Staying sober is harder than getting sober. This statement is something that most addicts and treatment professionals agree on. Detox and quitting their drug of choice is extremely difficult and dangerous as physical withdrawals can last from days to weeks to months. Once the initial detox is over, the question then is, what next? The goal is to not relapse and to ultimately create a life that you don’t want to let go of.
To obtain long term sobriety, the addict must address and heal the mental and emotional causes of their substance abuse. Many addicts suffer from a mental illness and their substance abuse is a form of self-medication. Anxiety, social isolation, depression, loneliness, and suicidal ideation are all effects of mental illness. When not addressed during recovery, the chance of relapse multiplies. Depending on how long they have been self-medicating as a way to avoid their feelings, the addict will have no idea how to move forward and tackle emotions and fears daily.
How can a Service Pet Help You in Recovery?
Service dogs are a proven way to help the addict recover and stay sober. Psychiatric service dogs are trained to help those with mental health disorders or disabilities and are trained specifically to meet the individual’s needs based on their mental illness as well as the severity of the disorder. If there is not a specified mental health disorder, the recovering addict can still be helped by the companionship of a service pet because they help relieve anxiety and lessen symptoms of depression. Some of the many benefits include: reducing negative emotions, coping mechanisms for stress, mood boosters, encouraging responsibility and healthy habits in daily life.
Addicts can be prone to a negative mindset, which hinders their recovery and causes anxiety, shame, guilt, and loneliness. The unconditional love of a service pet can soothe the addict and reduce their feelings of isolation. This encourages a more positive outlook on their life and environment and the addict will begin to develop healthy daily habits and hobbies. Addicts are encouraged to develop interests in healthy activities that will take them outside of their minds. As we all know, the mind can be our own worst enemy, and service dogs can help change the addict’s mindset. Taking care of a service dog requires grooming, bathing, playing with, feeding, and walking their pet. This allows the addict to think of positive ways to plan out their day because they have someone else to care for.
Get into Good Habits to Erase the Bad Ones
Caring for their service pet can also create positive reinforcement for the addict and they will see the benefits of positive daily habits. The addict will see that if they care for their pet each day, the pet stays happy and healthy. The addict, in turn, sees it is possible to take care of themselves and maintain their health and happiness, and therefore their sobriety.
Social isolation is much less of a choice when the addict has a pet to care for. Service dogs require daily walks, during which the addict might be “forced” to stop and engage in simple conversations. Having a scheduled activity that they are responsible for will, in turn, get the addict to wake up, shower, get dressed, make their bed, and put food out for their pet. In doing these little things for someone else, the addict will start developing a routine and begin caring for themselves as well. All of these are steps that can either help in pulling a person out of depression or keep it at bay.
The simple fact that the addict now has someone to love and that depends on them to stay alive can keep the addict motivated to make better choices and avoid relapse. Many addicts have low self-worth and self-esteem. They might think of themselves as unloved or unlovable. A cat that playfully runs around and paws at you or a dog that barks loudly and jumps up and down when you enter a room is unconditional love. This is a feeling that the addict has been chasing their whole lives and they will be motivated to stay sober.
Service pets can also increase an addict’s sense of trust and loyalty.
Addicts can have experiences that have caused them to become distrusting of the world. Animals are known for their loyalty and of course, they cannot be dishonest! A service pet can change this outlook for the addict and allow them to start having faith in others, but in a safe way. This is part of one of the most beneficial factors of working with a service pet – PTSD symptoms. Their calming and soothing effect on people – just the rhythm of their breathing or cuddling with their soft fur – can bring peace. The combination of this peaceful presence with the security that a dog, for example, can bring, is a great way to heal from PTSD.
Recreate Life Counseling is Here to Help
Recreate Life Counseling in Boynton Beach is an outpatient treatment center that teaches the addict how to achieve, maintains, and enjoy a new way of life in long term recovery. We offer a PHP program of Day / Night Treatment with Community Housing. We engage the addict in therapy and activities that will teach life skills and behaviors to prevent relapse. It is so important to one’s sobriety to have the ability to care for yourself and someone else, and our staff teaches the addict how to do this in a healthy and safe environment. If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, please reach out and a Recreate Life Counseling staff member will be happy to help you begin your new life in recovery.