Relationship Between Pets and Recovering Addicts

  • For some people, concern for a pet can be an obstacle on the road to addiction recovery.
  • The presence of a cherished pet can play a vital role when someone is working to overcome challenges related to addiction.
  • Connection is a vital part of the addiction recovery process, and connecting with a pet can help someone achieve their long-term recovery goals.
  • It’s important to account for your loved one’s pets during recovery.

Can Pets Help With Addiction?

In our experience, the presence of a beloved pet can have tremendous value when someone is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Addiction thrives in isolation, so the bond someone forms with a pet or even multiple pets has the potential to positively impact their recovery. Pet therapy has even become a recommended therapy for a range of psychological and emotional issues.

The therapeutic potential stands on top of the benefits already associated with pet ownership. Pets can support their owners during addiction recovery, but some additional steps may also need to be taken when developing a treatment plan.

Recovery Support and Pets

If someone you care about has pets, don’t be surprised if pet ownership becomes an obstacle to recovery. During an intervention, someone may use their pets as a reason they can’t get the help they need right away. Concern for a pet can also be a significant source of anxiety when someone is trying to get the help they need. When a person you care about is struggling with addiction, making sure their pets are taken care of is a simple yet meaningful way to support them every step of the way.

Preparing for an Intervention

When preparing to stage an intervention, an important question to ask is if the person you care about has any pets. If they do, realize they may use this as a counterpoint to why they have to delay treatment or can’t immediately enter rehab. To avoid this obstacle, have a plan for who will take care of their pet while they’re receiving treatment. Some tailored treatment options, including at-home rehab, may even provide an opportunity to integrate pets into the recovery journey in ways that aren’t realistic with conventional rehab.

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5 Benefits of Pets During Addiction Recovery

Some of the most meaningful benefits of having a pet by your side during addiction recovery include:

1. Continuous Connection

Connection is a vital part of the addiction recovery process, and pets can provide a level of continuous connection that a human may not be able to match. That ongoing relationship can become an important part of successful recovery.

2. The Role of Responsibility

The responsibilities that come with pet ownership can keep someone focused on taking care of something other than themselves, which can help them find meaning and develop a routine to ground their recovery journey.

3. Reduced Stress Levels

Pet ownership has been associated with lower blood pressure levels following stress-inducing tasks and quicker recovery times following stressful activities. The presence of a dog has also been shown to provide a calming effect during stressful situations, including those that may be experienced during addiction recovery.

4. Nonjudgmental Support

Unlike humans, pets can provide support that is both consistent and nonjudgmental. A loved pet is always there when you need them, and the connection they provide does not require words or conversation to have an impact. As a result, support from a pet does not come with the potential for judgment or resentment to form during recovery.

5. Improved Well-Being

Pet ownership improves quality of life, increases social interactions, and improves health outcomes, all of which are important to successful addiction recovery. They also encourage their owners to exercise, providing a health outlet during recovery.

Can Pets Interfere With Recovery?

While pets can play a positive role during addiction recovery, it is important to note when they may not be so helpful. When someone is struggling to take responsibility for themselves as part of their struggle with addiction, they are not ready for the additional responsibilities of pet ownership. When that’s the case, pet ownership may interfere with recovery.

Can You Bring Your Pet to Rehab?

Whether or not you can bring a pet to rehab depends on the specific treatment program. Most residential treatment centers do not allow pets. However, more personalized treatment programs like at-home rehab options can allow you to recover with your pets by your side.

ALYST’s Approach to Pets and Recovery

With a concierge approach to addiction treatment, ALYST can provide customized care from the comfort of your own home—and even alongside your pets. Unlike conventional treatment options, we tailor every aspect of treatment to your lifestyle and goals, and that includes your pets. Learn more about our approach, and when you’re ready, find out if our program is a good fit for your lifestyle.