Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is a big step towards reclaiming your life. However, given that addiction is a highly individualized disease, treatment may take several forms depending on your case. During the recovery process, support systems are vital in helping the addict not to relapse into the addiction. One of the popular support approaches is dog-assisted therapy. This therapy involves giving those healing from addiction a dog to aid them during the recovery process. The dog offers the patients a connection to another living being. This is something that most patients lack. For these reasons, Omega Recovery is dog friendly. Just down the street from Omega is a great place to find a new best friend, Austin Pets Alive. Austin is leading the way as a no kill city for over 8 years.
Dogs are compassionate and they love you
Dogs are very good at showing compassion to their owners especially when the owners are low in spirits. A recovering addict will have their moments of low spirits and may lack someone that can give you that touch of assurance. A pet can play this role perfectly. It can curl, perch on your shoulder or lie beside you. It reassures you that everything is okay and will be fine. Dogs are great partners who never get bored with you and can be with you wherever you go or are doing. Given that you may regularly suffer from these moments of loneliness especially if you lack family support, getting a pet to be on your side is a noble idea.
Helps return your mind to the normal routine
Drug addiction alters your normal habits and makes you forget your responsibility. A significant step towards recovery is getting back to your normal routine. For you to form new habits, you need responsibilities that need to be fulfilled on a daily basis.
One of these activities is to take care of a dog. If you have a dog that needs to be fed, a dog that needs to be walked and you are most likely going to push yourself to wake up and get going. This daily commitment eventually turns into a routine. With the basic routine in place, you can add in other routines such as cooking, bathing and so forth. With time, you are able to get your normal life back.
Unlike other activities that you may postpone, a task around a pet cannot be postponed. When struggling to complete the task, you will end up completing other tasks in the process.
Gives you a sense of purpose
Most people are engulfed into a sense of hopelessness when they cannot control their drug or alcohol habit. Over time the hopelessness leads to frustration and more drug use. Unfortunately, you may feel the same when trying to get out of addiction. You may be struggling so much to keep within the recovery boundaries especially if are on extended care at home or rehab center.
Pets can give you a sense of hope, self-worth, and direction. You may be having a hard time getting on with the family members or connecting with friends who may affect your social life as you feel unwanted. However, your pet depends on you for grooming, food, and shelter. It gives you a reason to wake up each morning and do something for it. This reason is what helps you to rebuild your self-worth and a sense of purpose. In the long run, it enables you to regain the confidence of the people around you that you can take care of more than just yourself.
Helps the Whole Family Recover
Dogs help families take time out for play, it’s fun to chase your dog around the yard, go for walks, play fetch, learn new tricks, etc. Dogs provide loyalty, companionship and love. Studies show that owning a dog reduce stress and lowers cholesterol, and can add years to your life. See this article at WebMD for a list of benefits. Dogs greatly enrich the lives and help with recovery for both individuals and families.
Helps in socialization
One of the things that drug abuse kills off is the connection between you and the people around you. Drugs may have ruined relationships through withdrawal, risky behavior or unpredictable temperament. It is always a tough task to learn to socialize again when you get sober again. In fact, one of the aftercare objectives is to get you to become integrated into society and enable you to create friendships with people around you.
Dogs can act as middle persons in your journey to socializing again. You can walk the dog to a pet park and engage in some talk with other dog owners. Friendship with other pets helps you to regain the ability to trust others and learn new ways to handle relationships.
Pets are also known to ease social pressures that your friends and companions feel when they visit you. Friends may not have a lot to share. However, on meeting a pet at home he or she can start a small chat around the dog. Soon, the ice is broken, and other topics come into the foreground.
Keeps you active
As you recover, you need to keep your energy levels up by keeping yourself busy. Unfortunately, you are likely to end up feeling worn-out. A dog can come in to keep you motivated. Animals are exercise ready and awesome exercise companions. You may put off your next activity if you feel like not doing it. However, you cannot keep postponing your dog care activities such a dog walking, playing with the pet, and grooming. You will be forced to compose yourself and do what you are required to do. This motivation slowly turns seemingly tough or boring activities into routine activities. In addition, remaining active improves the rate of recovery and lowers the risk of relapse.
If you are in Austin, sober living is possible. Adopt a dog at Austin Pets Alive within walking distance from Omega Recovery Center in downtown south Austin. Having a pet near you is one of the most effective ways of speeding up recovery. Visit the pets center today and let your new friend walk with you to a drug-free life.
at Omega Recovery
At Omega Recovery we deliver world class recovery & clinical treatment to our patients in our IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). We provide the support needed during the first few months after rehab, the most vital time in the recovery process, re-integrating into society. One of our Intensive Outpatient groups below are enjoying some kayaking on lake Austin as part of Experiential Mondays. We believe in taking time to be active, seek continual learning while reflecting, meditating and building a personal relationship with one’s higher power.
We truly care about helping our patients identify and resolve their issues at the core, and to learn experientially how to achieve their goals and live a full, active, healthy and vibrant life with balance, meaning and purpose.
Our senior level team has 50+ years of sobriety. We truly understand the process requires a lot of support and we are here with around the clock staff to give the care they deserve.
At Omega Recovery we know the first few months after rehab can be challenging. We’re here to make sure you working a strong aftercare program and have the support you need to work through your issues. Rock climbing is just one of the few activities we partake in on Experiential Mondays.
