The Value of Pets in Addiction Recovery

The Value of Pets in Addiction Recovery

If you’re at a stable place in your addiction recovery, there are several good reasons to consider getting a pet. If you’re not yet in a place where you feel comfortable taking responsibility for the health and safety of another being, you might consider volunteering to pet sit for a friend or relative or try volunteering at a shelter. Whichever option is right for you at the moment, having animals in your life can strengthen your recovery in several ways.


People often feel lonely early in recovery. They know they shouldn’t spend time with their old friends who drink or use drugs but they haven’t yet made new sober friends. Frequent loneliness can lead to boredom or even depression, neither of which is good for someone trying to stay sober. Having a pet can reduce your feelings of loneliness in two ways. First, there is another living presence in the house. A dog or a cat may not be people but they do have personalities and they do show affection. While not a perfect substitute for human companionship, they do help. Second, if you have a dog, walking him will facilitate contact with other people. You have to walk your dog a few times a day, during which time you’ll run into neighbors walking their dogs, and just random people who are out. Dogs are always a convenient excuse to start a conversation. Even if you don’t become best friends with the other dog owners in your neighborhood, the social contact moves you in the right direction.


All pets entail some level of responsibility. Even cats, which are supposed to take care of themselves, need to be fed, groomed, taken to the vet, and have their litter box cleaned. This sounds like a drag but it’s actually a good thing, especially in the context of recovery. Think of it like volunteering. You don’t get much out of caring for a pet in terms of material rewards. If you do, you’re probably a farmer and not a pet owner. You spend your time, money, and effort taking care of an animal because you want it to be safe and happy. This fundamentally shifts your thinking away from dwelling on your own problems. In early recovery, it’s generally not a great idea to spend too much time in your own head. Taking care of a pet gives you something external to focus on.


Finally, having a pet to care for can provide some structure in your life. Having a regular routine in recovery has several benefits. It improves your sleep, reduces stress, and automates healthy behaviors. Dogs and cats tend to keep a pretty regular schedule. They want to eat at certain times and go out at certain times. Having to care for a pet at home helps keep you from staying out too late or sleeping too late. Again, this sometimes feels like a drag, but it’s better for you in the long run. 


Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California is a premiere men’s addiction treatment facility that uses eight different modalities to help our men become the best versions of themselves they can be. We teach our men that every day of their journey is something to celebrate and that recovery isn’t a sprint– it’s a marathon.

To get started with Tree House Recovery, call us today at (855) 202-2138

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