Furry Friends: Benefits of Pet Therapy

pet therapy

When we’re working on getting clean and sober, we often focus on attending meetings, going to therapy, and doing the work of maintaining sobriety.  And while these are all good areas of focus, we also need to look at how to add some fun and some joy to our sober lives.  This may come to us in different ways.  We may explore hobbies such as exercise, photography, crafts, painting, or volunteering to help others.  We may connect with new friends in sobriety or rekindle friendships from before our alcohol and drug use changed us.  At the Last House, we’ve found that sometimes it is as simple as connecting with a rescue dog. 

How Are Animals Therapeutic?

Pet owners have been telling us all about the benefits of having a pet for years, but it turns out that it’s just a story they tell. There is scientific evidence that dogs help reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, there is evidence that animal-assisted therapy sessions result in lower anxiety for individuals who have mood and other disorders.  Some studies have shown that the presence of a dog can be as comforting as the presence of a human friend during stressful or traumatic times. 

In addition to the benefits dogs can provide during therapy or stress, dogs can also provide us with a lifeline to some normalcy in our lives.  Many of us new to recovery have forgotten how to take care of ourselves, never mind another being.  A dog or cat can provide us with the opportunity to help another living thing survive and thrive.  By participating in the care of a pet, you allow yourself to focus on something outside of yourself and to begin to relearn taking on some responsibility.  By doing this within a sober living environment, you can enjoy the benefits of caring for a pet without having to get your own pet. 

Benefits of Having a Pet

Beyond the studies about the effects of pets during therapy or stress, it’s easy to see how the presence of a dog or cat can change the dynamic for us when we are on our own or with others.  Dogs and cats offer us unconditional love, in their own way, solely because we exist.  If you’ve ever had the opportunity to have a dog, you know that your dog is just as happy to see you when you’ve been gone 5 minutes as he is when you’ve been gone 5 hours.  There is something beautiful and reassuring about having another living thing be so happy to see you.  Additionally, animals can bridge the gap between people and offer themselves up as a topic of conversation.  Instead of finding yourself sitting with another person in awkward silence, you might find yourself chatting about that quirky dog and all the crazy things he does. 

Pet Therapy at the Last House

The Last House Sober Living is a network of sober living homes in the heart of West Los Angeles. We believe in providing our clients with the tools to have a meaningful life and participate in their own sobriety.  Activities such as service commitments, sober parties, conventions, dances, and house outings are all a part of helping you learn how to have fun in sobriety.  We also know that animals can make a world of difference in early sobriety.  By rescuing dogs, we enable our residents to participate in caring for a pet without having to take on the responsibility of pet ownership.  If you’re wondering where to start to create your sober life, The Last House is here to help. 

Jon L.’s Success Story

Jon L

Since being at The Last House, a lot has changed.  My relationship with my family has grown, but more importantly my relationship with myself has changed.  Before coming to The Last House, I was in a very dark place.  My life slightly changed when I tried getting sober for the first time in 2015.  I was not prepared for what was to come, not capable of using the tools I had, and to reach out for help in the community I had built.  After getting in trouble with the law, losing both my mother and father all in a couple of years, I’d lost all hope to live for anything.  I lost my identity and lost the people closest to me too; at the point all I knew was to turn to drugs.  I ended up destroying all relationships with friends in the program and with my siblings as well.  I had no life skills, could not hold a job, and just lost connection with everything.  I was all alone.  However, I couldn’t take it anymore and I finally asked for help.  I got another chance at life and was sent to The Last House. 

When I arrived at The Last House, I had a terrible outlook on life, a bad attitude, and a behavior that was getting me nowhere.  Being in The Last House has changed a lot in me which is not easy to admit.  This was a place I did not want to be at but needed to anyway.  It took a lot of sweat and tears to get to where I am at now (with the help of The Last House community).  I finally put my guard down, stopped fighting against the people who only wanted to help—and took their suggestion.  I needed the structure of being pushed to my limits.  I needed to be broken down and then lifted back up, but that was not easy.  Most importantly, I needed the 12 steps – that was one of the things missing in my recovery from the past.  From all of those times trying to get sober, I had never completed the steps and this time it has completely changed my life.  I really had to be pushed, even forced, to do the things I did not want to do and for me that was what I needed.  All I ever wanted was to be self-sufficient, independent, happy, content, present, and have a relationship with the family that I still have – my two brothers and two sisters who have been a big part of my recovery. 

This is just the beginning — these challenges and opportunities don’t stop.  I am always going to be growing as a person and challenged in life but being at The Last House has given me more tools than I ever had along with the ability to use them.  I am grateful for everything that has happened in my life, good and bad.

Stay Sober With Good Relapse Prevention Strategies

Stay Sober With Good Relapse Prevention Strategies

You’ve done the work and you’ve gotten sober.  You may be feeling great or you may be feeling a bit scared.  You may also be wondering how to stay sober.  Tales of others relapsing may have you wondering just what you need to do to prevent relapsing. The Last House is here to help you build on the work you’ve done to get sober so that you can stay sober. 

What Is a Relapse?

