Detox isn’t just any old routine medical procedure: it represents the first step in a monumental life change. During this important time, you will want all the support you can get, and you won’t want to be worrying about if Fido or ChiChi got into the trash again at home.
There’s a solution for that: bring your pet to detox! Here are some of the reasons why detox is better with pets.
1. Pets Alleviate Loneliness
Once you complete detox, you’ll have the company of counselors, fellow patients in group sessions and perhaps even family and friends, but for the five to 10 days it takes for your substance to leave your system, it’s all you. You’ll be under close supervision in a facility with nothing to do but wait it out.
Most people are fine for a few days on their own, but those suffering from addiction have likely been on their own for much longer than a few days. One prominent addiction researcher claims that “it is disconnection that drives addiction.” Essentially, our ability to form close ties with others can tell us how susceptible we are to addiction. If loneliness breeds addiction, then the reverse is true too: addiction by its very nature is an isolating experience that limits your ability to relate to others and yourself. Addicts often isolate themselves to use, and cut off family and friends who aren’t supportive of their substance use.
Having your beloved pet with you during the loneliest time of treatment will help to alleviate some of the feelings of isolation, putting you in a better position to begin treatment after detox is completed.
2. Pets Don’t Judge You
If you’re about to enter recovery, it’s completely normal to experience some shame about how your addiction has harmed you and your loved ones. You will work through these feelings in the treatment portion of recovery, but until then, no matter how much you judge yourself, your pet won’t judge you.
For people in recovery, a pet can be a wonderful source of unconditional love. Your best friend will be happy to spend lots of time with their human, and since pets are hardwired to bond to and help their people, you’ll have a supportive friend with you that won’t hold a grudge for anything you regret doing while using your substance.
3. Your Pet Is Good for Your Mental Health
Detox is one of the most precarious times for mental health: you may experience despair as your brain chemistry adjusts to the absence of the substances it’s become accustomed to over years of drug abuse. Luckily, pets have been shown to be fantastic supporters of mental health.
Cats are proven to reduce anxiety and can be a calming influence when we’re highly distressed because they don’t tend to mimic our emotions – and, of course, there is no more relaxing feeling in the world than a purring cat on your lap. Likewise, dogs can increase happiness and foster feelings of connection, which is exactly what you will need in detox. And dogs in particular have been known to instinctively sense when something is wrong, alerting medical staff to issues with their owner that they might not have otherwise picked up.
4. Your Pet Gives You Accountability
The responsibility of caring for your pet during detox will provide you with accountability when you need it most. Addiction can often make us act unreliably, and many people suffering from substance abuse come into recovery doubting in their capacity to complete even basic tasks regularly.
But your pet gives you a higher purpose: you are responsible for your loved one’s wellbeing, which means you’ll want to show up. When you care for your pet each day, you start to gain confidence in your ability to come through for someone and consistently fulfill your obligations to them, which will in turn give you the self-assurance you need to stick to your treatment.
3. Your Pet Is a Distraction from Pain and Self-Defeating Thoughts
Once you begin your rehab program, you’ll need to focus. However, in detox, any distraction is welcome. Detox is often unpleasant and can provoke intense physical pain, emotional trauma and intense cravings, among other uncomfortable symptoms. During this time, you’ll be thankful for the presence of your furry friend. Pets make us laugh just by being themselves, and your pet’s cute and goofy behavior can help take your mind off of self-defeating thoughts and wanting to use your substance of choice.
What’s more, dogs can relieve pain just by being there. One study found that chronic pain patients who shared their bed with a dog experienced a better night’s sleep, less pain and feelings of safety and protection.
6. Your Pet Helps Improve Your Social Skills
Addiction can diminish our ability to relate to others. After focusing so long on your substance of choice, you’ll want to begin the process of learning how to read social cues and empathize with others. And there’s no better way to start learning than with your pet by your side.
If you have a cat, for example, you can work on learning to accept boundaries. Some mental health practitioners recommend cats for pet therapy for this very reason: cats will not accept bad behavior or disregard for boundaries, which will help you get into the habit of respecting the boundaries of the humans in your life. And dogs are great at drawing us out, both metaphorically and physically — Spot needs to be walked, after all.
Best of all, owners of both dogs and cats experience a rush of “love hormone” oxytocin, which may not help your social skills, but will make you feel close to your pet and more confident in your ability to form bonds with others.
7. Bring Your Pet to Chelsea by the Sea
At Chelsea by the Sea, we would love to meet your pet. We understand that pets are family, and as such, we offer pet-friendly detox so you can have the support of your furry family member at this crucial time in your recovery. If you’re ready to get sober once and for all, contact us today to learn how we can help.