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Written by Amethyst Recovery
Amethyst Recovery is a foremost authority on addiction and a trusted online source of substance abuse information. Their expert team of addiction professionals provide well researched content for people in the grip of addiction. All posts are fact checked and sourced.
The addiction recovery journey can be long and tedious. Recovery requires a lot of patience, motivation and discipline. Getting through the treatment programs and staying sober is often much more difficult than thought to be. After all, addiction is a chronic disease.
If you or someone you know is trying to recover from an alcohol or drug addiction, you’ll need all the help you can get. In particular, you’ll need a strong support network that keeps you grounded. Your support network can be made up of friends, family and even coworkers.
But, that’s not all.
Anyone who struggled with a substance use disorder should also consider adopting a pet. Pets,, like cats and dogs, offer unconditional love, comfort and a safe haven for our emotional lives. They help keep us levelheaded, which is why pets are often used as therapeutic tools.
“39% of American households own at least one dog, and 33% have at least one cat.”
Pet adoption and recovery have a strong link. Those who are in recovery often adopt a pet to help them get through the difficult times. Not only do the animals get a loving home, but recovering addicts also receive the social and emotional support that they need. Pet adoption and recovery is linked through the attachment theory.
This is why equine therapy is often a success. Horse-assisted therapy gives recovering addicts an opportunity to bond with an animal. The horses encourage the development of a positive self-construct. They also provide much-needed emotional support.
We can’t all participate in horse-assisted therapy, and we can’t all adopt a horse. However, we can adopt a pet into our lives. Here’s a better look at why you should adopt a pet while in recovery, and how you can go about doing so.
The Benefits of Adopting a Pet While in Recovery
Recovering drug addicts and alcoholics should highly consider adopting a pet. Pets can easily fulfill a person’s emotional needs. A pet can also help stabilize one’s emotional state.
Picture this. You arrive home after a stressful day to your dog greeting you at your door. Or, you may find yourself starting to think about drugs or alcohol only to be disrupted by your cat rubbing itself on you. Various research has shown that animal companionship come with many benefits. You can enjoy a better health and a healthier emotional and mental state, even if you’re not struggling with substance abuse.
To your pet, you are a savior. You’ve also saved his or her life. Your pet will stay by your side throughout all your struggles. It’ll show you affection. They make your life feel more rewarding, and they make you feel like a much more productive member of society.
Caring for a pet can also give you a sense of purpose. For those who have fallen into the clutches of drug and alcohol addiction, this may be more important than you’d think. You’ll feel a lot more fulfilled with your life when taking care of a pet.
For those who are struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction, adopting a pet can completely change their lives. Here are some benefits of adopting a pet while in recovery.
Become More Active
Exercise is a potential treatment for drug or alcohol addiction. Finding an exercise buddy that can fit your pace can be difficult. A pet can keep you motivated. You’ll be much more willing to go on an evening walk for your pet.
Even if you opt for a smaller companion, you can still incorporate exercise into your daily routine. For example, you may let your rabbit loose in your yard while you enjoy the sun or go for a short stroll around. When you have a pet, exercise feels a lot more fun. You’ll also be more likely to get and stay active.
Learn to Socialize with Others Again
Many drug abusers and alcohol abusers going through addiction recovery hesitate to get social again. Most of these people used drugs or alcohol as part of their socialization. Without these substances, they may find it difficult to open up or trust again. They may also have a hard time bonding with others.
Owning a pet can make socializing with others a much easier experience. You can chat with other dog owners while at the dog park. You’ll also be able to socialize and interact with your animal companion. This will help you feel less lonely. You can also practice holding a conversation with others with your pet.
Distract Yourself from Cravings
Addiction recovery can be difficult because most recovering addicts will experience cravings. Pets can be an excellent extraction. They’ll take up all of your idle time, so you no longer dwell on the past. Your pet will also distract you by taking up your attention. You can pet your cat while you watch TV or play fetch with your dog whenever you start to experience cravings.
Not only will you benefit from these interactions, but so will your pet. You’ll have plenty of replacement activities to look forward to.
Improved Emotional State
Your emotional state during addiction recovery can fluctuate a lot. After all, neurotransmitter levels in your body are going haywire. You can reduce initial negative emotions associated with recovery by having a pet. You’ll find yourself feeling a lot happier.
