It Never Rains But It Pours

This year has been nothing short of horrible.  No sooner than we’d heard my sister was going to live and recover as much as someone with half her innards missing can, we faced yet another crisis.

Last Wednesday began like any other day.  I got up and immediately went to let Dixie outside.  I blearily drudged my way through my morning routine, but when I poured her food in her dish, she didn’t come back inside (she usually comes running).  I went to the back door and called for her, but she didn’t come.

I figured she’d wandered around to the front of the house and was about to go to the front door, when I heard my husband say, “What the hell is that??” while he opened the door.  Dixie came running into the house and collapsed, shivering, in the front hall.  I knelt down and the minute I touched her she gave a loud yelp and bolted to her kennel.

“What happened?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied, “I heard her yelping and when I opened the door, well, you saw.”

It took me forever to calm poor Dixie down enough to let me examine her, and even then I had to practically climb into the kennel with her.  All I could see was a shallow, but bloody, cut on the back of her left leg, but I knew what had happened – she’d wandered into the street.  It was still dark out, and she’s a solid black dog; she was hit by a car.

My husband had to go to work (of course), but I immediately called the vet and told them what I thought happened.  They couldn’t see her right away and suggested a nearby animal hospital, so I bundled her up in a blanket and carried her to the car as quickly (and gently) as I could.

They were able to see her as soon as we got there and x-rayed her and did some sort of other scan to check for internal injuries.  She was very, very lucky – she only suffered the cut on her leg, some other scrapes and bruising, and a very small fracture of her tailbone.  They gave us some pain medication, a stool softener (the fractured tailbone is making any elimination painful) and we were on our way home just a little over an hour later.

I was out of my mind with worry about her for the first few days – she refused to leave her kennel at all the first day, except when she came out to pee and poop on the floor (which I willingly – gladly, even – cleaned up).  The next couple of days weren’t much better, although she started to come out to eat and drink, instead of waiting for me to bring her food and water dish to the kennel.  She still wouldn’t leave it otherwise, though, and cried incessantly unless one of us sat next to her, petting her and speaking softly.

I had visions of her becoming a timid, frightful dog and the thought made me cry – I love my sweet, wild girl who, when she wagged her tail, managed to wag her whole body and tired out much larger dogs with her play and running at our nearly daily visits to the dog park.  I knew she’d heal physically, but I was worried she’d never recover from the psychological trauma.

By Saturday, though, she started coming out of the kennel for brief periods, acting more like her old self, and finally went outside to do her doggy business.  By yesterday she was MUCH improved, going outside with my husband while he continued the job of cleaning out the garden beds, and even went to go visit the neighbors behind us, who adore her.  We ended the day with a nice, leisurely walk around the block.

She still isn’t jumping on the sofa – it hurts too much, getting up and down – so we’ve made her a bed in the sunny patch by the sliding glass doors that lead to the deck out back.  And while there’s no full-body wag (yet), she’s wagging her tail again, if somewhat gingerly, and feeling well enough to beg for bacon and dog treats whenever I’m in the kitchen.

I’m confident that she is going to recover fully from this awful accident, which is such a relief.  Now our challenge is how we’re going to handle the next few weeks – per the vet, she’s not supposed to run until the fracture is fully healed, which will take six to eight weeks.  That means no running, and no visits to the dog park, and if there’s anything my girl Dixie likes to do, it’s run and go to the dog park.

I’ll keep you updated.

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Some Good News, Actually

I sent my resume to a job placement agency.  They immediately responded, asking me to apply for a job within their organization as a marketing coordinator.  It’s only part-time, but I don’t balk at that at all – this is something I’m imminently qualified for and it’s a foot in the door.  I am quite optimistic; I’ve taken their online skills assessment tests and did quite well, have had a phone interview and have a face-to-face lined up for next Tuesday.

I am thrilled and exited and nervous.  But mostly HAPPY.

I made sure my husband was aware of this job opportunity; I felt since it’s part-time and the hours I work will be flexible if I get the position, he’d be less likely to feel threatened by the fact I’m looking for other work.  And for a short time, that seemed to be true.

Until this morning.

Today was the appointment for the phone interview.  I jumped in the shower while my husband was still in; we used to shower together all the time, but since he’s stopped any and all physical contact, it’s been less stressful to shower apart.  As usual, as I entered the shower, he put out a hand for me to grab to steady myself.

