pets and recovery

The Benefits of Pets in Recovery

Last Updated: Feb 23rd 2021

Reviewed by Laura Riley

Loneliness is the downfall for many people struggling with drug addiction. Moving away from old friend groups and starting a new life free of drugs can be a lonely experience at times. This period can be hard to deal with alone for some people. However, one of the best ways to cure loneliness and have a companion by your side is owning a pet during recovery. There are several therapeutic benefits of animals. 

There are so many great benefits to having a pet around to keep you company. They are always excited to see you and they can cure your loneliness. Addiction recovery doesn’t have to be a lonely journey and you don’t necessarily need other people to be in company. Pets can be that bridge between loneliness and sobriety. At the end of the day, having a pet might just be the reason you stay sober and clean. These are just a few benefits of pet therapy during recovery.  

The first step of all recovery journeys starts with reaching out for help. Before you can embrace a new life free of drugs, it’s important to get comprehensive treatment. North Jersey Recovery Center is here to help you get started on your journey to recovery. We offer many options for drug and alcohol addiction treatment. After you finish your journey with us you can discover the benefits of pet therapy and self-care during recovery. 

What Is Pet Therapy?

Pet therapy is best described as using a pet for companionship and help during the recovery process. Whether it be a dog, bird, or cat – having a pet to rely on can be a great addition to your recovery journey. 

Many people use dogs to help them through hard times and guidance. While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of staying sober – having a pet can go a long way in keeping you focused and less lonely. The benefits of pet therapy come in the form of better wellbeing, companionship when lonely, and less stress. 

The Benefits of Pet Therapy

The idea of utilizing pets for company and therapy is not a new concept. We can see the technique for those struggling with autism, lonely senior citizens, and even veterans struggling with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). As simple as it may seem, there are many therapeutic benefits of animals for those entering addiction recovery. If you are feeling overwhelmed or lonely during or after treatment, you may want to consider getting a dog, cat, or other pet. 

There are many different options for a possible pet, these depend on your personality and your lifestyle. It can be an exciting journey picking a new pet to aid you during your recovery. Many people rely on dogs to help them feel better and stay on track. A pet can end up becoming an important part of your life and can ease the journey as well. Let’s take a look at some of the therapeutic benefits of animals:

  • Lower stress levels
  • Lower agitation or anger
  • Helps you maintain a routine/schedule
  • Encourage exercise
  • Lessen depression and anxiety
  • Empower and motivate us
  • Help with social interactions

Millions of people own pets but owning a pet as a recovering addict can be a great help in your journey. These benefits of pet therapy could make all the difference when it comes to relapse and addiction treatment. Let’s take a look at each of these individually. 

Lowers Stress Levels

Stress can be extremely problematic when it comes to recovery. Sometimes it takes a wave of negative emotions and stress to cause a relapse or worse. Pets have been shown to help lower stress levels and improve overall well-being. It’s important to keep a clear and happy mind when it comes to recovery. Stress management is something that is taught during treatment, however, your pet can offer an extra hand in your efforts. 

There has been much research in understanding the therapeutic benefits of animals for recovering addicts. Studies have shown that stroking the fur of your pet can actually help decrease your body’s cortisol levels; which is a prime stress hormone in the body. Keeping your stress to a minimum and practicing a healthy mind can make all the difference during recovery.

Lower Agitation or Anger

In the same vein as lowering stress, pets can help you come to terms with your anger and other negative emotions. Recovering from an addiction (especially in the early stages) can be a tough and emotional journey. Anger and resentment may be in the cards – which can end up cluttering a person’s mind and thoughts. Caring for your pet and embracing its affection towards you can help you calm down and forget about your anger. This is one of the many benefits of pet therapy. 

Helps you Maintain and Create a Routine/Schedule 

Sometimes as simple as maintaining a set schedule and routine can help you find balance and calm during recovery. Taking care of your dog or cat throughout the week can help streamline your schedule and can help you maintain a routine. Additionally, creating a set sleep routine and morning routine can make all the difference. 

Pets can help you keep track of when it’s time to get up when it’s time to eat, and when it’s time to go for a walk with them. Having a set schedule has been shown to help those recovering from addiction stay more focused and sober for longer. Included in these therapeutic benefits of animals is the fact that you get to spend time with your pet – which is a great thing to look forward to each day. While it may seem like a small change, introducing a structured routine can make all the difference. 

Encourage Exercise

Exercise is a vital part of your well-being and your mind as well. Pets, specifically dogs, can help encourage fitness and health. Those who own dogs are said to be way more active than those who don’t. This is because a dog typically encourages you to get out of the house even if it’s raining! Many people underestimate the power of exercise during recovery. Exercise not only keeps your body healthy but also helps clear your mind and reduces your stress. 

Piggybacking off the idea of keeping a routine – walking, or playing with your dog can be integrated into your weekly routine. Exercise and a healthy body are just one of the many benefits of pet therapy. Sometimes just a simple walk here and there can be very beneficial for you and your pet! 

Lessen Anxiety and Depression

Sometimes being lonely or living alone can be a tricky situation for recovering addicts. Being stuck inside your own head can cause problems and may lead to depression/anxiety. Having a pet to take care of can help you get away from your worries and stresses. Understanding and valuing your pet’s wellbeing, health, and safety can help you take your mind off things. Having a pet can help with a person’s anxiety and depression along with overall stress. Relieving stress and the symptoms of anxiety are just some of the therapeutic benefits of animals and pets. 

Empower and Motivate Us

Motivation and empowerment are both worth adding to the potential benefits of pet therapy. Caring for a pet can help boost your confidence and empowers you to keep moving. Successfully keeping your pet happy and taken care of can be a therapeutic and wonderful experience. Seeing your work pay off can help give you the power and courage to not give up and keep moving. This simple act can create a domino effect of successes in your life for you and your pet. 

Help with Social Interactions

One of the more hidden benefits of pet therapy is the ease during social interactions. Sometimes we may crave to connect with other people and having a pet can be a great way to do that. Many people love dogs and may be more inclined to speak to you and pet your dog/cat. It also gives you something to talk about when meeting new people for the first time. Your pet may lead you to meet new friends and people to further help you on your journey towards recovery. 

Take The First Steps Towards Recovery Today! 

While there are many benefits of pet therapy, you must first take the first step towards addiction recovery. At North Jersey Recovery Center, we offer several options for addiction treatment. No matter how bad things may appear, it is never too late to turn things around. At North Jersey Recovery Center, our staff is determined to make sure you overcome the chains of addiction. Don’t wait, take the first step towards a brighter and more fulfilling future for you and your loved ones. 

Give us a call today to learn about the next steps in your recovery journey – if you have any questions, we’ll be happy to assist you as well. 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Laura Riley, MA, LCADC, CCS is an Administrator with North Jersey Recovery Center.

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