Mankind and animals have come a long way since the days of hunting and gathering. Besides just using them for meat or tools, they now exist as companions. Dogs, cats, horses, they have always been a part of mankind’s existence, but they have taken on new roles as humans have evolved, adapted, and learned.
One of the areas that pets have now taken up a new role is in aiding individuals to recover from their addictions. While it may not seem immediately clear how a pet can actually help the recovery process, there have actually been numerous studies conducted about the positive impact that a pet has on an individual during the recovery process. Not all of the rehabs allow for pets to be used in their drug rehab facility. Because of this, interested parties might need to do a bit of searching to find a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that does.
Why should someone take this step? Here are a few benefits of having a pet present during the recovery process.
Perhaps the most important service that pets provide is their ability to offer unconditional love. While inpatient drug rehab centers have numerous group sessions and other therapies for support, nothing quite beats knowing that there is someone out there who loves oneself without restraint or any reasons of their own. They just love. For many people struggling with addiction, it’s easy to feel alone and isolated. After the hardships that addiction can bring, they might actually be alone. Having a pet onhand offers a form of support that they might not be able to receive elsewhere.
A drug rehab facility that is pet-friendly allows that person to bring in their biggest supporter and have them on hand through every step of their recovery process. It can be easy for an individual that is struggling to feel as though they’re being judged. Even in safe environments like a rehab center, they can feel as though others are judging them based on their level of addiction or what they did to feed that addiction. A pet serves as a figure without judgment. While the addict will likely receive support from their group, coming back to their pet who is happy to see them no matter what, judge-free, is sure to impact them in a positive way.
Re-Discovery Of Self
Animals are very empathetic in nature. Horses, for example, can become nervous or anxious if they sense that someone nearby is also nervous and anxious. A person fighting addiction, who may be experiencing anxiety but isn’t overtly aware of it, can experience a jittery horse and realize that they are reacting in that way because of them. This can open to their eyes to the fact that they suffer from anxiety. In so doing, they may slowly begin to piece together the triggers and reasons as to why they feel anxious. The therapeutic value of this knowledge is priceless.
The same is similar for dogs. If a dog displays aggression, then the person may take a second look at themselves. Are they doing something that would make the dog react in that way? If so, what is it? How is their behavior influencing the dog, and what can they do to change it? By learning how to navigate and display their own emotions with a pet, they can then take that information for when they interact with other people.
Pets are living creatures. As such, they need to be fed, watered, taken out to use the bathroom, groomed, and loved. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers can attempt to teach responsibility, but nothing quite teaches it like having to perform it. Taking care of a pet is a form of responsibility that someone typically doesn’t think much about doing. For one, the pet often doesn’t give them a chance to ignore their needs.
Secondly, because of that unconditional love, people are just naturally compelled to assist something that is freely giving of their love in the first place. Especially when that person needs that love the most. By taking care of the pet, they’re making responsibility a habit. By taking care of the pet, they’re also forcing themselves to take care of themselves. After all, who else is going to take care of their pet the same way they do besides themselves?
Inpatient drug rehab centers often have gym facilities or other activities that promote exercise. However, motivation can be difficult to summon for certain individuals. A sure way to give them exercise is to hand them a pet. Dogs, in particular, need to be walked and played with regularly. It keeps them healthy and happy. This also forces the addict to go outside and play with them.
While a walk may seem like a simple thing, enough regular walking a week can see a great impact on one’s health. Bigger dogs, especially, prefer to run, so if that forces the addict to pick up their speed a little, too, then all the better. The playing aspect, especially, can greatly benefit an addict. Not only does it allow them to connect with their pet, but by seeing that their pet is having a great time, they can have a great time, too.
Since physical health is so important in the recovery process, a pet can provide adequate exercise without making the recovering addict even realize it.
Make New Connections
Whether the individual takes that dog to the dog park, connects with others in recovery or people with a similar dog, or just finds a fellow pet-lovers community, it can introduce new connections to them. Because it is likely that the addict will have to sever ties with those who enabled them to take drugs in the first place, making new connections is vital to their recovery. The pet can be the vehicle that allows them to forge those new connections and possible healthy lasting friendships.