“I hope you don’t mind,” I said, meaning sharing the shower.

“It’s not if I mind, it’s if you mind,” he said angrily.

“Why would I mind??”

“Well, I guess you should mind since you think I’m sexually assaulting you every time I touch you!”

I was so dumbfounded that I could only stare at him for several seconds before I said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“That’s what you told me!” he yelled.  “Those were your exact words!”

“I never said that.  Ever.”

“Yes, you did!  You told me exactly that!” he shouted again.

Then it occurred to me what he must be talking about.  When we had our fight about the fact that my efforts towards our sex life weren’t good enough, at one point I’d told him that it seemed to me he wasn’t interested in any non-sexual physical contact or intimacy – almost every hug or caress turned into a grope (which were actually my exact words).

Talk about taking what I’d said and twisting it to mean the worst possible thing.

He got out of the shower at that point, and I just said, “So that’s why you’ve been avoiding me like the plague?  That’s not what I said at all.  And it’s things like this that make me so reluctant to talk to you.”  And I dropped the subject – I didn’t want to think about his juvenile accusations, all I wanted to think about was the interview that was coming up in less than 2 hours.

He continued to needle me, and when I refused to be drawn into an argument, he finally yelled, “I guess there’s nothing more to be said, is there?  Except maybe an apology!”

There was a time, friends and neighbors, when I’d have enthusiastically entered that battle by yelling something like, “Well, I’m sorry you deliberately misunderstood me so you’d have an excuse to punish me for not fucking you six times a day!”  But I thought, no – I’m not going to do that.  I don’t want to be a mess when I call for that interview; it’s too important to me.

So instead, I just said, “I’m really very sorry.”  (Not a lie.)

“Oh, no,” he said, “we’re not doing that.  We’re not going to get all emotional and cry and scream and carry on.”

“No, we’re not,” I said.  “You feel you are owed an apology; I’m giving you one.  I am sorry your feelings were hurt.  That was never my intention.”

And I walked away.

I do believe I’ve learned the meaning of “detaching with love” (or at least tolerance; I’m not sure love is even an issue in this relationship any more).  And also how concentrating on what’s best for me will help me deal with him and his alcoholism without making myself ill or going bug-fucking bonkers.

For now, he’s let it go in his usual “I’m going to pretend this didn’t happen” manner, but we’ll see how it goes this afternoon as we drive to Columbus for a political conference we’ve both been looking forward to.  He could very well continue to be good-natured, or he could get pissy again.  I guess it’s up to me whether or not we end up screaming at each other, trapped in a 2008 Nissan Altima, for 2 1/2 hours.

Only I can keep these kinds of situations from devolving into finger-pointing screaming matches.  Now if I can just find a way to remember that and always exercise the required restraint.

Easier said than done.

Control

I haven’t been active in the online support group for friends and family members of alcoholics I joined a couple of years or so ago for awhile – not since I began therapy.  But since my therapist has moved onto greener pastures, I’ve begun popping in and reading more often.  The last few days, I’ve been there quite often, and I’m beginning to feel a little better about how things are going.

It’s generally accepted that the spouses of alcoholics are codependent, and as such are desperate to establish some kind of control, both over their relationships and their lives.  Codependents tend to be the kind of people who feel the need to “fix” everything, while reluctant to ask for help themselves.  It took me a long time to recognize this in myself, but yes – I am guilty of both those things.  Gawd help me, the last thing I want to be is codependent, but I guess I am.

That control – or the lack of it – has been such an issue in my life has never been driven home as much as today when I took the dog for her morning walk.

Dixie is pretty darn strong and muscular for a 22 pound dog, and walking her is often an ordeal, especially if there are lots of people out and about, because she’s so excitable.  I can’t do much more than walk her around the block once or twice before taking her back home.

Using a harness is hard, because it gives her the leverage she needs to pull and yank me around.  A regular collar isn’t much better, and it makes me worry about the damage she could be doing to her neck and trachea.  So, I purchased a “head collar” – it has a loop that goes over her snout, and a strap that goes across the back of her head, just behind her ears.  When properly fitted, she can open her mouth, even eat while wearing it.  But she can’t pull, tug or try to run ahead of me when it’s in place, because she gets no leverage – it simply turns her head.  She has to walk next to me at my pace.

