Animals can be an integral part of one’s recovery journey. Animal-assisted therapy or having a pet throughout recovery provides a powerful perspective on one’s sober goals. It can act as both a testament to one’s progress as well as their developing values and identity.
An animal companion may not be right for everyone and the benefits they provide need to be actively harnessed and acknowledged. However, they can also be one of the most influential elements in one’s recovery. Learning the impact, responsibilities, and purposes of taking on an animal companion can inform each individual of the various benefits it can have on one’s mental health, physical health, and recovery.
Taking on the Responsibility of an Animal in Recovery
Despite the great benefits an animal can provide, owning a pet may not be a feasible option for everyone. Not only is there a financial component that comes with caring for an animal, but it is one’s responsibility to continue to care for the animal despite one’s experiences while in recovery. If an individual is not prepared to financially, physically, or emotionally care for another living creature, an animal can be an unnecessary stress that may have an adverse effect on their journey.
However, if an individual has developed effective coping strategies and has established a healthy daily routine, an animal companion can be a great way to continue building these core skills. This can also help promote a healthy, effective, and fulfilling sober lifestyle. Talking with one’s support network and recovery program can help each person decide if and when an animal companion may be right for them before taking on this responsibility.
Find the Animal That Works for You
While dogs are often the first animals that come to mind when considering an animal companion, they are not the only option available. Those who suffer from physical pain may find it difficult to walk a dog regularly or lack the space or living situation to comfortably house them.
Instead of giving up on the idea of having an animal companion, one can find a type of pet that works for their particular situation. For some, dogs will provide the best possible outlet, while others may find that cats, birds, snakes, lizards, or rodents are good companions. Not only is it important to decide if an animal is right for a person, but also what kind of animal, the responsibilities and restrictions therein, and the financial budgeting all need to be considered.
An Outlet of Verbal Expression
Animals can be a great conversation partner, insofar as they can provide a listening ear if an individual needs to vent. While this method does not mean that an animal is to be yelled or screamed at (this is harmful to the animal and can traumatize them), an animal can be a way for an individual to begin processing their stress in a healthier way. A person may more readily express their feelings when given an outlet that is not a professional, providing a genuine way to begin safely navigating one’s emotions.
This practice is also a great way to combat feelings of isolation that may be present during the recovery process. Addiction and recovery can leave an individual feeling very lonely in their experiences. An animal can be a great way to populate one’s space with a loving and caring presence to help break through these feelings and practice building companionship and trust in their newfound sobriety.
Routines and Responsibilities
Establishing a safe and regular routine can be challenging as one explores their new sober identity. However, it is also an important part of the recovery process. The consistency of a regular schedule can be instrumental in learning to employ other coping strategies and self-care routines.
Building one’s day around the needs of an animal, from their exercise needs to socialization needs, can provide a base around which to structure the rest of one’s day. Knowing that an individual needs time to tend to an animal and maintain consistent meal times can prompt them to extend these same courtesies to themselves as well.
Companionship Without Judgment
The loving atmosphere created by a meaningful relationship with an animal can be a powerful testament to one’s recovery. Animals have the unique ability to only judge a person based on how they are treated in the present and can act as pure reflections of one’s current emotional state and attitude.
Sadness can cause an animal to reflect the same emotion, as with stress, anger, or happiness. Animals are not going to judge an individual based on past mistakes or physical appearances. Instead, they are reflections of one’s caring and responsibility, helping an individual better visualize their own success in recovery with a loving companion by their side.
Animals can provide several boons to one’s recovery, and being able to embrace their healing potential can be an incredible resource to have. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we encourage each person to explore all of the options available to them and embrace the healing potential of animal companions throughout the healing process. Your time with us can be further personalized to help you address your needs throughout detox, residential care, and beyond with art therapy, yoga, mindfulness practices, individual and group therapy, and psychoeducation, along with parenting classes and a smoking cessation program to help you address every aspect of your life. Addressing addiction, mental health disorders, or trauma is a difficult process. However, tackling them holistically and personally can provide the best route to a sustained, healthy transformation. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, call us at (866) 388-6925 to speak to a caring, trained staff member today.