Studies show that gazing into your dog’s eyes can lead to an increase in oxytocin. Oxytocin is an important hormone in the human body. It not only lowers blood pressure, but is also associated with feelings of love. This type of healthy stimulation can help improve a recovering addict’s emotional and mental state. It will also help them feel less lonely and anxious. They’ll feel less isolated.
Decreased Sadness, Hostility and Aggressiveness
A study conducted by Washington State University found that adolescent boys in addiction recovery that played with shelter dogs every week felt less sadness, aggressiveness and hostility. They would only need to play with shelter dogs once a week for an hour at a time. They didn’t have to do anything overly complicated. They would simply go on walks with the dogs, play with them, brush them or pet them.
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Playing with a pet was more beneficial and effective than exercising or playing video games. It’s apparent that animals are huge assets to addiction recovery programs.
Pets can help people cope with stressful situations. They are important tools in recovery. Their presence can help lower blood pressure. A recent study looked at blood pressure levels between people who took high blood pressure medication and those who took the medication but also adopted a dog or cat. After 6 months, those who had adopted a pet had significantly lower blood pressure.
Increased Likelihood to Engage in Healthy Habits
Those who own a pet are more likely to engage in healthy habits. For example, they’re more likely to eat when feeding their pets or they’re more likely to get some exercise from walking their dog or playing with their pet. Your pet’s health heavily relies on you taking action.
Reduced Stress Levels
Pets can help reduce stress levels by lowering cortisol levels in the body. Pet owners often feel more calm and confident after playing with their pet. Cortisol is basically your body’s alarm system. When there’s a lot of it in your body, your body is on high alert. By reducing cortisol levels in your body, you’ll feel less stressed.
What You Need to Know Before You Adopt
Adopting a pet is a huge decision. You may need to make significant changes to your life. Make sure that you are fair to yourself and to your companion animal. There are several different things that you should consider before adopting a pet. Here are just a few of the things you should consider:
- A pet is a long-term commitment. You will need to provide unconditional love and lots of support and patience to your companion animal as well. Make sure that you have the time needed to care for a pet. Don’t adopt a pet if you won’t be able to care of it for the foreseeable future.
- Understand that pet adoption involves a thorough application process. You will be screened by adoption agencies. Some may even require a home inspection to ensure that you can provide a good environment for the pet. The adoption process can be long and arduous.
- Consider your financial situation. Pets are expensive, and you must determine whether you can afford it. You will need to pay a one-time adoption fee, as well as recurring costs for veterinary visits, food, toys and more.
- Consider your housing situation. Not all apartments and condos allow pets. There may also be restrictions on the type of pet you can own, as well as the amount of pets you can have.
Consider adopting a pet from animal shelters or animal rescues. You may just save a life. You can also look for pets from certified breeders. Shelters or rescues will have pets for adoption throughout the entire year.
It’s best to avoid a kitten and puppy mill. These breeders are only concerned with increasing profit and decreasing overhead cost. As a result, the health and welfare of the animals is not a priority. This type of cruelty to animals is inexcusable.
Consider Whether It’s The Right Pet and the Right Time
Before you adopt a pet, you should remember that a pet comes with years of commitment. You’ll need to take over major caregiving responsibilities. If you’re not sure whether you’re ready for a big commitment, you might want to start with animals that need less maintenance and attention. Popular examples include fish or hamsters.
Only commit to a pet that needs more maintenance, like a dog or a cat, if you’re ready for it. You should also check with your family members and roommates ahead of time to make sure that they’re on the same page. Assure them that you’ll take full responsibility for your pet.
When it comes to pet adoption and recovery, there is some mixed advice out there. Talk to your sponsor, addiction specialists and addiction therapist to see whether you’re ready. They’ll give you some advice based on your health, emotional state and physical state.
If you’re not ready yet, consider volunteering at a local rescue organization. You can even consider fostering an animal for short periods of time to see whether you’ll be handle the responsibilities. These opportunities will give you a chance to socialize and play with some wonderful animals. You and your family can become pet parents for a short period of time.
When considering whether you should adopt a pet, you should also consider the type of pet that will be a best fit for your life. You should need to consider whether this is the right time. Consider your housing considerations and your financial situation. Owning a pet can come with some fairly high costs, and pet care is not cheap.