I wish I’d bought the damn thing three weeks ago when the trainer suggested it, because this morning was the first time we’ve made it around the block in less than half an hour.  She’s not crazy about having something on her head, but she’s getting used to it (and she loves all the treats she gets for walking alongside me), and I’m anxious to take her on longer walks when she has adjusted to it.

It occurred to me as I was getting ready for work today, that I was in a much better mood than has been usual after our walks and I realized why – I was taking her for a walk, rather than the other way around.  I was in control.

At first, I was upset with myself for feeling that way, then I realized that I should be in control in that particular situation.  I’m the human; she’s the dog.  I get to dictate the terms of our walk, not her.  My problem, as it is with so many of us married to addicts, is relinquishing the idea of controlling those people and situations over which we truly have none.

There is so little in my life over which I have so little control.  All I can do is control how I respond to it.

Well, that and how I walk the dog.

 

Dixieland

2016-07-24_01How can you resist a face like that?

Simple…you can’t.

I now have another shadow.  Dixie likes my alcoholic husband, and he seems more fond of her than he was of Snoopy, but she adores me and follows me everywhere.  I’m also the only person she’ll mind, which is both gratifying and frustrating.

We’ve been to two of our beginner’s training classes and she’s caught on very quickly to most of the things we’ve been taught.  Our biggest challenge remains leash training, but we’re working on it.  When I take her on our walks, we spend the first half going just a few steps at a time – if she won’t walk at my pace and pulls on the leash, we just stop – but she eventually gets it and does quite well, not getting excited again until we approach our house.

The trainer wants us to practice the “watch me” signal and give her a treat every time she makes eye contact and walks beside me, but I’d have to take an entire bag of dog food with me if we did that and we’d never make it home.  It’s the one thing I’ve not done exactly according to the trainer’s instructions.  I don’t want Dixie to expect treats on walks; the walk itself needs to be the reward and since the poor thing just loves being outside, I think it’s a good approach to take.

It’s just going to take a lot of work.  We knew that the foster family had a hard time adopting her out – we’d heard it’s because she wasn’t a puppy and is solid black, but I think I know the real reason:  she is very energetic, extremely excitable and loves to nip you when she’s playing.  That is going to be a hard habit to break her of, but I feel confident we’ll succeed.  She also still chews things – she loves paper – and we have to be careful what we leave within her reach when she’s out of sight, but I know from experience that will end as she gets older.

I’ve come to believe the “puppy mill” thing was also a load of hooey.  The fosters finally confessed that they didn’t know for certain she’d been in a puppy mill; the trainer they had taken her to a couple of times said she exhibited some of the same behaviors as a puppy mill dog.  She certainly wasn’t abused, and is in too good of health for a rescue dog (our new vet declared her “perfect”).

I think she was just the product of an irresponsible owner who never had her spayed or registered and let her run loose.  She was finally picked up by a dog catcher, and since she wasn’t chipped or registered, she eventually went to a shelter where, for the reasons I listed above, was never adopted out.  She was slated to be euthanized when the rescue organization stepped in and placed her in the foster home where we eventually found her.

At any rate, I’ve got my work cut out for me with this sweet, wonderful, crazy dog, but I don’t care – in fact, I welcome the distraction.  I certainly welcome the unconditional love which has been, sadly, in far too short a supply in my life.

2016-07-25

Dixie

It’s been three years next month since I had the heartbreaking experience of sending my 13-year-old dachshund mix, Snoopy, across the Rainbow Bridge.  He was no longer a young dog, although he might have lived another three years if he hadn’t been so ill.  But he was very, very sick with no chance of getting any better, so I made one of the hardest decisions of my life.

Snoopy, a rescue dog we adopted when he was about a year old, was intended to be my younger step-daughter’s dog, but he became my dog.  I’m the person who cared for him, played with him, fed him, bathed him, cleaned up after him, gave him his medications when he needed them, and I was the one who took him on his final journey.  He was fond of my husband, who was tolerant of him (my husband never really wanted a dog), but Snoopy adored me and followed me everywhere – he was my little shadow.

I was so devastated by his death that it took me over two years to even begin think about getting another dog, and another six months to convince my husband that we should actually have another dog.  So, with the help of a Facebook friend who helps place rescue dogs, we began the search.

