven to reduce a person’s heart rate, oxygen consumption, blood pressure, and decrease their muscle tension. Pretty cool, right?
- Brain Function: Using drugs messes up a person’s brain chemistry. Without a doubt, it is a proven fact. The love between a person and their pet actually promotes new brain cell growth. Being that we destroyed quite a bit of brain cells during active addiction, this is definitely some good news.
- Accountability: Yes, your pet will hold you accountable. Have you ever done something your pet didn’t like and they gave you that disapproving glare? Pets can tell when you’re in a bad mood, when you’re happy, if you’re hurting or upset, or better yet, if you are high. No one like to be called out on their shit so, just imagine having a companion do it constantly with a simple glare.
- Responsibility: Parents get their children a pet to teach them how to be responsible. Likewise, a pet will teach an addict or recovering addict how to be responsible. You have someone you have to take care of. Many people in early recovery feel as if they can barely take care of themselves. So, how are they ever going to take care of another living creature? Trust me, you just do it. Knowing that you have another living creature to care for and love besides yourself can bring out a whole new side of you that you lost during addiction.
- Companionship: Recovering addicts, especially in early recovery often feel lonely. They feel as if they are an outcast. Simply, as if they are stuck in solitude. While some choose to be in solitude. Others hate the feeling of emptiness it encompasses. Pets help people in addiction recovery because they are never completely alone. There will always be another living, breathing thing there to provide companionship.
- Stimulation: Addicts use opiates to target endorphins in the brain and promotes those happy feelings. Pets actually assist the brain in releasing those same chemicals, only naturally. Straight up, this is a sure-fire way that pets help people in addiction recovery. The more you brain naturally produces these endorphins means the less likely you are to crave drugs or even want to get high. Ultimately, this could prevent a potential for relapse.
Let’s not forget that a pet provides unconditional love. When you come home, your pet will be sitting right at the door waiting for you. Pets don’t talk back. They aren’t going to fight with you or belittle you. Pets help people in addiction recovery. They really help. If you don’t have a pet then, you should reconsider. Especially, those in early recovery. A pet will hold you accountable, help you to develop a routine, and love you no matter what. There’s nothing better than that.