8 Ways A Companion Animal Aids Recovery

Boston terrier looking up lovingly at his bearded ownerAt Changing Tides, we go the extra mile to make sure our clients feel at home and have the best chance of recovery. We are one of the only pet-friendly rehab centers in North Carolina because we understand the incredible role a furry friend can play in helping you get better. Whether your pet is officially registered as a companion animal or not, we encourage you to check with us to see if they can stay with you in our drug and alcohol treatment program. (Please note, to guarantee the safety of all of our residents, there are certain behavioral and size criteria your companion animal must meet to be accepted with us.)

While your reasons for wanting to bring your pet to treatment may be to make sure they aren’t alone while you’re away, there are several additional benefits that can aid your recovery by boosting your mental and physical health. Looking after a pet helps to alleviate depression and anxiety while promoting many necessary facets of a sober lifestyle. Additionally, bringing your pet with you helps you to settle in and feel comfortable. When you feel at ease, you’re naturally more receptive to treatment.

1. Companion Pets Provide Unconditional Acceptance And Love

One of the best parts of pet ownership is that they provide a nonjudgmental, loving presence. If you’ve had a bad day or feel low, your pet can never say the wrong thing and send you spiraling further down into that mood. In fact, they do the complete opposite. Your pet knows you’re the person they can trust and depend on, which facilitates a special bond unlike any other.

Dogs and cats rely on you to meet their basic needs. In return, they provide love, loyalty, and companionship. Few situations are more comforting than having a dog curled up at your feet or a cat nestled in your lap.

2. Responsible Pet Ownership Promotes Accountability

  • A pet relies on you to provide its meals.
  • You need to register them with a vet and take care of their health.
  • Money needs to be put aside each week to look after an animal.
  • Hygiene and cleaning are integral when it comes to looking after a pet.
  • Grooming your animal encourages you to take care of yourself.
  • You need to take care of your pet when it needs you, not just when it’s convenient.

3. Dogs And Cats Can Instantly Lift Your Mood

You could have had a stressful day or an enlightening therapy session that’s brought up difficult feelings. When you get back to your recovery accommodations and your cat or dog bounds up to you and behaves affectionately, you can’t help but smile. Animals can effortlessly disarm you and bring out the best in you. Watching your pets do funny things or playing with them has a similar effect to meditation; it takes you out of your mind and back into the present moment.

4. Evidence Shows Pets Improve Mental Health

The government is championing pet ownership, which can have an enormously healthy impact on your overall mental health. Often when people come to a rehabilitation center, they’ve been going through a hard time, fraught with worry, pain, and exasperation. Your pet can be a major positive factor throughout this difficult time. Spending quality time with an animal helps people to feel more relaxed and less lonely and provide vital social interaction.

The act of giving to an animal can be therapeutic and imbue a sense of healthy pride and self-esteem. Altruism is one of our strongest traits as human beings, and loving and providing for a pet is a wonderful way to express this trait.

5. A Pet Is a Great Conversation Starter

When you check into treatment, you sign up for one of the most important aspects that helps people to maintain sobriety long term. A peer-support network is an empowering and necessary aspect of your recovery journey. The more genuine bonds you can form with the people around you, the more likely you are to set an example and follow the example of your fellow survivors.

When you bring your dog to residential treatment, you can take them for walks and get exercise and fresh air. You also get the opportunity to reach out to fellow pooch owners and have a great conversation starter. Cat owners can share hilarious stories about their furry little individual’s escapades.

6. Treatment Animals Combat Loneliness

Loneliness can strike anyone and is one of the most damaging feelings human beings experience. We are social creatures who crave touch, closeness, and love. When we’re going through a hard time, a pet can fulfill these needs without any risk of triggering or argument. Feeling alone can lead to the state of mind that is a breeding ground for negative feelings that may cause you to want to use drugs or alcohol. The presence of a pet is heartwarming, entertaining and engaging.

7. There Are Physical Health Benefits to Taking Care of Animals

  • Stroking pets increases oxytocin, a hormone that creates feelings of well-being and happiness.
  • Petting and interacting with your dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Spending quality time with your pet lowers blood pressure, which naturally relieves stress.
  • The frequency of a cat’s purr is within a range that is healing to humans.
  • Whether it’s walking your dog or playing with the cat, pet owners are generally more active.
  • Touch lowers anxiety by stopping you from responding to perceived stress.
  • Playing with a pet can raise levels of the happy neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.

8. Pets Help You Get into a Healthy Routine

When you’ve been struggling with addiction, your life often comes to revolve around obtaining your substance of choice. It’s easy for your routine to go out the window. When you come to treatment, we teach you how well the body and mind respond to structure. Pets are the same — feeding them and playing with them at the same time each day helps them to feel comfortable and secure. When you have to make sure you wake up to feed your pet, your daily routine gets a kick-start.

If you’re ready to begin the journey to recovery — and you’d like to bring your pet with you — get a free consultation from one of our advisers at Changing Tides at 252-715-3905.

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