I wanted another dachshund or dachshund mix, and my husband refused a puppy – he did not want to go through all the mess of house training and all the chewing (Snoopy chewed everything that wasn’t red-hot or nailed down when we first got him).  I can’t say I blamed him, and I was not adverse to a fully grown dog that was past the puppy phase.  Unfortunately, most adult dogs that are up for adoption seem to be either adopted in pairs, or required to go into homes that have other dogs, and we didn’t want two dogs.  It’s been a frustrating few months.

But we have, at last, found our girl.

Dixie is a 2-year-old dachshund mix.  She was a puppy mill mommy whose owners had been raided and all of their dogs confiscated.  She went directly to a shelter and was scheduled to be euthanized when she was rescued and put in a foster home.  She’s been spayed and is working with a trainer, and according to her foster mother is one of the smartest, even-tempered, eager-to-please animals she’s ever fostered.  But because she is solid black and no longer a puppy, they have had a hard time placing her.

I saw the video of her that had been posted on Facebook and just fell in love.  She is a doll.

She’s also in Alabama, so when we go to Texas again in three weeks (my husband is attending a conference, and I am going to spend time with the kids and grandson), we are going to detour to Birmingham on our way back and bring the newest member of the family home.  I could not be more thrilled.

I know it sounds odd to be adopting a dog when I’m planning to leave my alcoholic husband and my future seems so uncertain, but she may be my saving grace in all of this.  I need some unconditional love in my life.

I’m Wrong

About 3 years ago, when my husband began his (extremely intermittent) attendance at SMART Recovery, I went to their website and ordered their handbook for friends and family members of alcoholics.  When it arrived, the very first thing it said was that as a family member close to the alcoholic, I had to understand what I was doing wrong.

I was more than a little offended – I was not the person indulging in the destructive behavior.  I put the handbook down, and decided to attend an Al-Anon meeting.  After 2 meetings where there was NO constructive advice on how to deal with my alcoholic without driving myself (and him) crazy, I did not return.

Fast forward 2 years, and I’m living upstairs and worrying about how I’ll support myself because my husband decided to be a ginormous dick during a dinner with a coworker and his wife.  A couple of weeks later I found myself talking to a therapist.

During all of this time I also did a massive amount of research online and joined an online support forum for the spouses and family members of alcoholics, which was far more to my liking than the Al-Anon meetings.  Therapy also helped immensely, and I learned something very important.

I learned what I was doing wrong.

I learned that, contrary to what I’d thought, I was nagging my husband about his drinking.  That nagging did nothing but encourage my husband to hide his drinking, and the more I nagged the more he hid it.  Now my husband drinks alone and in secret and this is a BAD thing, especially for him.

I learned that it does no good to attempt to talk rationally and reasonably to my husband about his drinking, especially when he has been drinking.  Since I’m no longer sure when that is (although I think I can reasonably assume it’s still all day, every day), I don’t talk to him about it at all.  If he wants to pretend that means I believe he’s not drinking, or in control of his drinking, so be it.

While I always knew that I was not the cause of his drinking (despite him trying to pin it on me, especially in the early days of his alcoholism), I learned that there is nothing I can do to control his drinking, and certainly nothing I can do to stop it.  Pointing out how much he was drinking, or that I could tell he’d been drinking, or when he’d been drinking (such as at the office) – all that nagging – served no purpose.  All it has done is build up an enormous amount of resentment between the two of us.

I learned that while I have no control over his drinking, I have complete control over how I let his drinking affect me.  My reactions to his drunken behavior have often been every bit as responsible for the awful situations we’d find ourselves in as his drinking.  There was really no reason for that dinner with our friends to turn as ugly as it did; I should have simply apologized to my husband and when the waitress offered to take the drink away, I should have said, “Yes, that’s a good idea.”  Then I should have apologized to our dining companions and gone forward as if everything was fine – because it could have been.  It should have been.

(Don’t misunderstand me – my husband still behaved like a ginormous dick, but I didn’t have to let that ruin my evening, or anyone else’s.  Making his drunken behavior a non-issue that evening wouldn’t have been enabling, it would have been a conscious decision not to let that behavior affect me in a negative way.)

There was certainly no reason whatsoever for our five-week separation afterwards.  If any deflection of his behavior in the restaurant hadn’t been enough to defuse the drunken screaming when we got home, I should have recognized it for what it was, shrugged it off, and waited to see if he wanted to discuss it more rationally the next day when he’d sobered up.

