It’s estimated that within the 21 million Americans struggling with addiction, only 10% receive treatment. People choose not to stick with treatment options for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes it’s because they don’t have a support system to keep them on track.
Feeling alone and isolated makes it so much harder to stay the course when it comes to recovery. This is ultimately why the COVID-19 pandemic has been so hard on recovering addicts. As a result, there have been spikes in overdoses throughout the pandemic, and untold mental health struggles that have been impacting people for over a year.
Support is necessary for addiction recovery. Whether you’re “stuck” at home or not, who can provide better support, nurturing, and love than a pet?
If you’re in recovery and you’ve never considered getting a pet before, now might be a perfect time. Let’s look at some of the benefits of pet ownership for recovering addicts, and how a furry friend could be just the helpful companion you need.
They Can Help You Manage Your Mental Health
It’s not uncommon for people recovering from addiction to experience struggles with depression and anxiety. Some of the most common symptoms of depression include:
- Loss of interest
- Changes in sleep/eating habits
- Social isolation
Depression can also cause you to feel extremely fatigued. This is often due to poor sleep, and constant feelings of sadness wearing you out.
Having a dog by your side can help to fight the effects of depression and anxiety. Pets are natural mental health boosters. Simply sitting by your pet can have a calming effect on your mind and body. They can also help you feel less alone. By knowing you have someone by your side, managing your symptoms of depression or other mental health struggles can be a lot easier.
Pets are even sometimes used in addiction therapy. If you’re already attending therapy for recovery, don’t be afraid to ask about how a pet might help you, or whether getting one is the right move. If you need someone to keep you company while making sure you take care of yourself, you might already have your answer.
They Serve as Accountability Partners
While a pet can’t fully hold you accountable for your actions every day, they can motivate you to make better decisions.
First, whether you’re struggling with your mental health or you want to form healthier habits, a pet is a perfect partner. They can get you to exercise and get outside every single day. Dogs need to be walked regularly, so you can enjoy a stroll every afternoon while reaping the potential benefits, including:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Stronger muscles
- More energy
- A boosted immune system
Having a pet around will also help you to fight loneliness. They offer a sense of security and help you establish some kind of routine each day so you can take care of them properly. Having a routine is great for recovering addicts since it provides stability and tends to reduce stress. Additionally, having something/someone to take care of can give you a sense of responsibility that makes you look beyond yourself. When you’re able to do that, even for a minute, it can make you think twice about relapsing.
Are You Ready for a Pet?
Although having a pet can be beneficial to your recovery, it’s important to ask yourself if you’re ready. Pets are a lot of work and require a lot of responsibility. Since stress is often a trigger for recovering addicts, the last thing you want is for a pet to become a burden, rather than something that can help assist you in your recovery journey.
First, make sure that you have the right housing for a pet of any kind. If you live in an apartment or other type of temporary housing, they may have a certain pet policy in place that prohibits animals, or only allows certain breeds/sizes. Even if you live in your own home, you should consider how your space may affect the life of your pet. Do you have space for a dog to move around freely? Do you have things for a cat to climb on, or the equipment you might need for a specialty pet?
It’s also crucial to educate yourself on what to expect when you get a pet – especially when it comes to the cost. According to the American Kennel Club, the average cost of owning a medium-sized dog for the first year alone is $2,889. As your pet gets older, you’ll have to consider things like vet bills, and even emergency medical care that can cost thousands of dollars.
Once you make sure you’re in the right place – literally, figuratively, and financially — owning a pet will become that much more fulfilling. When you’re truly ready, you can enjoy the wonderful benefits of having a four-legged friend who will stay by your side through the recovery process.