A Look at the Different Options Available
If you’re considering the option of adopting a pet during recovery, you need to make sure that you choose the right pet. The pet’s maintenance must be a good fit for your lifestyle and what you can offer. Be a responsible pet owner.
Here’s a look at some of the options you have when adopting a pet. Consider not only your financial situation and physical abilities, but also the level of maintenance the pet requires and their lifespan. A pet may come with decades of commitment.
Small dogs under 12 pounds often have a lifespan of 13 years. Medium dogs that weight between 20 to 89 pounds have an average lifespan of 11 years, and large dogs that weigh over 90 pounds often have a lifespan of 8 years. Dogs require a lot of maintenance. Spayed or neutered dogs tend to live longer.
Pet owners will need to bathe, feed and give their dogs lots of attention. In return, dogs are usually the most popular pets that are used as companion animals. They can offer a lot of support to their owners. These pets, however, require the most pet care.
Indoor-only cats tend to live for 12 to 18 years while cats that live outside all the time tend to live 2 to 5 years. Cats need less maintenance than dogs, but they still require quite a lot of attention. Cat behavior can vary quite significantly. While some cats are very independent, others require a lot of attention and cuddling.
Fishes are fairly low maintenance. Goldfishes can live anywhere from 5 to 10 years, while betta fishes often live for about 2 years only. Koi fish have an average lifespan of 25 to 35 years. With that said, the oldest koi fish on record lived 226 years!
Hamsters are fairly low maintenance and live an average of 2 to 3 years. Guinea pigs also tend to be fairly low maintenance. They’re almost always napping and will live for anywhere from 4 to 8 years. Rats live an average of 2 years. They’re quite high-maintenance and need quite a lot of socialization. Mice are just as social as rats, and will live for 1 to 2 years.
Budgies and parakeets are considered low-maintenance pets, and can live anywhere from 5 to 8 years. Cockatiels are mid-maintenance pets. Owners need to spare about 2 to 3 hours a day with them. Macaws, which usually live for about 50 years, are high-maintenance pets.
Rabbits and Bunnies
A huge misconception is that rabbits and bunnies are rodents. Another misconception is that they’re low maintenance. Rabbits and bunnies live for 7 to 10 years, but they’re quite high maintenance creatures. They need lots of exercise and care.
Snake maintenance ranges from low to high depending on the breed. On average, snakes can live for about 9 years although some snakes in captivity have lived much longer. Some beginner-friendly snakes include the corn snake, the California kingsnake, the rosy boa, the ball python and the gopher snake.
Lizard maintenance also ranges, but most pet owners would agree that lizards don’t need too much maintenance. Small lizards live anywhere from 3 to 5 years while large lizards can live for up to 20 years.
The Different Types of Assistance Dogs
If you need extra support during the addiction recovery process, you might want to consider adopting an assistance dog. There are three different types: service dogs, emotional support dogs and therapy dogs.
People often confuse these different assistance animals with one another. They often lump them all into the same category. However, each type of assistance animal offers a different level of care and service. They have gone through different types of training that enable them to perform different tasks.
If you need extra help, take a look at the differences between these three types of assistance animals. Let’s explore what sets them apart from one another.
There are approximately 500,000 service dogs in America. Service dogs are responsible for a lot of tasks. They are trained to do certain things for their owners, and are allowed to go anywhere their owners go. This includes restaurants and stores.
Service dogs are great assistance dogs for substance abusers that also struggle with some type of disability. These dogs mitigate their owner’s disabilities, and ensure their owner’s safety. Service dogs are able to:
- Guide their owners if they’re visually impaired
- Alert their owners to certain sounds if they are hearing impaired
- Open doors and cupboards for those who are physically impaired
- Help veterans with PTSD and trauma-related disorders
- Alert their owners to impending seizures
Service dogs can also provide emotional support to drug abusers and alcohol abusers. They offer their owners a lot of support. They can ease psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Emotional Support Dogs
Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs are not specially trained. To qualify as an emotional support dog, owners need a letter from a licensed therapist. Emotional support dogs don’t get as much lenience as service dogs. They are, however, allowed on airplanes and in no-pet housing. These dogs may not always be allowed in restaurants and stores.
