Adopting a pet can truly change our lives for the better. They give us company when we’re lonely, do silly things to make us laugh, and are generally very loyal to us. In turn, adopting a pet can make us feel happier and more secure. For such reasons, many pet owners find that adopting a pet was the best decision they ever made.
Based on the benefits we can receive from adopting a pet, it’s believed that pets, in combination with drug and alcohol rehab, can help one successfully battle addiction. While animals can’t directly put a halt to one’s addiction, what they can do is encourage them to do better with their healing to get themselves on track to where they need to be.
In fact, the following facts are solid reasons why those recovering from addiction should consider adopting a pet:
1. Pets reduce stress and other negative emotions
One of the biggest reasons people turn to drugs and/or alcohol in the first place is to distract themselves from mental health problems or general stress in their everyday lives. But imagine if these sufferers from addiction had a way to eliminate their stress and negative emotions. The presumption would be that they’d have an easier time weaning off their addiction.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce stress and emotional turmoil associated with addiction, which can in turn aid a person in addiction recovery. While different forms of counseling, therapy, and/or medication can aid with this, introducing a pet into one’s life can help improve their mood overall.
Research shows that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, are more calm and relaxed thanks to boosts in serotonin and dopamine, and have lower blood pressure in stressful, high-tension situations. Generally, better mental and emotional health can result from owning a pet.
In turn with reduced mental and emotional problems, it’s said that pet owners are more likely to gain physical health benefits as well. For instance, pet owners generally live longer after suffering from a heart attack and are less likely to have to visit the doctor over the course of their lifespan than non-pet owners.
2. Animals boost our endorphin levels.
Not only does adopting a pet helps reduce negative emotions, stress, and the like, but pets can also boost one’s endorphin levels in the process. What exactly are endorphins? Endorphins are what we often refer to as our “feel good” hormones.
Endorphins do different things. Apart from making us happier overall, these hormones have the power to reduce physical pain in our bodies. Thus, those suffering from a morphine or codeine addiction may especially benefit from the release of endorphins that having a pet can provide as they offer a similar yet safer and more natural effect.
But how exactly do animals boost our endorphins, you may ask? There are many ways this can be accomplished.
For instance, if one adopts a dog, dogs must be walked on a regular basis. In fact, regular exercise alone from walking and/or playing with our pets can boost our endorphins. Likewise, watching our pets do silly things like chasing their tail can boost our endorphins as they bring us joy and laughter.
3. They encourage us to trade toxic habits for healthy alternatives.
When an animal is under our care and responsibility, the last thing we want is to put him or her in danger. In the back of our heads, we know that in order to fulfill our duties as a pet owner and to provide our pet a safe environment to thrive in, we must work on ourselves, at least to an extent.
That said, many people going through addiction recovery may discover that having a pet motivates them to get their life back on track. However, everyone may be inspired differently as a result.
For some, they may be encouraged to cut back or even stop drinking or abusing drugs altogether. For others, having a pet may inspire them to stay in a drug or alcohol rehab program. As for others, they might be encouraged to trade very specific toxic habits, like drinking and driving or leaving the house a mess, for the sake of being a good owner to their pet.
Generally, in both little and big ways, animals can be huge motivators in our lives. After all, pet owners often want to provide the best, most stable lives for their furry friends. And, best of all, as animals encourage us to do better, they do this without pressuring us or criticizing us along the way, which are two things those suffering from addiction often can’t stand.
4. Adopting an animal in need gives us a sense of purpose.
Struggling with addiction is tough. Not only do sufferers often have an underlying reason for their addiction, but they struggle with the addiction itself. On top of that, they receive judgments from the people in their lives. And, to make matters worse, there often comes further consequences: difficulty keeping a job, divorce, loss of child custody, legal trouble, and so on.
Based on the latter, someone struggling with addiction may feel hopeless as if their problems will continue to grower greater over time and that there’s no escape. When one feels trapped in a negative life situation, it’s easy to get into the mindset that they lack a purpose in life or even that they’re a “waste of space.”
By adopting a shelter animal, one can feel a greater sense of purpose in life as they feel good about taking an animal, who may otherwise end up being mistreated or even euthanized in a shelter setting, to a happier environment. Watching as a sad cat or frightened dog turns into a blissful, energetic pet post-adoption is one of the greatest gifts of all.
As one feels a greater sense of purpose in life, this alone can be enough to encourage them to get back on their feet and fight hard to combat their addiction to lead a better life. Sometimes all someone needs are to feel one small sense of accomplishment to accomplish even greater things in life.
5. Pets give us structure and routine.
While some people strive off of a spontaneous lifestyle over structure and routine, the latter two are vital components of any level of addiction recovery. Without a set structure, it can be harder to be consistent with making progress alongside one’s addiction recovery journey.
According to the Recovery website, adding structure and routine into someone struggling with addiction’s life is a very natural process, working alongside the body’s innate, synchronized systems rather than against them.
As a result of developing new habits and a specific routine, people tend to feel more in control of their addiction, more responsible for helping themselves lead a healthier life, and more confident overall.
By adopting a pet, one can feel a greater sense of structure and routine as pets tend to have (and need) a specific structure and routine of their own. Animals often eat a certain number of times a day, require having their cage or litter box cleaned out frequently, and often need regular walks with their owner.
With responsibilities like the previous mentioned, those struggling with addiction may have an easier time getting into a routine of their own, specifically when it comes to helping themselves adapt to and continue to stick to their addiction recovery plan.
6. Animals teach us how to communicate verbally and non-verbally.
Communication is a critical aspect of anyone’s life. With both verbal and non-verbal communication, we can foster positive relationships, ensure our voice is heard when it needs to be heard the most, and decrease the chances of any unfortunate miscommunications.
In fact, research shows that dogs can improve our communication in a handful of ways. However, one of the best ways dogs and most animals for that matter can improve our communication skills is by their great listening skills alone. As we talk to them while they merely sit and listen, this indirectly teaches us to reach out to others and communicate healthily.
Healthy communication is vital for those struggling with addiction in specific. Why? Because those dealing with addiction often lack the communication skills necessary to talk about their addiction and ask for help for any underlying problems that may be contributing to their addiction from the start.
In the early stages of addiction recovery, adopting a pet might not be the best decision for many individuals. However, based on the latter research and general facts, it’s clear that animals may significantly help some people as they get through the later stages of their addiction rehabilitation and recovery.
With the latter said, those healing from drug or alcohol addiction might be interested in adopting a pet of their own or even engaging in animal-assisted addiction treatment alongside other forms of treatment. By incorporating an animal alongside their journey to an addiction-free life, they are likely to heal quicker and have a lower rate of relapse.