Pets provide a source of unconditional love and companionship that can help you stay on track with your recovery goals. If you’re newly sober, you may want to consider getting a pet to help you continue to build on the progress you’ve already made in your recovery journey.
Understanding the Benefits of Pet Ownership
In addition to offering nonjudgmental support and encouragement, pets can:
- Encourage responsibility by creating a schedule for feeding and other caretaking tasks
- Help you stay more active and/or spend more time outdoors
- Provide a source of sober entertainment
- Serve as a welcome distraction when you’re dealing with cravings
- Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Encourage social connections as you bond with others over your love of animals
- Boost your confidence and self-esteem
Additionally, if you owned a pet as a child, having a pet as an adult can bring back happy memories and remind you of the things you enjoyed before you struggled with substance abuse.
Pets: Choosing One That Fits Your Lifestyle
Choosing a pet is a big decision. Some questions to ask include:
- Do you prefer a high energy pet or one with a more mellow temperament?
- What is your level of noise tolerance?
- How much time are you willing to devote to caring for your pet?
- Do you have the resources necessary for food, vaccinations, and medical care? (If cost is a concern, Cheapism has an interesting blog on the least expensive pet options.)
- Do you have the necessary space in your home? (If you are a renter, check with your landlord regarding animals in your space. Some landlords require a deposit and an additional monthly pet fee.)
- If you live with others, how do they feel about getting a pet? (If you have young children at home, any pet that is aggressive is out of the question.)
- Do you have a plan for pet sitting if you work long hours or frequently travel?
Cats and dogs may be the best-known pets, but they’re far from the only option. For example, watching fish swim in a tank can be very soothing, and most landlords wouldn’t have a problem with this type of pet. Hedgehogs, hamsters, birds, ferrets, or lizards are also popular pet choices.
Researching different animals online can help you learn more about what can be expected from owning particular types of pets. You can also head to a nearby animal shelter or a pet store that offers pet adoptions to talk to staff members who can answer questions about caring for a specific animal.
Alternatives to Pet Ownership
As with other aspects of recovery, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether or not you should get a pet. However, if your current circumstances won’t permit pet ownership, you can enjoy many of the same benefits simply by spending time with animals on a regular basis.
Animal shelters are always looking for people to volunteer their time to care for the animals they serve. Many will also allow you to volunteer as a group and bring children with you, which can be a fun experience for the whole family.
Offering your services as a pet sitter or dog walker may be another option to consider, especially if you have a flexible schedule. You’ll be able to spend time with animals and earn a little extra money in the process.
Getting the Help You Need for a Lasting Recovery
Animals can be helpful sources of support during your recovery journey, but they should never be viewed as a substitute for a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment plan. At Wooded Glen, we provide holistic treatment that encourages our clients to heal their mind, body, and spirit as they work towards building a life free from the burden of addictive substances.