Animals are wonderful – especially those who act as our companions, and during addiction recovery, a companion animal has many benefits.
Dogs and cats are always there for us when we arrive home and are so excited to see us.
Whether we are sad, hurting, angry, happy, or ill, our pets seem to know. And, they always seem to do what they do best to cheer us up – stay by our side.
Sure, there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like animals or finds the idea of them repulsive, but it is likely safe to say that the majority of people get excited when they see a dog or a cat and they want to get close to it.
With the elated mood they leave us in, it is no wonder that they can be beneficial in our recovery.
After all, getting sober is one of the hardest things you will ever face.
1. Companion Animals Bring out Our Emotions
We can’t help the emotions that flow from us when we are around animals. For many, feelings that may have been buried for years can find their way out.
Often, when spending time with a companion animal, you will display feelings of:
It helps those in recovery know that they aren’t out of touch with their emotions and that they are still capable of feeling goodness.
Once felt and experienced, these feelings can roll over into other areas of life. In addition, they can begin looking at something or someone beyond themselves.
Learning that our actions and behaviors can affect others is an important part of recovery – and feeling compassion for the companion animal is a good place to start.
2. Companion Animals Require Responsibility
Learning responsibility is a part of recovery. Regaining control over life and the adult responsibilities that go with it is a step we must take.
This is why many residential treatment programs will involve residents in the cleaning and maintaining the facility, cooking, and other daily life tasks.
Animals require a lot of time and attention – and they have needs that must be met.
Having a companion animal allows the opportunity to learn how to maintain responsibility while fulfilling the needs of the pet.
To care for an animal, responsibilities are necessary in maintaining a healthy pet. These include:
- Cleaning a litter box
- Vet visits
- Play time
3. Companion Animals Can Reduce Negative Feelings and Moods
There has been much research that has determined that animals are great at reducing anxiety and elevating moods.
The simple, continuous movement of petting the animal and otherwise spending time with a furry friend can reduce negative feelings and moods.
Because it has been backed by so much research, laws concerning emotional support animals are being put into place across the country.
In recovery, it is important that you maintain a positive outlook. Doing so increases your chances of a successful recovery.
4. Companion Animals Increase Your Ability to Connect with Others
The recovery process requires us to be open and connect with others.
- First, we are moving away from the life we once knew – and this includes are old friends. We must make new, sober friends in order to avoid past choices.
- Second, having a solid support system is crucial in recovery. This is because the triggers and moments of weakness will appear. A support system is there for you to lean on in these times. Therefore, you need to have a good connection with those on your team so they can provide you the best support when the time arises.
- Lastly, participating in group therapy and residing with others in recovery (such as in sober living homes) allows you to learn and grow from your peers. It also allows you the opportunity to form bonds and gain new friendships.
How can a companion animal help with this part of recovery?
Having a companion animal will put you in contact with those around you who want to pet or talk about your animal. In addition, being around your animal opens you up to higher emotions – and allows you to be able to feel connected to others.
5. A Companion Animal Requires Physical Activity
Depending on the pet you have, caring for it will require some form of physical activity. This is especially true for dogs, as they require regular walks.
However, for other animals such as cats or even reptiles, you will find it necessary to clean the cages and litter box regularly, too.
And, honestly, that can be quite a task!
We learn in recovery that physical activity is necessary to maintain a healthy balance in life.
By caring for a companion animal, we are forced to participate in the physical aspect which is very beneficial.
6. Companion Animals Reduce Feelings of Loneliness
When you enter addiction recovery, life as you knew it changes. And, the friends you used to have are gone.
It is common for many people in recovery to feel very lonely and isolated.
Having a companion animal, however, is a way to quench the thirst for socialization without tempting yourself with the wrong people.
By reducing the feelings of loneliness, you become less desperate for any friends which can leave you finding the wrong friends.
Instead, you can take your time building your friendship circle and your support team.
7. Companion Animals Can Boost Confidence
Recovery is tough – and it is a long road.
The meek may struggle and the strong may fail. But the common thread that leads individuals through a successful recovery is confidence.
If you are confident in yourself, in your abilities, in your addiction, and so forth, you can overcome things much easier than someone who lacks the confidence.
Those who have a companion animal have to care for it and meet its needs. The more you do this, the more confident you feel in your ability to do something right and worthwhile.
This can very easily spill on over into your recovery, boosting your confidence and allowing you to care for yourself and meet your own needs.
Those who have the opportunity to take advantage of a companion animal in addiction recovery will find that they are able to reach their heart and their strength a little easier than they once thought.
They have been proven to be an effective method of healing for all who seek it – and an asset to recovery.
The Lakehouse Sober Living environment is a pet-friendly sober living house for women, with men’s homes available as well. If you are suffering in your addiction, contact us today.