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.

 

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Drama

On my last post, where I mentioned in passing my alcoholic husband’s latest escapade, I got a comment accusing me of never leaving “this man” because I “seem to enjoy the drama.”

Well, fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

I do NOT enjoy the drama.  I have NEVER enjoyed drama.  I have barely spoken to one of my sisters in years because she is THE Drama Queen.  I would love nothing more than to live a drama-free life.

But do you know what I do enjoy?

  • My home, which is in a very nice neighborhood
  • Being able to afford a car
  • Being able to pay all of my bills on time, every month
  • Having a savings account
  • Being able to pay my son’s college tuition
  • Being able to adopt a dog and drive her to Ohio from Alabama
  • Being able to shell out $200 for a training course at Petsmart (we started last night and Dixie did marvelously)
  • Being able to help my children financially if they need it
  • Being able to buy a side of grass-fed beef every year
  • Being able to buy a pastured hog every year
  • Being able to buy as many pastured chickens and eggs as we need every year
  • Having the freezers to store all of this meat
  • Being able to drop everything to babysit my grandchildren if I need to
  • Being semi-retired

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the gist.  We’ll ignore, for the moment, the fact I love the man I married and desperately want that man back, and concentrate on these tangible things, okay?

Because if I leave him, they will ALL. BE. GONE.

He has a job; if I leave, I will not.  He has a house; if I leave, I will not.  He has a car (we only have the one); if I leave, I will not.

Let me reiterate that:  the business, the house, and the car are all in HIS name.  I’ll get to the whole community property mess in a minute.

I have been preparing for what is becoming more and more apparent is the inevitable:  our marriage is going to end.  I have been looking for a job – I am well qualified to do many things.  I am also a 53-year-old woman who, for the last 12 years, has worked for her husband’s company.  You, dear reader who accused me of enjoying the drama, are a man.  Don’t tell me that you even remotely understand the difficulties a middle-aged woman who hasn’t had what potential employers consider a “real” job in over a decade is going to face in the job market, especially in a state with a depressed economy.  Because I’m here to tell you it has been HELL.

Sure, I can get a job if I want to make $10 an hour, tops – I can get one tomorrow.  And I might be able to afford an apartment on that salary, but it won’t be a nice one and I won’t be able to afford to buy a car.  And I can just kiss everything else on that list goodbye.

Can I move to Texas, where my chances for finding suitable employment would be much better?  Not for 18 months, when my son graduates from college, simply because he must maintain residency in Ohio in order to qualify for the “cheaper” state resident tuition rate.  His legal address is my legal address.  Nor do I particularly want to move 1200 miles away from my daughter and grandson.

Would I get alimony were we to divorce?  Would I get half of our assets?  I don’t know – if he decides to dig in his heels, and he probably would, the answer to that would be “no.”  This is a second marriage for both of us and we have no children together.  His ownership of the business and house, if not the car (which is 8 years old), predate our marriage.  Alimony, even if I did get it, would not be much since it’s based on the length of the marriage, the disparity of income between the soon-to-be former spouses, and their earning potential.  It matters little that I cannot find a job making anywhere close to the salary I have earned in my husband’s business – I have the potential to, and that’s what the court is going to take into consideration.

Can you see I’ve spent months researching this?  To say nothing of the fact that all of this research and job hunting has been done on the sly because if he knew what I was doing, all hell would break loose.  Yes, things could – and would – actually get worse.

A lawyer, you say?  Well, when I leave I might be able to get away with half of our checking and savings account, which will certainly pay for a lawyer.  But it’s not going to be enough to pay for me to move, too, and it certainly won’t be enough for a car on top of it all.  So…move out and get nothing, or get a lawyer and what?  Sleep on my daughter’s couch for months?  As someone who is severely allergic to cats, and she has two, that prospect is not very inviting.

So, let me make this clear:  If I leave, I will be starting completely over.  AGAIN.  At the age of 53.  Just because he’s a FUCKING DRUNK.

*calming down*

I have some difficult choices to make.  Those choices are not made any easier by snide and shitty comments like yours.  This is my blog; it is the wall I wail to.  If you cannot be constructive, to say nothing of supportive, kindly do not comment at all.

Come Back With A Warrant

I’m afraid I’m not in the best of moods; I’m having a routine colonoscopy tomorrow and am on a clear liquid diet today.  Since I cannot abide coffee without cream, this means that I am not only hungry, but caffeine deprived as well.  Not a good thing, especially since I did not sleep well at all last night.

Anyhoo, beyond being hungry and caffeine and sleep deprived, I am tired – mostly of little boys.  My husband and I drove to Texas a week ago Friday with my daughter’s stepson, who is 12, to pick up our 6-year-old grandson and bring him back to Ohio so he can spend his allotted time with his father this summer.  The boys are both pretty well-behaved and get along well, but all that togetherness in the car was more than any of us could really stand.  We got home Tuesday evening and dropped the 12-year-old off; the 6-year-old stayed with us until Saturday, when we drove back down to Cincinnati to deliver him to his father.  Friday night we had the 9-month-old for several hours; he’s teething and was incredibly fussy.

