When getting sober, it is important to have as many supportive people around you as possible. And having support around you can also come in the form of a pet! Many people, especially those who live alone, find that having pets can alleviate some of the boredom and loneliness that may come from limited human interaction. And scientific studies have shown that people with pets live longer and are healthier--in part because they often go on walks with their pets or to parks, but also because touching animals like cats and dogs, or snuggling with them, can release oxytocin and endorphins, both of which can help mood and reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
Dogs have long been used by therapists to help veterans with PTSD, people with fear of flying or other phobias, and those with panic attacks and anxiety. It is evident that the bond formed between a human and a dog--or other animal--can be a wonderful source of strength for those suffering from mental or emotional issues.
At Harmony Haus Sober Living, we understand that it takes a constellation of various things in order to foster a healthy, happy, joyful recovery. Among those are participation in an active program of recovery, such as AA, working with others in recovery, social support, staying busy, and reintegrating into society through working a job, volunteer work, or going back to school. Therapy, medication, exercise, and other aspects are also important. And we also know that having a loving pet around can work wonders for the moods of people in early recovery (or for anyone!)
Pets not only help us get out and exercise and reduce stress, but they are also a way for us to remain accountable to an animal we love who is in our care. Pets need their food, water, exercise, baths, toothbrushing, and trips to the vet. They need stimulation, play, attention, and lots of love. Recovering addicts who may, in active addiction, neglected self-care and their responsibilities to those around them, can learn a lot from having a pet to take care of. Residents of Harmony Haus Sober Living in Austin, TX, can learn to take small steps toward caring for others by helping out with the house pet. Pets require thinking ahead, planning, and a commitment to taking care of them regardless of your mood or how busy you are. Pets require accountability and responsibility and selflessness--all of which are key qualities for recovering addicts.
Note that not everyone is ready for the hard work that comes along with owning a dog, particularly those in early recovery. Before getting a dog, it is important to ask yourself if you have the time and financial stability for a pet. It is okay to not be ready. Usually, a house pet at Harmony Haus is the house manager’s or owner’s, and other residents can help out by walking the dog or feeding it. Other residents are invited to bring their pets as well. Having a pet in the home can add to the sense of warmth and love that exists in a sober house.
Finally, dogs can even help us meet other people! Whether we are jogging at the park with our dog or watching our pet play with others at a dog park, or even joining groups for dog-lovers, it becomes easy to meet new people in the world of those who love their pets. This means that we will have a new way to meet people and socialize, outside of the all-too-common events and places where alcohol is the centerpiece of socializing.
So, you should certainly think hard about getting a pet, especially if you are in early sobriety. It requires a lot of responsibility, hard work, and financial resources. Do not rush into anything and remember to think about whether you are capable of giving your pet the best life possible. But come to Harmony Haus and enjoy our resident house dogs and see for yourself the myriad ways that pets help us recover from addiction and maintain emotional wellness. And, when you’re ready, Harmony Haus is a great sober living that will always welcome a new pet.