A look at relationships, personal growth, & living/working in the 21st century.

Posts tagged ‘family’

The Holiday Season and Addiction Recovery – Family Ties

The holiday season is here again. It’s supposed to be a joyous time, but for many people, especially those recovering from an addiction, that’s often not the case.

Let’s start with the expectations we harbor.
First – Society’s Expectations. We’re expected to be joyfully anticipating the holidays and all the traditions – getting together with loved ones, giving and receiving gifts, etc. So, the pressure’s on to have a good time celebrating with family. However, when a family member is caught up in an addiction, holiday time can seem more a reminder of strained, increasingly distant relationships than a time of joyous celebration. Arrival of the holiday season does nothing to ease the pain of addiction. Nor does holiday time lessen the tension and emotional pain of unresolved family strife. The problems present throughout the year have not resolved with the changing calendar. In fact, problems sometimes feel worsened when facing a major holiday.

Second – Family Expectations. What about the expectations family members put on the addicted person? Family members often expect the addict/alcoholic to happily be present at their holiday table. But facing one’s sometimes judgmental family members is not easy. Family members, even those who truly have the best intentions, are often unsympathetic of the addict/alcoholic’s struggles to soberly cope with emotional pain. Breaking the pattern of using alcohol and/or drugs to ease one’s emotions is a truly monumental task. Such a challenge cannot be easily comprehended without having had personal experience doing so.

Third – Our Personal Expectations. We all have hope that our lives will continue to progress and improve, even the alcoholic/addict. We try to look forward to the holidays. We try to regain that feeling of holiday innocence and joy we remember from long ago holiday celebrations. Though those were likely less than perfect times, our memories often work to leave out the painful moments and fill in those blanks with, at worst, neutral feelings, and, at best, joyous emotions. All of this leaves us, emotionally anyway, seeking a simple, happy holiday time. Intellectually, the more objective parts of our brain tell us that the simple joy we seek will never be found. The mistakes of the past -the regrets- cannot be erased, and the resulting pain from grieving the loss of what-will-never-be can seem intolerable.

So, all of this having been said, what can someone in recovery do to survive the holidays without relapsing? One can choose to have hope and look forward rather than remaining stuck in the pain of the past. The alcoholic/addict may not like where they are today, with regard to their personal life, career, finances, etc., and that person may struggle with related self-pity. However, that same alcoholic/addict may readily accept that today they are better off than where they were before starting their recovery. Thankfully, those small steps forward do add up to huge changes and real progress toward lasting sobriety.


Somebody, please – help me be a better puppy parent

I think I need help being a better puppy parent.  We have a 9-month-old puppy in the family, Rex, a male Beabull (1/2 Beagle & 1/2 English Bulldog).  He really doesn’t ask all that much of me.  However, lately he’s let me know many times that I’m falling short when it comes to giving him the attention, love, holding, etc., that he wants.  Rex lets me know I’m not attending to him properly in multiple ways.  There’s the ever-so-subtle, very sharp, puppy bark.  The barks may be few, such as when something happens to capture his attention, or the barks can be many – unending until I give in, stop whatever I’m doing, and let this almost 40-pound dog pretend he’s a lap dog.  Then there’s the lengthy whine, often high-pitched, piercing, and one which makes you wonder if your neighbors are now certain you have begun the nightly beating of your dog (kidding, of course).  Who would have thought so much drama could be communicated by a whine.  If these methods don’t work, Rex gets really creative and finds new and better ways to be annoying, destructive, or just amazingly cute, all of which are done to capture your attention.

I’ve finally accepted that in my relationship with Rex, he’s the ‘giver,’ and I’m the ‘taker.’  Oh sure, I make sure he’s fed, bathed, walked, etc.  But he’s the one always offering unending affection and unconditional acceptance.  My moody self can be flighty as the wind – loving one minute and an iceberg the next.  Now don’t get me wrong, neither of us in this relationship is without his faults. So, lets look at Rex’s shortcomings.  He has that Beagle stubbornness, which can really try your patience.  When he picks up a scent he likes, his ears turn off, his eyes focus only on whatever has captured his interest, and I become non-existent and irrelevant.  What about dogs being pack animals, what about my being the ‘alpha dog’?  All of that goes out the window when Rex smells something interesting. Apparently, I’m just the ‘means to an end’ for Rex.