I love my grandsons, but I’ve had enough for the time being.

The trip was a wonderful opportunity for me to not let my husband’s drinking (and subsequent bad behavior) ruin my time in Texas, or my time with my grandsons.  The drive down was fine – in fact, it was the kind of fun that makes me remember why my husband and I are together.  But when we’d settled into our hotel on Saturday, the drinking began in earnest and I had to remind myself often that my good (or bad) experiences were my responsibility, and I did a pretty good job of it.

I did have to put my foot down at one point during our return trip, when my husband got into the car with a huge cup of iced tea that just reeked of vodka.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it, just insisted that he let me drive, and he was on better behavior for the rest of the drive home.

The real kicker, though, was this past Friday evening.  I was keeping an eye on the baby when the doorbell rang – you can only imagine my surprise to find a uniformed police officer standing on our front porch mat (which, hilariously, says “Come Back With a Warrant”).  He proceeded to tell me that the neighbor directly behind us had found lead pellets in his yard and damage to the siding on his house; did I know anything about it?

My husband had followed me to the door, so I simply turned around, pushed him onto the porch and went back inside.  You see, he’d borrowed an air rifle from one of our co-workers, so he could shoot the rabbits that have been eating our garden.  I was not happy about this – an active alcoholic and a gun (even a pellet gun) is not a good combination.  And here come the police!  I sat in the living room, listening to my husband lie like a rug to this officer, saying he didn’t know anything about it.

When he came back in, I lost my temper for the first and only time during the entire week.

“I want that gun out of the house tomorrow,” I said.  He was pale and nodded.  “You know the reason he was here was because someone saw you with the damn thing, right?  And you stood out there and lied to him.”

As it turned out, he returned the gun to the office right then and there.  He was not sober and I spent the 20 minutes he was gone hoping he’d get pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence.  If that makes me a horrible person, then I guess I’m a horrible person.

Alas, he made it home.  After a little bit, he came to me and, to my utter amazement, said, “I am so sorry.”

I just looked at him and said, “I just hope we don’t end up having to buy our neighbor new siding.  I thought you were only shooting at rabbits.”  He mumbled something about that’s just what he was doing, but we both know it wasn’t true – he deliberately shot at the neighbor’s house while drunk at some point. (Note: there’s been some contention there for awhile; the neighbor has flood lights in his back yard that he refuses to turn off at night, which has necessitated the purchase of black-out curtains in our bedroom just so we can sleep.)

At any rate, rather than stew over all this, I’ve decided to just let the subject drop.  I’ll deal with it all if/when the police come back or the neighbor tries to sue us for the damaged siding.  If that happens, then I will go to the company’s board of directors, tell them what it going on, and arrange for an intervention.

Irony

Since we returned from my sister-in-law’s memorial service in January, I have hardly had anything to drink at all.  Even when we go out to eat I don’t always have my normal two cocktails; I just don’t have the stomach for it anymore.  Besides, alcohol isn’t conducive to weight loss and I am now down nearly 25 pounds.

I also went to the doctor last week and had a bit of blood work done.  I wasn’t fasting, so she couldn’t get a fasting blood sugar or cholesterol reading, but she did test my liver and kidney function, as well as my A1C (a test to see what your average blood sugar over a 90 day period is).  She ordered the A1C because she was totally convinced that my blood pressure and the swelling in my feet is caused by Type 2 diabetes.  I could tell she was just itching to write me a prescription for Metformin.

I’m sure she must be disappointed – every last test came back within the normal range, including my A1C.

Look, I know that my blood pressure is solidly connected to not only my weight, but the amount of stress I live with.  If she doesn’t want to go over the massive amount of paperwork I filled out when I became her patient – the paperwork that asked if I suffered from an abnormal amount of stress at either work or home, and to which I answered “YES” in very large letters – that’s her business.  My job is to continue to lose weight and try and manage all that stress.

At any rate, for some reason (probably the resentment I’ve been experiencing over the last several days) I did something I haven’t done since even before we went to Texas in January – I poured myself a drink at home.  In fact – against my better judgement – I poured three.  Since I don’t drink much any more (and weigh less) those three drinks went right to my head; I wasn’t falling over drunk, but I was more than a little tipsy.

Of course, my husband had been working in the garden all afternoon and so he wasn’t exactly sober either.  But the most hilarious thing about the whole evening was that he became so irritated with me as the evening progressed – apparently, I’m quite annoying when I’ve been drinking.

Have a little irony – it’s good for your blood.

Seriously, I have to laugh about it – what else am I going to do?  Cry?  Stew about it until I drive myself crazy?  Scream and yell and accomplish nothing but make both of us miserable?  Nope, nope, and nope.

And my resentment is gone.  Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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.