In our IOP program you’ll experience and accomplish things you never thought possible, while making friendships along the journey who are also committed to a new way of life.
We believe in taking time to rejoice in your successes along the way, while creating essential community that will always be there to lift you up when you need a hand.
Come join us and go on the greatest adventure of your life. See you at the Top!
To learn more about what we can provide for you, please visit our website at www.omegarecovery.org
At Omega Recovery we view addiction as a self-medicating symptom of some other underlying distress. That underlying distress can be different in each person: childhood trauma, psychiatric imbalance, physical pain, toxic relationships, existential crisis, habituation to addictive medication, personality disorders, unresolved bereavement, internalized shame, etc. For each person, those issues can come together to form a unique “perfect storm” of active addiction. But meaningful recovery is not just detoxing the person from the substances or the addictive behavior; it’s understanding and then treating the issues that led to the self-medication and also helping the struggling addict develop a better sense of Self–and to re-write and reframe their “story” in a more healthy and meaningful way.
Further, we understand that addiction corresponds very highly–by some estimates, over 70% of the time–with other mental health disorders, primarily anxiety and depression; that in those cases, the addiction is the result of a person who is attempting to self-medicate the anxiety and/or depression, but then became hooked or dependent on the alcohol, substances or behaviors that were providing some relief for the depression and anxiety. But what the field of psychology is beginning to understand–and what we embrace at Omega Recovery–is that many of these underlying stressors (anxiety, depression, isolation, fear, low-self esteem, a sense of emptiness) are culturally based and byproducts of our modern Western society.
According to Dr. Steven Ilardi, the University of Kansas psychologist, researcher and author of The Depression Cure (Da Capo, 2009) “Americans are 10 times more likely to have depressive illness than they were 60 years ago…and a recent study found the rate of depression has more than doubled in just the past decade”. Globally, things aren’t much better; according to the World Health Organization (WHO) 450 million people worldwide are directly affected by mental disorders and disabilities and that by 2030 depression will top the list of all other health conditions as the number one financial burden around the world.
Why? Why are we getting more stressed out, more depressed and more addicted?
Dr. Ilardi thinks that he’s found the answer: Increased rates of depression and other mental health woes like anxiety and addiction are a byproduct of our modernized, industrialized and urbanized lives. Our love affair with the gadgets and comforts of being a highly technologically evolved society have put us on a never-ending treadmill of overworking, under-sleeping and hyper-stressing as we exhaustedly lunge towards the “American Dream”.
What happens when we work longer hours in soul-crushing cubicles to buy things that we don’t need? According to Dr. Ilardi: “We’ve been engineering the activity out of our lives. The levels of bright-light exposure-time spent outdoors have been declining. The average adult gets just over six and a half hours of sleep a night. It used to be nine hours a night. There’s increasing isolation, fragmentation, the erosion of community.”
Thus, according to Ilardi, “We feel perpetually stressed.”
Dr. Ilardi had found that certain societies-such as the American Amish and the Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea, had essentially zero rates of depression or other mental health disorders. But how can this be? We are all essentially wired the same way–have the same DNA. And these cultures that were much more mentally healthy than ours certainly didn’t live stress-free lives. Indeed, by many measures, it is a lot more difficult living as a hunter-gatherer in New Guinea or working from-morning-to-dusk as the Pennsylvania Amish do.
So then how and why are they so mentally healthy? Answer: Their lifestyle.
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes
The more Dr. Ilardi looked at the commonalities of these mentally healthy societies, the more he was able to tease out certain common variables that he was then able to operationalize in his groundbreaking research dubbed the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) Project. He took clinically depressed subjects and then incorporated several of these therapeutic lifestyle changes into their lives for several weeks.
The results? They experienced phenomenal outcomes: people who had suffered from mental health, anxiety, and depression for many years saw amazing–and measurable–improvements. Indeed, these improvements were statistically significant, not only when compared to control groups, but also when compared to people who had been treated only with depression medications.
And what were these magical lifestyle changes? Getting regular daily exercise; getting plenty of natural sunlight; getting ample sleep every night; eating an Omega-3 rich diet; being involved in some type of social activity where social connections were made; and participation in meaningful tasks that leave little time for negative thoughts or rumination.
Along with traditional psychotherapy, we’ve incorporated those “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes” into the clinical protocols of Omega Recovery. Unplugging from our devices, developing a sense of healing community, physical exercise, immersing oneself in nature–those things alone can be more therapeutic than sitting for an hour in a therapist’s chair and venting about your life.
Of course, there is value to traditional psychotherapy, which our master’s level clinicians also do at Omega Recovery–but there is something even more special, more healing–and more transformative–when combined with nature immersion, somatic and experiential therapies, and the above-mentioned Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes.
Indeed, outdoor nature immersion, also known as “Adventure Therapy” has been researched as OBH (Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare), more typically associated with adolescent wilderness-style programs, but which also applies to the nature immersion and adventure therapy we are doing at Omega. So hiking the Greenbelt, kayaking, biking, mindfulness walks at Zilker Park, exercising with their clinical group at the Town lake YMCA…all of these activities can be incredibly grounding and can help restore a person to a more balanced and emotionally and psychologically healthy way of being.