Rex has that cute Beagle face, you know, the big brown eyes, floppy rounded ears, and the ever-sniffing nose.  Everywhere we go, people respond to him and seem to immediately adore him.  Women always smile, often stopping whatever they are doing to pet him.  I’ve seen women walking, even romantically strolling, with the one they love, pause and react to Rex’s presence.  I’ve seen women stop their conversation, release the hand they are holding, to speak to me and say, “What a cute dog.  Can I pet him?”  I wish I had half of my dog’s magnetism – animal or whatever its origin.  I often see men doing the same, commenting on how cute my dog is, saying it in their most masculine tone of voice.  I often don’t get it – Rex is just a puppy.  I grew up in a household with pets (cats & dog), and when I was a pre-teen, we had various creatures in (guinea pigs) or outside (a rabbit) the house.  I know the attraction of household pets.  However, what is it that happens when you walk a puppy down the street causing others to go out of their way to get some ‘puppy time’? I just took Rex out for his last walk of the night. I planned to get him, do the deed, and get back in – you know, a clandestine manuever. Wouldn’t you know it, we were mobbed by dogs and people in the elevator. When we got outside, other dog owners, not content to just enjoy the companionship with their own dogs, began with the questions, “What a cute dog – What is he, a boy or a girl, What’s his name, Isn’t that darling,” etc., ad nauseam.  I guess you’d have to have an extraordinarily ugly or viciously mean dog to be able to take a walk and be left alone.  Don’t get me wrong, many times I get a real kick out of the attention, but, at other times, I just wanna be left alone.  Do I sound jealous of all the instant love and affection Rex gets?  You bet your dog biscuit I am.  Anyway, Rex is worth his weight in gold.  And if you have a dog, or even a cat, I’d bet you’d say the same about your pal.

My Grandmother

They say write about what you know-I know my grandmother. As long as I can remember she’s been my hero, my comrade, my ally. In many important ways she’s always made sense to me. Throughout my life she’s been a force of good in my life. When I was a child, she always made me feel loved, smart, talented, and special. I cannot recall a single time when she raised her voice or in any way seemed angry with me. As I started school, she shared her love of learning with me and gave me the appetite for knowledge that still spurs my intellectual growth today. The annual trips she and I made to buy my new school clothes were magical times for me. The magic was in the knowledge that our trips were, without fail, times when I felt understood, and when I knew disappointment was not even a possibility.

She was the only elder in my life who could genuinely relate to my college experiences. She made course suggestions, only when I asked, and her ideas were right on-the-mark, as she knew me as well as I knew her. She knew I wanted and needed a higher education and an associated career, unlike any of my male elders.

I could go on and on with the accolades, and today I feel so very fortunate my grandmother is still a vital presence in my life. However, sometimes my grandmother leaves me experiencing two contradictory emotions-joy that she’s here, and fear of the day she’ll be gone.

My grandmother lives life as she chooses to, except for losing my Grandfather to prostate cancer, and the arthritis pain that hinders her mobility.  Her independence and relative self-sufficiency is truly something to be thankful for, and we, her family, are thankful.  However, we are also very afraid.

Home Alone:  My grandmother lives alone, in a 75+ year old farm house, 7 miles from her closest relative, my mother.  The house has one bathroom, which is on the second floor, atop a narrow set of 13 potentially deadly stairsteps. But this is how my grandmother wants it.  My parents suggested she move into town, where the snowdrifts get cleared by the street maintenance workers.  In town, where she would have neighbors nearby who would help watch out for her safety and well being.  In town, where she could live in an efficient, temperature-controlled, modern and fully functional home.  My grandmother scoffed at these ideas.  We tried to compromise, suggesting she tear down the farmhouse and bring in a modular, pre-constructed home, to go on the exact same spot of land.  Again she scoffed, stating that the farmhouse was good enough for her.  In the winter, when the wind blows, her pipes often freeze.  That is, unless she remembers to turn on a fan and set it to blow through a hole in the wall behind a bookcase.  I could expound upon the many quirks and potential dangers of this ancient farmhouse but I think you get the point.

Driving:  My grandmother has a current driver’s license.  Last year she had to renew her license.  She had to take the eye exam, the written test, and the driving test.  She passed them all.  Well, the eye test she passed by seeing her own opthalmologist and having him certify the acuity of her eyesight – she said she could not see through her glasses into the eye testing machine at the DMV.  Last year, on a windy day, she said the wind took the car and she hit the side of a bridge while traveling at road speed.  She quickly regained control of the car and drove home.  The car suffered damage, but was drivable, and she was fine.  She had the car repaired and went on with her life.  While her car was in the repair shop, she drove my grandfather’s four-wheel-drive pickup.  Nothing and no one is going to limit the mobility and movements of my grandmother! Thankfully, my grandmother says she no longer drives at night.  Hopefully, she holds true to her word.  But what about all the other less than perfect drivers?  My grandmother is 89, with reflexes which have certainly been slowed by advanced age.  Could she drive defensively and avoid an impending accident caused by another driver?

Pets:  My grandmother has always loved animals, sometime to the point where I wonder if she loves creatures more than people.  Just kidding, but she almost lives for her dogs.  She has been raising and breeding dogs since before I was born.  It’s a passion of hers.  When I hear my mother say something to my grandmother about being alone on the farm, my grandmother always quickly responds by stating that she’s never alone with the dogs there.  However, these are 60+ pound English bulldogs.  These dogs can be gentle and great companion animals.  But I have also seen her spoiled, often unruly dogs, fight amongst themselves to the point where she has to break up their competitions to be the ‘Alpha’ dog.  Dogs get quite careless about where they are biting when their adrenaline is pumping and their instinctual, aggressive behaviors are at work.  What if they knocked down my grandmother and bit her?  Again, I worry.