People who have never struggled with addiction don’t know how hard it is to heal and let go of your addiction to keep your sobriety. Because of that, most people don’t understand how difficult it is to maintain sobriety. Some believe that sobriety is reached by simply willing yourself to stop consuming substances. But that’s not even close. This is why there are programs specially designed to help people sober up.
But the journey doesn’t end once a rehab facility deems you stable. If you are struggling with addiction, the journey lasts your whole life. This is why finding things that can ground you and help you resist temptations is always helpful. For example, you can always get a pet if you need more help. By now, pets have been proven to help with a myriad of mental health struggles. And it seems this is the case for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.
Sure, getting a pet won’t guarantee your sobriety. You’ll still have to go to rehab and adhere to a strict regimen. And even then, there’s always a risk you’ll relapse. But, if you are devoted to making progress and staying sober, a pet will only help. Ultimately, addiction can only be managed by the person struggling with it.
But a pet will make you happier and help make that journey easier. Of course, you need to contact a professional if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction. But if you know someone who has gone through rehab and is now trying to stay sober, you can always recommend they get a pet. And here are a few reasons why that’s a sound way to improve their lives.
The Main Causes of Addiction
Everyone has the potential to become an addict at some point in their life. But not all people end up abusing substances. Sure, it could be argued that all people end up with some sort of addiction. But most of them are not so harmful that they are considered mental health issues. For example, there’s no rehab for coffee addiction because drinking too much coffee doesn’t have the same negative effects.
Plus, having one too many cups of coffee doesn’t inebriate you or make you a danger to yourself or the people around you. And it’s also tied to the fact that coffee drinkers don’t over-indulge because they want to drown their sorrows. They do it because they simply like the taste. Not even nicotine addiction isn’t treated the same as alcohol or drug addiction because nicotine doesn’t affect your consciousness and sobriety.
Some programs aim to help smokers quit, but they aren’t nearly as strict and complex as rehab programs. That’s because drug and alcohol addiction is much more dangerous than other addictions. Still, alcohol is legal in almost all countries, and lately, the use of certain drugs has been legalized and decriminalized in some places.
So, if some people can consume these substances without becoming addicted, why is that not the case for everyone? There are many answers to this question, but it all comes down to some people having a predisposition toward substance abuse instead of a sober life.
Genetic Factors and Addiction
One cause of addiction is genetic factors. Genes are something to consider, as addiction is moderate to highly heritable. This is especially true when the genetic relationship is closer (for example, you’ll have a higher predisposition to addiction if your parents had a history of addiction). But cases of addiction in your family aren’t the only thing you need to consider.
A family history of mental health struggles makes you more likely to have or develop such issues. Thus, you’ll be more likely to develop substance abuse issues to cope with mental health struggles. Most mental health issues are risk factors for addiction. This cause is stronger than genetics, which is why many mentally ill people turn to substance abuse.
When people don’t get help to be sober, they only feel like they can drown their sorrows in any substance they can get.
Other Factors That Cause Addiction
Besides genetic issues, there are also environmental factors to be considered. Even peer pressure can make people addicted. When your friends are constantly pressuring you to take one more shot or try a joint, it might not seem like a big deal. But it can quickly become a full-blown addiction. There doesn’t even need to be peer pressure involved. Sometimes, it’s enough to be raised by addicts or simply live in a community where addiction is common to start abusing substances.
When kids are raised to believe that the only way to solve their issues is through getting drunk or high, that’s what they will inevitably turn to. Often, addiction is also linked to poverty. This can be either because of culture or because the people can’t afford professional psychological help. So, they turn to the only thing that will bring them a little bit of comfort.
Lastly, having unresolved trauma also increases the risk of addiction. This can range from being abused as a kid to losing someone you love or even being bullied. Of course, all forms of abuse, whether sexual, physical, emotional, or verbal, can push people towards substances. But even something that’s seemingly manageable, for example, stress, can be a cause of addiction.
If you are struggling with addiction, there’s no need to be ashamed. It can happen to everyone; contrary to popular belief, it’s not a sign of weakness. It shows that you were going through some things and didn’t have the proper support and help at the time. But, given how serious addiction is, how can a pet help you gain and maintain a new and sober life?
3 Ways a Pet Can Help with Sobriety
1. They Improve Your Mood, Helping You Remain Sober
Alcohol and drug addiction are complicated to overcome because of how these substances interact with your brain. The more you consume, the more you need to reach a high, which ultimately means your serotonin levels will be depleted. This is why people go through withdrawal symptoms.
The physical symptoms can almost exclusively be overcome by going through rehab. But people struggle with their sobriety, even after overcoming physical withdrawal, because of some physical aspects. Usually, it’s because addicts can’t understand how to be happy without substances. But a pet can help you maintain sobriety by improving your mood.
Many studies show that having a pet, especially a dog has a positive effect on the brain, similar to the effect dopamine has. So, in a way, it’s like the effect that drugs or alcohol have, but without having to take the actual substances. Plus, having a pet can make you feel relaxed and relieve your stress. Not to mention that they can sense something wrong with you and will come to your aid when you need it. This is why pets are used for therapy and even as service pets.
2. They Force You to Have a Sober Daily Routine and Responsibilities
One of the most important things you can do to maintain sobriety is to have some structure in your life. Managing your need to use will be easier if you’re busy and productive. Plus, there’s a sense of responsibility that having a pet brings to the table.
You’ll be less likely to relapse when you know someone is counting on you. If not for your own sake, it will at least be because you know your pet needs you. Having a pet requires a lot of work. Even if you have a fish, you must feed it and change its water frequently. But getting a dog or a cat requires even more work and an even stricter routine. So ideally, if you can, you should get a pet that requires physical exercise.
For example, if you get a dog, you’ll have to take it on daily walks. And that physical exercise can help boost your mood and overall health, which also helps with your sobriety.
3. They Make You Feel Less Isolated When You Struggle With Sobriety
Sobriety is almost impossible if you don’t have someone helping you. This is why people who have supportive friends and families tend to have more success when it comes to managing their sobriety. But it can be hard to reach out to people when you are struggling so much and feel vulnerable.
You might even feel isolated by society, especially if you are surrounded by people who don’t accept such struggles. But someone who will never judge you and will always make you feel loved is a pet. Getting a pet who needs socializing, such as a dog, can help you get out and meet new people.
You’d be surprised to see how many people you can meet at the dog park. But, even if you don’t want to meet new people, simply spending time with your pet can make you feel less alone. And the less lonely you feel, the more motivated you’ll be to stay sober.
Final Thoughts On Some Ways a Pet Can Help with Sobriety
Unfortunately, sobriety is an arduous journey that will last for as long as you’re alive. There’s always a risk that someone who has once been addicted will relapse and end up even worse than before. And, even though a pet won’t be the miracle solution to all your problems, it will help.
There are many reasons why pets can help you maintain your sobriety. But one of the most important is that pets help boost your mood and make you feel less isolated. It’s even been shown that spending time with a pet releases dopamine, thus giving a similar effect to the one given by substances.
So, in a way, there’s no better substitute for the feeling induced by substances than hanging out with a pet. Plus, having a pet makes you enforce a routine and have responsibilities that can help keep you on the right track and stay sober. But, if you or anyone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you need to get professional help, not just rely on a pet. Even though pets help a lot, they are not a substitute for rehab.