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How Animals Can Help You Beat Addiction

Everyone loves puppies and kittens. If you are in recovery, spending time with animals can have many benefits. Here are some of the big ones.

Pets give you emotional support.

This is especially important if you live alone. Loneliness is a major concern in recovery. If you are lonely, you are more likely to feel depressed and lacking in social support. If there is an animal around, it’s not exactly like having friends and family around but neither is it like being alone. The difference between being alone and having a pet is greater than the difference between having a pet and having human company. Pets also evoke positive emotions. People want their pets to be safe and happy, and extending those warm feelings to another creature makes you feel better.

Pets are a responsibility.

You have to feed them, play with them, take them to the vet, walk them, and groom them. ‘Labour intensive’ is not a great selling point for most things, but if you’re in recovery, more responsibility might be what you need. Pets will get you out of bed whether you feel like it or not. You won’t be able to stay out too late because you have to feed your pet. This can either be an obligation or an excuse. Either way, you’re usually better off with an early night. Having another being to care for gets you out of your own head a little. Pets will demand your attention and more often than not, you will feel inclined to give it.

Pets break the ice.

Most people have some kind of pet. Even if you hate small talk, pets are often a point of commonality for conversation. Dogs are especially good starting conversations. The fastest way to get to know your neighbours is to get a dog and walk it every day. Regular social contact is good for recovery. You certainly don’t want to be sitting alone at home. Walking your dog is a perfect chance to get outside and have some low cost interactions.

Dog owners get more exercise.

Not only do you have more contact with your neighbours, you also get more exercise. If you walk just to walk, you are likely to skip it when it’s a bit chilly or raining. When you have a dog that needs exercise, you’re more likely to push through. What’s more, it’s frequent, low intensity activity. It doesn’t seem like much, but you’ll get a lot more exercise every week than someone who doesn’t have to walk a dog. That exercise is good for your mood and it builds self-discipline because you will have to make yourself do something you won’t always feel like doing.

Pets aren’t for everyone.

Although pets are great for people who are up to the challenge, they aren’t necessarily a good idea for everyone. If you are very early in recovery, the time and expense a pet requires might feel overwhelming. If you think there’s any chance at all you might relapse, leaving a dog tied up in the garden for a week, you should probably wait a while. You can still get many of the benefits of owning a pet by volunteering to walk dogs or play with cats at a shelter, or possibly pet-sitting for friends. Any chance you get to take care of an animal is going to improve your mood.

Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig provides consulting psychiatrists who diagnose associated mental illnesses like anxiety states, depression, ADD, PTSD, eating disorders, compulsive gambling, and compulsive relationships. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).

Page published: May 24, 2018. Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 29, 2020