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People in recovery from a substance use disorder can often benefit—like all of us can, really—from some unconditional love. That kind of love can be hard to come by sometimes, but one reliable source of it might be an animal—whether that turns out to be a dog, a cat, a bunny, or something more exotic (though not this Animal).

A pet can be a wonderful addition to the life of a person in recovery. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of having a pet.

Lots of Joy, Little Judgement

We have already mentioned one of the very best features of having a pet: They can provide unconditional love and support. And that love is seldom sullied by judgment (though they might give you the side eye if you don’t keep their food dish full). A pet can also be a great listener in the sense that you can pour your heart out to them without worrying that they will want to offer advice or attempt to talk you out of the way you are feeling. 

All in all, a pet offers far more joy than judgment, and that is a wonderful thing for a person who is working to maintain their sobriety.

And lest you think that we are just talking about mushy emotions, we should also point out that your connection to a pet can help lower your blood pressure, help relieve stress, and reduce the symptoms associated with mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Your relationship with an animal can actually boost your sense of self-esteem and your confidence levels.

Enjoy an Active Relationship

Boredom and loneliness are among the many enemies of ongoing sobriety—and having a pet can help address both. We have already talked about the love and joy that a pet can provide. They also provide plenty of activity. After all, they need your care and attention. Whether you have an aloof cat, a slow-moving lizard, or an aquarium full of fish, your animal companions rely on you, and that can help you move past feelings of boredom and loneliness. 

Of course, plenty of pets also need a good dose of daily exercise—and that can help you get your own dose of exercise, too. Getting outside with your dog for a daily walk, for example, or to play at the dog park can give your physical and mental health a boost, which in turn supports your ongoing sobriety.

Alternatives to Pet Ownership

We should acknowledge that a pet is not right for everyone. Some people—perhaps you are among them—simply do not care for animals. Others are allergic to or fearful of various creatures great and small. And you might feel like you are not in a place in terms of your recovery that would allow you to be a good caregiver to an animal. 

On the other hand, you may be eager to have a furry (or scaly or feathered) companion of your own, but your current circumstances don’t allow you to. Maybe you live in an apartment complex that does not allow pets. Maybe you would love a dog but don’t have the yard to make it practical. Maybe the expenses related to caring for a pet are too much of a stretch right now. Maybe you and your partner just can’t agree about what pet to get—or whether to get one at all.

In cases like these, you might have to get creative. You could, for example, spend time with animals as a volunteer at your local shelter—an activity that benefits you as well as the creatures you help care for as they await forever homes. You could ask a friend if you could walk their dog from time to time or come over to play with their cat or even pet-sit when they are away. These solutions are not a perfect substitute for pet ownership, but they would still give you access to many of the benefits that those with pets experience—and that can be a big win for your recovery.

Substance Use is Akin to Barking Up the Wrong Tree

When you first started drinking or taking drugs, it might have seemed like a good idea. But as a substance use disorder developed and  your mental and physical health were compromised, you probably realized you were barking up the wrong tree. 

The problem at that point, however, is that it can be mighty difficult—if not impossible—to give up drugs or alcohol on your own. Fortunately, French Creek Recovery Center—located in Meadville, Pennsylvania—offers personalized treatment for substance use disorders and mental health disorders that may be entangled with them. We provide medically supervised detoxification to help you get sober—and then provide the evidence-based treatment and support you need to start your recovery journey with confidence.