Anyone who’s come home to a dog’s joyful welcome after a rough day understands the emotional benefits of pet ownership. There’s nothing like the love and devotion of a pet. However, the bond between humans and their pets can have even greater rewards, helping people to cope with chronic illnesses and even navigate the challenges of addiction recovery.

In this article, we’ll discuss some benefits of having your dog with you in recovery.

Love, Loyalty and Trust

Active addiction may have caused a lot of harm to your personal life, straining your relationships with people you care about and putting distance and distrust between yourself and your loved ones. While you may have friends and family members who have stuck around and supported you during your toughest times, it’s not uncommon to feel alone in recovery.

That’s where the unconditional love of a pet can prove invaluable. Your dog doesn’t judge you or hold a grudge. Your dog doesn’t care what you did during your addiction days—your pooch just wants to love you and be loved by you.

It will take time and effort to rebuild relationships with the people in your life, but you can be certain your pet will always be by your side, no explanation needed.

Physical and Mental Health Benefits

There’s a reason dogs are frequently used in therapeutic settings, providing joy and comfort to hospital patients and nursing home residents. Spending time with an animal is good for your physical and mental health. Pet ownership has been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels, and studies show that pet owners tend to have a lower risk of heart disease.1

Playing with your furry friend can also boost your levels of dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of contentment and happiness.2 When you’re feeling calm and emotionally balanced, it’s a lot easier to deal with the challenges of recovery and resist cravings when they strike.

A Sense of Purpose

When you’re rebuilding your life in recovery, it often feels like you’re starting from scratch. There may be times when you struggle to find purpose and meaning in your new life. Having a pet provides a strong sense of purpose– you’re responsible for a living creature that depends on you for love and care. Even if you’re going through a tough time, you’ll need to step up and provide everything your dog needs: food, exercise, shelter, love, playtime and more. Knowing that your dog needs you can be a powerful motivation to stay on track and keep your recovery efforts strong.

Recovery is a lifelong process that requires hard work on your part, and your four-legged friend shouldn’t serve as your only form of support. It’s important to build up a strong support network and take advantage of recovery resources such as support groups and 12-step programs. However, the rewards of pet ownership—and, in particular, having your dog with you in sober living—provide benefits that can’t be found elsewhere. Enjoying the love and companionship of your dog can improve your health and make your recovery journey a little less challenging.