How to Take Care of a Pet When You Are Newly Sober
If you’re just out of recovery and you have to take care of a pet, it can mean extra challenge. In fact, if you don’t yet own a pet, most recovery groups will recommend waiting to get one. Here, recovery groups often start individuals out on buying a plant and keeping that alive first. Once you’ve proven you can do that, you can start with pets. But, if you already have a pet, you’ll have to jump right into taking care of and managing the life that is in your care. That can be a massive responsibility.
The good news is that there are plenty of strategies you can use to ensure you’re providing good care for the animals in your life – even when you’re newly sober. These tips will help you make the right decisions and the right calls.
Take Your Pet to Rehab with You
An increasingly large number of rehab and treatment centers will offer pet care during recovery treatment. This means that you can simply bring your pet with you and continue offering it care while you work on yourself. That’s often relatively easy as you can keep a cat in a room with you, birds in cages, and rehab often involves hiking and plenty of time to walk, so dogs can also get exercise.
Of course, bringing a pet to rehab with you will reduce the number of rehab centers you can choose from. On the other hand, it means that caring for your pet is part of your schedule from day one. It is good to be able to focus on yourself first and foremost during recovery. However, rehab offers plenty of time for pet care, which means this can be a great option.
Ask for Help When You Need It
You won’t always have the headspace or the time to care for your pet. It’s important that you learn to reach out and ask for help when you need it. That might mean having a pet sitter. It might also mean having someone come over to help you with cleaning a litter box or cages when you notice you’re having trouble keeping up. If you treat early sobriety like being in recovery from being sick or like having a depression diagnosis, you’ll understand that you will have good and bad days. Some days you will need help. That may mean having someone on call to help you with your pet so that you know your pet gets the care it needs. Asking for that help can be hard because it can make you feel like you’re not being enough for a pet, but it’s important to recognize that you are sick and you do need help sometimes. If you can’t do that, then your pet may actually go without because you are in recovery and you won’t always be healthy enough (mentally or physically) to offer the care your pet needs.
Work Pet Care into Your Routines
Moving into recovery often means building good routines into your life. That means good food, exercise, and taking care of your home and space. It’s important that your pet be part of those routines from day one. For example, if you have a dog, you can make multiple long walks a day your exercise routine. That means you and your pet get the care you need. You can also work cleaning up after your pet into your morning routine. For example, taking 10 minutes before and after bed to check food and water, to clean up messes, etc., can be extremely good for your pet. Of course, any pet will also need extra time for play and for enrichment, which means setting that time aside. But, providing you make it part of your routine, you’ll have a better idea of when to do it and how to do it. Creating that routine will also help you to maintain good pet care even when you are having a bad day and are having a hard time.
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Have Someone Check in on You
Keeping up with your mental health and your recovery can be difficult. It’s important that you have someone looking in on you. That means two things. The first is social accountability. Here, you know someone is checking in on you so you have external motivation to do something that should be done. That can be more helpful than most people realize. For example, if you’ve ever suddenly had the motivation to clean right before guests show up, you’ve experienced social accountability. It can be surprisingly powerful, even for things you want to do like taking care of your pet.
In addition, having someone check in on you can help you to notice sooner when you start to do badly. You might be struggling but someone will realize it and may help you to break out of it before things go bad. And, if they can’t, they will likely be able to help you take care of your pet so your pet does not lose the added care. That will be better for your pet and its wellbeing either way. Of course, that does mean having a self-help group, having people visit you, having that check-in, and that can be hard to ask for and hard to maintain.
Talk to Your Therapist
You might not be ready to take care of a pet. It’s important to accept that. It’s also important to accept that if you can’t take care of your pet right now, you should be getting help. That help might mean having someone drop by daily to help you with pet care. It might also mean having your pet live with a friend or family member for a bit while you work to recover your physical and mental health. Recovering from a substance use disorder is a lot. You might need help. You might have ups and downs. Your bad days might be so bad you cannot or can barely take care of yourself. Having a pet at the same time means taking on responsibility you might not be ready for. That means talking to your therapist, getting help, and figuring out what you’re capable of.
It’s always a good idea to wait with getting a pet if you can. However, pets can help with loneliness, they can help you to feel loved, they can give you a good baseline for self-care, and they can provide external motivation for doing things. On the other hand, if you wait till you’re further into recovery, you’ll be in better shape to ensure your pet has the care and emotional stability from its caretaker that it needs. Whatever situation you’re in, don’t be afraid to reach out, ask for help, and try to involve your pet in your therapy and recovery. Eventually, taking care of a life is a big responsibility and it should be an important part of your life, including your rehab and your self help and support. That can mean added complexity, but it will mean you get companionship, and your pet gets the care it needs.
Good luck with your recovery and with taking care of your pet.
If you or your loved-one struggles from alcoholism or other substance abuse please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors about our alcohol rehab, detox, partial hospitalization, and residential treatment programs. 10 Acre Ranch also has specialty tracks like our pet friendly drug rehab and couples substance abuse treatment programs. We’re here to help you recover.