October 18, 2021 Life

How Adopting a Pet Can Help You Stay Sober

hand holding dog paw.

Addiction is a far-reaching disease with the power to leave a lot of destruction in its wake. Those who are fortunate enough to recognize the signs of addiction in themselves have already taken a vital step towards getting the treatment and help they need.

In other cases, loved ones are tasked with staging an intervention and helping an addict find their way to treatment.

But the reality is that treatment is only a part of a much larger equation. Overcoming addiction often requires a recovery process that goes well beyond the time spent in a rehabilitation center. In the vast majority of cases, it’s a process that requires a lifetime commitment.

Some people leaving a treatment center will move into a sober living home for a while to exist in a space supportive of their new goals. Others may try to move back home with an understanding that new routines and strategies for dealing with stress are going to be a part of daily life.

No matter how recovery is approached, having a solid and consistent support system in place makes all the difference. Family, friends, and even colleagues make up that core group of supporters for many recovering addicts.

However, it’s important not to overlook what a positive impact a pet can make when it comes to staying sober.

How Pets and Recovery Go Hand-in-Hand

Recovery from addiction looks different for everyone. The idea of linking pets and recovery may not readily spring to mind.

With that being said, having a variety of tools to stay sober at your disposal is key to success. Many people are surprised at how pets can help you stay sober through a time of immense transition.

Pets and addiction very much go hand-in-hand. They can provide refreshing reasons to stay sober in a time that’s inevitably full of challenges.

Whether you find a pet to adopt right out of treatment or wait longer in the recovery process to find an animal companion, the benefits are vast.

Coming out of a treatment center can be an overwhelming experience. Many people find it jarring to transition from a controlled and supportive environment back into a world that led them to addiction.

While someone in recovery comes out of treatment with a variety of tips for staying sober in place, it can ultimately be a fear of judgment from others that derails the recovery process altogether.

Even those who are in recovery with a stable support system may find that there are some friends and family members who simply can’t accept the realities of their battles with addiction.

That’s where adopting a pet can help significantly. It’s a move toward self-care that comes completely judgment-free.

Animals are one of the most unbiased support systems out there. They are unaware of their owner’s past substance abuse issues and will often form quick bonds with their owners.

Adopting and caring for a pet gives someone in recovery a new purpose. It’s also a guarantee of a return on compassion amid difficult times.

Choosing the Right Pet Can Be Empowering

The time someone who is recovering from addiction spends in treatment is vital. It’s a chance to step away from temptation and focus exclusively on wellbeing.

During treatment, someone who is suffering from addiction is surrounded by supportive staff members who are rooting for their success. They’re also in contact with others going through similar struggles and looking to connect.

This type of personalized care is another reason pets and substance abuse recovery are so intimately linked. Coming out of treatment, a person in recovery requires customized care options when it feels like temptation and judgment are around every corner.

A person who is in recovery has options when it comes to adopting a pet. They are free to pick a pet that meets their unique needs and that choice alone can be empowering.

While cats and dogs are ideal for many people recovering from addiction, some might find that pets like birds, rabbits, reptiles (like lizards), and other critters are a better fit.

Ultimately, it comes down to finding a pet that puts you at ease, and this is an independent choice that’s entirely up to the individual — no stress included.

Man with parrot on shoulder.

A Companion to Keep You on Track and on Time

Time in a treatment center can save a life. However, the schedules and expectations in a rehabilitation center are far from what a person deals with in daily life in the outside world.

This can make transitioning back into life outside of a treatment center especially difficult. Many people who are in recovery struggle with finding the energy, motivation, and focus to stick to routines they once held.

This is another area in which adopting a pet can help. On those days when it’s difficult to get out of bed or you’re feeling tempted to lean back on old habits, knowing you have a pet to take care of can make all of the difference.

Scheduling set walk times with pets, playtimes, and even trips to the dog park help re-establish a lineup of daily activities. This also provides a structure someone in recovery can use to build their own schedule around.

For example, if it’s been difficult to stick to normal meal times after returning home, pairing pet feedings with your own meals can be helpful.

Getting up early to feed a cat or let a rabbit out to run may seem difficult in the moment, but it’s very rewarding and a great way to remain on a meaningful schedule.

Pets Help You Stay Sober and Active

Recovery from addiction has a lot to do with dealing with the psychology behind substance abuse. Those who are in recovery must look inward to recognize what triggers abusive behaviors with substances and how to avoid these triggers going forward.

Beyond mental and emotional links to a substance, recovery requires a renewed focus on physical health. Strengthening both the body and the mind makes for a more successful recovery. Pets can help with this effort tremendously.

Those who adopt dogs or other animals that need to be walked regularly will find a cardio routine built into the adoption. Walking becomes an integral part of the day and your body benefits as well as your pet!

Many people who are in recovery turn to yoga and meditation when they want to focus on physical health and balance. Adopting a pet like a bird can create a built-in soundtrack in your home for a yoga session that feels cooperative.

You can even take these sessions outside and enjoy a yoga class in the fresh air while a pet savors time outdoors, too. Either way, a more active lifestyle naturally follows pet adoption.

Enjoy a Renewed Sense of Purpose in Life

It’s not a secret that transitioning back into work and daily responsibilities during recovery can be difficult. Many people who are fresh out of a treatment center struggle to find the balance between having a normal life and actively participating in important outpatient treatment programs to stay on track with recovery.

Regular reminders of the purpose behind the struggle are vital to a successful recovery. This is where adopting a pet can keep many people sober.

Anytime you’re responsible for caring for another living being, a renewed sense of purpose is born. Caring for a pet is a lot of responsibility that comes with just as much reward.

Even if someone in recovery feels like they have lost a sense of professional purpose, loving and caring for an adoptive pet can be a new purpose to focus on. It’s also a very worthwhile goal to invest in and it can result in reciprocated love.

Over time, a dedication to caring for a pet can also grow a sense of self-confidence. As those in recovery see their new pet thrive, they can be assured that their efforts are leading to results. This is a lesson wonderfully translated to the recovery process as a whole.

Emotional Support from a Pet Can Support Sobriety, Too

There’s a lot of emotional and therapeutic value in adopting a pet that can help to support sobriety in recovery.

Simply having another living being around the house can give someone who is in recovery a sense of companionship that helps them to avoid moments of temptation.

Even if that person isn’t to a point at which they are going out and socializing with others yet, having an adopted pet around to speak with can be amazing practice. Comfort with conversation can be re-learned in a space that’s safe and secure.

The best part is that a pet will never cause feelings of shame for someone in recovery, no matter how silly they feel speaking with their animal initially.