This article is by the Recovery Centers of America
No matter how long you’ve been in recovery, you know the importance of relapse prevention strategies and support. Joining a community of Alumni is one way to do just that. Another way? Turning to a furry friend.
Pets can offer so much more than just company (though sometimes, that’s enough in itself!). Studies have shown that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood – all important factors that aid in your recovery.
Here’s how else our furry friends can boost your recovery:
One of the biggest lessons taught in the 12 steps is the importance of helping others and seeing outside of yourself and your own needs. What better way to do that than by getting a pet? A pet depends on one person: You. That means your good choices will help them thrive. Animals are living beings. They need to be cared for and provided for. As you spend time taking care of the pet, you’ll have something to think about besides your own person struggles. And in turn, you will thrive, too. You’ll feel your self-worth and sense of capability skyrocket, as well as your confidence. You’ll watch your beloved pet flourish under your care.
Of course, pets are an added financial and emotional responsibility; seriously consider the impacts this will have before adopting one. Not ready quite yet? Call your local shelter. They’re always looking for volunteers to spend some time with their animals.
Stress is a trigger, so anything you can do to limit it is a win. There are so many ways pets can help reduce stress – whether it’s taking them for a walk, playing with them, or just sitting and petting them. Research shows all of this can help lower oxytocin levels in the brain, resulting in less stress and more relaxation.
Pets are great for grounding techniques, too. They live very simple lives and are satisfied by the most basic elements: food, water, shelter, some love. We could all take a lesson or two from them!
Plus, you’re more likely to exercise when you have a pet, which also boosts your mood. Dogs especially are great motivators to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, resulting in tons of mental and physical health benefits.
Coming out of addiction treatment means building new friendships and letting go of toxic ones. This can be a lonely process. Pets are a simple way to ease yourself back into the pattern of meeting new people. Not only do they serve as great listeners, but pets are the perfect audience to practice those tough conversations with. While they may not have anything to contribute to the conversation, it gives you the chance to talk it out and decide your best course of action – without any interruptions or outside point-of-views.
Plus, having a pet means you’ll be out and about more – trips to the pet store, the vet, maybe a dog park. All of these “errands” serve as the perfect opportunity to meet other pet owners and spark new friendships. After all, they’re the best icebreaker!
No matter what, a pet will always be there for you. They don’t care what mistakes you might have made in the past, an argument you had with someone, or even a step back when you’re only trying to step forward. They care about one thing, and that’s you. They excel in making you feel loved and needed. You don’t have to worry about them judging you. The power of this complete acceptance can help boost your self-esteem, forgive yourself, and continue to move forward.
Ready to take the next step in your recovery? Join your Alumni Association! Just like with pets, we’re here to provide the support your recovery needs. Learn more about your Alumni Association here.