An Update

I wrote earlier this year about my sister-in-law’s tragic, accidental death.  As a recap, they’d gone away for the weekend to celebrate their wedding anniversary; once at their destination, they began to drink.  My brother eventually went to bed, while my sister-in-law stayed up and continued to drink.  She got into the hot tub, passed out and drowned while my brother slept.

Sadly, none of us who knew her were truly surprised – we were all aware of her drinking problem.  However, the police who responded to my brother’s 911 call after he found her were inclined to be suspicious.  They opened an investigation and the prime suspect was, yes, my brother.

It was nothing short of horrible in the aftermath of this tragedy and, unfortunately, opened an ugly can of worms…including that my brother’s marriage had not been quite as harmonious as even those of us who were close to him thought.

They subpoenaed my brother and SILs phones and questioned literally everyone (well, except me, but I live 1,200 miles away).  They grilled my brother mercilessly, both at his home and at the station.  It was horrible and stressful and we were all on pins an needles for months.

I am relieved to report that they closed the investigation and ruled her death an accident.  According to the coroner’s report, my sister-in-law had more than four times the legal amount of alcohol in her system; the police told my brother she was so drunk she probably didn’t know what she was doing.

In other news, my end-stage alcoholic brother-in-law seems to have made a complete recovery – again.  My sister has gotten an apartment of her own and her adult children are not speaking to her; they feel she’s “abandoned” their father.

My husband is out of town this week on business.  As is his habit when they’re available, he is in an extended-stay hotel with a kitchenette so he can cook for himself.  Except last night, when he was “too tired” to cook any of the food he’d purchased at Whole Foods, and ate dinner at Chili’s, of all places.

Color me so-not-surprised. He can’t take his half-gallon bottle of vodka on the plane with him, and he couldn’t buy one yesterday.  Oklahoma’s blue laws prohibit the sale of hard liquor and beer or wine with an alcohol content above 4% ABV on Sundays, and liquor stores are closed.

But they serve hard liquor at restaurants.

Alcoholism…the gift that keeps on giving.

Our Ills

It’s funny how someone else’s illness – alcoholism – can help to make us ill ourselves.  I’ve gained a LOT of weight since moving to Ohio 11 years ago, away from my friends, family and any support system I had.  And that weight, naturally, has begun to affect my health.

About 3 weeks ago, I noticed my feet and ankles were swollen.  Now, my hands and feet have been two parts of my body unaffected by my weight gain and I found this disturbing.  When it hadn’t gone away after a day or so, I decided to Google what might be causing it.

Yeah, bad idea.  The next thing I knew I was telling my husband that I wanted to go to the emergency room, convinced I was suffering from congestive heart failure.

He didn’t want to take me, and insisted that I go to the local stat care instead (he was more than a little irritated that I was taking him Away From Work).  I told him that they were just going to send me to the emergency room, but he took me anyway.  I got there and my blood pressure was sky-high – not surprising, since I was already convinced of the congestive heart failure and pretty pissed at my husband for not taking me where I thought I should go.

They sent me to the emergency room.

I bit my tongue – I saw no reason to escalate the situation with “I told you so.”  At the ER, my blood pressure was even higher, which in turn made me even more stressed and upset.  I parted with about a pint of blood and was subjected to an EKG.  Then I was left alone.

I always carry a bit of knitting with me, so I decided to take it out of my purse to pass the time.  After about 20 minutes, the automatic blood pressure cuff began to inflate again – and lo and behold, my pressure was much lower.  Not normal, by any means, but lower enough to calm me down a bit.  A while later the nurse came in and asked me if I was ready to go home.  When I asked her if they’d found anything, she said, “Nothing that can be handled from an emergent point of view.  Go see your doctor.”

Well, I’d already made an appointment with a doctor – a new one, in fact.  I never once saw the doctor at the previous place I’d been a patient; just some 12-year-old physician’s assistant whose sole bit of advice to me at every appointment was to eat oatmeal every day.  So, I waited until my appointment and saw a new doctor, whom I like…at least as much as I can like any doctor (which isn’t much).

My blood pressure was even lower, but still too high, so she’s put me on a diuretic – which as far as I can tell is doing bupkus, because my feet and ankles still swell when I’m at the office (when I sit at home, I keep them elevated).  I have no idea how my blood pressure is doing, but I guess I’ll find out when I go back next month.

I also have no idea what the tests at the ER came up with (although I’m fairly certain I don’t have to worry about congestive heart failure).  I signed a release form for the hospital to release the test results to my doctor, and I haven’t heard anything from her, either, so I’ve decided it couldn’t have been anything too terribly dire.

One thing the doctor did say after prescribing me the diuretic was, “You know that ultimately the answer to this problem is weight loss.”

Yeah I kinda figured that.  But since I’m down 16 1/2 pounds since we came back from Texas in March, I’d say I’m on the right track.  I’ve found that putting down the burden of my husband’s alcoholism has helped immensely – it’s hard to lose weight when you’re constantly stressed about that over which you have no control.

I’ll tell you in another post how I’m doing it, if you’re at all interested.