You’ve finished detox and inpatient treatment, and now you’re ready to go home and try to fit back into your life. You live alone, and you don’t have many friends or family that live close by. You know that loneliness and boredom can be triggers for relapse, so what can you do to fill that sudden void now that the structured days of treatment are over? One suggestion – try adopting a pet. Studies have shown that pet ownership is beneficial to people with a wide range of mental illnesses and addictions.
Pets can provide social and emotional support, sometimes just as effectively as a human companion. Having another living being in the home can make you feel less lonely. It might sound silly, or like something only a “crazy cat lady” would do, but sometimes talking to someone who can’t judge or talk back is an excellent way to get things off your chest or examine your feelings. Even the act of petting an animal can be sooting.
Pet owners are more likely to be physically fit, and physical health can be just as important as mental when it comes to recovery. Moderate exercise can help with chronic pain, reducing cravings for painkillers, and in general it promotes a sense of well-being. Depending on how much physical activity you’ve up for, you might prefer certain pets over others. If you’re not in great shape, cats like for you to toss toys and dangle things for them, but they lose interest fairly quickly. If you’re the sort who enjoys running marathons on weekends, there are a variety of dogs with seemingly endless energy for running with you, like Labrador retrievers or border collies.
Pet owners also tend to be more conscientious, much like parents, because you have someone depending on you to take care of them. If you’ve fallen into a bit of a depression and you’re teetering on the edge of giving in to temptation, think about what would happen to your pet if you had to go back to rehab, or even worse, overdosed. Animals can become just as attached to you as you are to them. Knowing that you’re not the only one who will be harmed by a relapse can be an excellent motivator.
Similarly, having a pet to care for can be motivation just to carry on from day to day, and to try your best to live a good life. Caring for a pet can give you a sense of reward, such as when a dog is finally house trained or the first time a standoffish cat lets you pick him up. It also adds some structure to your day, because you know you can’t sleep all day with a hungry animal scratching at your door for breakfast.
Finally, pets can help you socialize, particularly if you have a dog that you exercise with. Pet owners are always up for talking about their animals, so if you run into people in dog parks or jogging on the street, use this as a way to get some social interaction.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.