At its simplest, relapse is the return to the use of the drugs or alcohol from which we got sober.  However, most addicts and alcoholics will tell you that the relapse began before the drink or the drug was ever picked up.  Relapse can be divided into three stages: emotional, mental, and physical.  The emotional stage is defined by poor self-care including isolating from others, not going to meetings, poor eating habits, focusing on others instead of self, and more.  During the emotional stage, there are often no thoughts of using. Those thoughts come during the next stage.  During the mental stage, you may feel like you’re on the front lines of a war battling against yourself.  You may find yourself looking for opportunities to relapse, craving drugs or alcohol, glamorizing your past use, and more.  If you’re unable to successfully work your way through the emotional and mental stages, you may find yourself at the physical stage, where you begin to use drugs and alcohol again. 

Is Relapsing Normal?

While relapse can be common, it is not required.  Long-term recovery requires a great deal of change on the part of the individual and relapse prevention strategies.  Often those that relapse start to attend fewer meetings and stray far from the very routine that got them sober.  If relapse does happen, you can hopefully rely on the lessons you’ve learned while getting sober to begin again.  Starting over means taking a hard look at what led to the relapse and then developing relapse prevention strategies.

Practicing Drug Relapse Prevention

Long-term sobriety means changing the definition of fun, learning from setbacks, and becoming comfortable with discomfort. Once we put down the drugs and alcohol, we often find that we have to change our circle of friends.  No longer can we spend our time with the people with whom we used to use drugs and alcohol.  This means that we need to establish a new circle of friends and learn how to have fun without using. 

Long-term recovery also means learning that life is not always smooth sailing and that choppy waters are not an excuse to return to using.  It has certainly been said at more than one meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous that there is no problem that cannot be made worse by picking up. Staying sober means allowing ourselves to feel all of the feelings and learning how to work through them constructively.  Life in sobriety will have ups and downs, but we can learn how to manage without using.  Drug lapse prevention is, in essence, balancing the demands of recovery with the demands of our lives so that both flourish. 

Let The Last House Help You

The Last House Sober Living is a network of sober living homes in the heart of West Los Angeles. We believe in providing our clients with the tools to have a meaningful life and participate in their own sobriety.  Activities such as service commitments, sober parties, conventions, dances, and house outings are all a part of helping you learn how to have fun in sobriety.  If you’re wondering where to start to create your sober life, The Last House is here to help. 

Will P.’s Path To a Bright Future

Will P

Coming into The Last House I was 34 days sober and I was still very desperate for any help I could get.  I thought that I was destined or doomed to die a miserable junkie and that there was no way of changing that.  My hopeless state felt like the only normal one and, today, I am completely baffled at how that has completely turned around. 

My sleep schedule is manageable.  I’m in the best physical shape I have ever been in.  I sponsor other men struggling with their alcoholism.  I’ve held numerous commitments.  I’ve spoken at numerous meetings.  I work as a manager at the very same sober-living I successfully completed.   I have a host of friends in recovery.  I have a better relationship with my family, and I am self-sufficient.  Best of all, I have found a relationship with a power greater than myself.  I have a new outlook on life, and I can’t deny its marvel or wonder.  My future feels bright and I can’t say I have ever felt that way before.

Cory M.’s Journey to Recovery

Cory M

I came into The Last House defeated by my addiction and alcoholism; being in and out of rehabs, sober living houses, IOP programs.  For the last 5 years – the reality of my life and condition hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was a sad, lost, depressed young man who was slowly killing himself.  Although I was so afraid to go to a program like The Last House I knew deep down that I needed to go.  It was a complete shock to me and my ego because I was so used to living in my self-centered addiction.  It was scary because I knew I had to let go of all of my old behaviors and beliefs which was a very uncomfortable thing to do.  It was so easy to live like a victim and a quitter.  Before I got here, I felt that I was special and that the world owed me something.  I thought that I could have the life I wanted without having to put any work into it.  The Last House taught me otherwise.  The Last House taught me that being uncomfortable is way more rewarding that being comfortable.  When I wanted to quit so very bad, The Last House showed me the strength and love of a very powerful brotherhood.  The Last House showed me what real friends are and how holding each other accountable is a life saver for people like me.  The Last House taught me how to show up for others when I didn’t feel like it.  The Last House taught me how to be a responsible, confident and brave man.  Shattering my ego and beliefs of myself and the world helped me the most.  I would have never in my life taken the bus, walked for miles and miles in the hot sun with a bunch of job applications trying to get a minimum wage job.  I would have never let a bunch of guys call me out at a dinner table and sit there in silence. I would have never accepted a punishment for a leaving a cup out.  I would have never held anyone accountable – I thought it was lame and fake.  Little did I know that all of these things I said I would never do, would actually be the best things I could have ever done for myself.  That goes to show that my behaviors, outlooks, and attitudes were completely twisted before I got to The Last House.  I have learned so many beautiful things; so many life-changing experiences during my stay and it is unbelievable the amount of change that has occurred in me in such a short amount of time.  I will forever be grateful for The Last House and all of the amazing people that I had have the honor to know.  Thank you so very much!