Emotional support dogs offer their owners emotional support. Their sole job and responsibility is to offer love and emotional support. This is what most recovering addicts need, which is why many recovering addicts will get an emotional support dog. They get unconditional support which helps keep them motivated and disciplined.
Although these assistance dogs don’t need any special training, they should be well-behaved and have certain characteristics. They need to be calm at all times, and be responsive to their owner’s emotional needs and commands. They should be aware of their owner’s emotional state at all times.
Therapy dogs are able to offer comfort and support in high-stress situations and environments. They are often invited to courtrooms, schools and hospitals. These assistance dogs don’t serve only one person. Instead, they provide their services to many individuals. For example, they may offer support to patients in hospitals.
Therapy dogs do not get more access rights than regular dogs. They don’t always go through any special type of dog training. Many dogs adopted can become therapy dogs. Owners must get permission before bringing therapy dogs into courtrooms, schools, hospitals or any other place.
When you’re ready to make a commitment to a companion animal, consider adopting a rescue. You’ll be offering the rescue animal a new chance at life. You may be saving a life.
Rescue animals may also offer extra support. They often come from difficult situations and have faced many obstacles in life. They have a better understanding of your situation and can offer you the compassion you need to recover from substance abuse.
There are plenty of adoption resources out there. Check out the following.
The Humane Society of the United States
1255 23rd Street, NW, Suite 450
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 202-452-1100 or 866-720-2676
New York Avenue Adoption Center
Phone: (202) 727 – 7369 / (202) 727 – 5494
Oglethorpe Street Adoption Center
Phone: (202) 726 – 2556
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
You may find your future pet using some of these resources. These resources can connect you with animal shelters and animal rescues in your area. They can help you find a homeless pet that is in need of a home. They’ll also help you go through the adoption process. The dog and cat adoption process can be tricky and complicated.
These organizations also provide pet care to any pets that come their way. They prevent animal cruelty and even help animals escape abusive homes.
You can report animal cruelty to ASPCA and help lost pets find their owners.
Many people are under the misconception that only older cats and dogs are up for adoption. This is not necessarily true. If you go to any animal shelter or animal rescue, you may find kittens and puppies up for adoption. If you’re adopting a puppy, keep in mind that it’ll need more dog training.
Although there aren’t any cat training programs available, there are classes where you can learn more about cat behavior. This will help you learn more about your future pet. Learning more about your future pet will help you improve your pet’s health.
Resources for Finding and Training Support Dogs
Many recovering addicts may benefit from having an assistance dog. The assistance dog may speed up their recovery. They may also stabilize their emotional state. If you’re interested in looking for or training a dog to become an assistance dog, take a look at the following resources:
AKC Operations Center
8051 Arco Corporate Drive, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27617-3390
260 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10016
Some animal shelters will also have certified service cats and dogs. Many animal shelters host adoption events. Many animal shelters can also point you towards various training classes for cats and dogs. Learn more about these classes at a cat adoption or dog adoption event. They may also have cat or dog training classes.
By adopting a pet from an animal shelter or an animal rescue, you can prevent animal cruelty. There are plenty of pets for adoption. Most animal shelters and rescues try to make the animal adoption process as easy and simple as possible.
Companion Animals Can Make a Huge Difference
Having a companion animal by your side can make a huge difference. However, having a pet alone will not conquer addiction. Beating substance abuse is not that simple.
You’ll also need effective addiction treatment that uses a structured, disciplined treatment program. Sticking with these treatment programs can be rather difficult. Dropout rates and relapse rates are incredibly high.
Pets, like cats and dogs, can offer the comfort needed to face these obstacles head on. They give their owners the confidence needed to tackle their addiction. Shelter animals also keep recovering addicts on the right track. They prevent them from straying and help ensure that they get the medical care they need.
When you’re ready to adopt a pet, head over to an animal shelter. Animal adoption can take some time. But, when you finally adopt a pet, you’ll feel like it’s all worth it. Don’t hesitate to look for your future pet at animal shelters and rescues. Adopting from an animal shelter or rescue saves lives. These places ensure that the pets get the right type of medical care. They also reunite lost pets with their owners and help homeless pets find a new home.