I’ve learned to accept the apology I’ll never receive.  My husband is ashamed of his alcoholism, whether he admits it or not, or he would not take such pains to hide it.  I believe he is deeply ashamed of and regrets his behavior when it gets out of control, and since it is already difficult for him to admit he’s wrong or made a mistake, even sober, I imagine it’s even harder for him to come out and say, “I was a drunken asshole.  I’m sorry.”

I’ve learned I can’t stress over his drinking, not if I want to remain sane and healthy myself.  I can’t go check his hiding place in the garage every day to see how much he’s had to drink that day; I can’t dig through the recycle bin to see how many empties are there; I can’t stand in the kitchen or dining room after lunch and listen to him dig in his garage hiding place so he can smuggle his booze into the office for the afternoon; I can’t roam around the house and garage, searching for the glasses that are missing from the cupboard; I can’t pay too much attention to the sudden appearance of breath mints everywhere, both at home and the office.  If I do those things, the desire to beat him over the head with it all will just become too much, and like I said before, what good does it do?  None at all.

I’m not going to pretend that because of all this things are all peachy keen in Jan’s World.  Of course they’re not; I’m still married to an alcoholic and I still have to make the decision whether or not I want to remain married to an alcoholic.  If he never decides to get the help he needs to become sober (and he has yet to grasp the distinction between “not drinking” and “sober”), then the answer to that dilemma will be “no.”  I don’t want to watch him slowly commit suicide by vodka, and I don’t want to spend my retirement years caring for an end-stage alcoholic.  If that makes me horrible, then I guess I’m horrible.

It’s all a work in progress, and for now, I have more good days than bad.  How good they are is almost entirely up to me.

A Brief, Amusing Anecdote

There’s been some completely unforeseen events in the aftermath of my sister-in-law’s death, but I don’t really want to write about them until they have come to some sort of a conclusion.  Unfortunately, I can’t say when that might be.  The whole thing has thrown our family for a loop, though.

On a completely unrelated note, I’ve just made it through what I call the Annual Birthday-O-Rama.  January 26 is my daughter’s birthday; January 27th is my youngest son’s AND my husband’s birthday; January 28 is my youngest son’s father’s birthday (mercifully, one I no longer have any responsibility for beyond reminding my 21-old-college student to call his father).  It’s always crazy, even crazy fun, but on the heels of the holidays is probably more exhausting – to say nothing of expensive – than it would otherwise be if it were, say, in early September.

This year, the birthdays were all in the middle of the week.  My daughter spent her day with her significant other and the kids; my youngest spent his with friends at school.  My husband left for an extended business trip on his birthday, so we celebrated Tuesday night, which was technically my daughter’s birthday, as well as Wednesday morning (I made him chicken livers for breakfast, which is what he wanted – and if you haven’t figured out that we’re pretty damn weird by this point, I just don’t know what to tell you).

Anyhoo, it was also my youngest’s 21st birthday.  Despite the alcoholism that runs rampant in our family (or maybe because of it?) I don’t make a big deal out of booze.  When each of the kids reached 18, if they wanted a drink I certainly never denied it.  An occasional glass of wine with dinner, or cocktail during the holidays, or beer at a barbecue.  So it was nothing new for my son to be able to drink around me, but it was the first time he was able to actually order a drink in public venue.

I picked him up from school on Friday and we went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.  My son worked there, first as a busboy and then as kitchen help, his first couple of years in high school and our waitress is a family friend who was delighted to bring him (and pay for) his first legal drink.

My kids and I all have great relationships – they are close to each other, as well – and we talk about all sorts of things.  They also know that things have been tense between me and my husband this last year, and that things seem to be oh-so-gradually smoothing out.  At one point during the evening, we discussed my husband’s alcoholism, as well as his marijuana use.  Not in a judgmental manner, just as part of our lives; something we deal with.  I jokingly brought up how bad the grass he smokes smells.

“Ugh – I know!” replied my son.  “He was in the garage smoking while I was home [over the holidays]; I opened the door and told him, ‘Dude – you’re making the kitchen smell like ASS.'”

After I recovered from my bout of hysterical laughter, I asked him how his stepdad reacted; the pre-New Orleans man would NOT have taken that kindly.

My son shrugged and said, “He said, ‘Oops! My bad!  Sorry about that!’ and stopped.”

More than once since the trip to New Orleans happened, I’ve wondered what has caused this almost complete 180 in his attitude; now, I don’t care if I never find out.  I just don’t want it to end.