Early recovery is a challenging time as you develop and practice new habits and focus on using the skills you learned in treatment to help you stave off cravings and cope with stress and other triggers. Here are five ways having a pet during recovery can improve your life and help you through rough times.
1. Having a pet during recovery can improve your health.
A large body of research shows that dogs and other pets have been shown to have a positive impact on your health.1 Pets lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, improve your well-being and increase your self-esteem. Studies also show that dog owners exercise more, since dogs needs regular walks and play time.
Researchers found that pets improve physical and mental health in numerous ways. Among other benefits, they:2
- Improve your mood
- Reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone
- Improve immune function
- Reduce pain
- Increase trustworthiness
- Increase trust toward others
- Reduce aggression
- Enhance empathy
Several studies show that petting your furry friend increases levels of feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Having a pet during recovery can help you relax and decompress after a long day.
2. Pets reduce feelings of isolation.
When you feel isolated in recovery, your risk for relapse goes up. A pet during recovery provides companionship and unconditional love, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. A recent poll found that 67 percent of pet owners talk to their animal, making them feel less alone and giving them the opportunity to get things off their chest.
3. Pets are a happy distraction.
Healthy distractions are a good thing in early recovery. They help reduce cravings and boredom, which are important relapse triggers. A pet is a healthy live-in distraction. You’ll need to feed and groom your pet, and dogs need lots of exercise and attention.
4. Pets teach responsibility.
Having to take responsibility for someone else’s well-being is a powerful motivator for staying in recovery. Pets need a lot of care, which can help you practice responsible behaviors that help increase your overall level of responsibility. Having pets like dogs and cats also promotes routines, which can help you learn to manage your time efficiently.
5. Pets can help you build relationships with others.
Letting go of old relationships is hard, and meeting new people can be difficult. A pet during recovery—dogs in particular—gives you opportunities to meet other people. You’ll likely encounter other pet owners at the dog park or while walking your dog. If you enroll in obedience training, which is always recommended, you’ll meet other people in the group. A dog is a great ice breaker and gives you a topic of conversation when meeting someone new.
Thinking About Getting a Pet? Do Your Research First
Getting a pet during recovery is a big step, but if you’re ready, it can be an important factor in your ongoing success. But before you head to the shelter or reputable breeder, do your research, especially if you’re thinking of getting a dog. Different breeds have different energy levels, potential health problems and attention requirements, and you’ll want to make sure to get a dog appropriate for your own energy level, lifestyle and living situation.