The Nightmare of Who My Dad Was

I had a nightmare last night of who my dad really was, and knowing that I’ll never have time with him again broke my heart this morning.

When I think of the man my dad was I think of an intelligent, gentle, kind, and caring dad. He was so organized, clean, and down to earth. He couldn’t stand a speck of dirt on his white shoes. He spoke with sweetness and curiosity. Because of the disease he suffered with, he sat on the couch slumped, half asleep, with food spilling from his mouth all over his shirt he had been sleeping in for days. His eyes were glossed and he slurred his sentences. I couldn’t stand the sight, and he couldn’t stand himself.

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When I think of the man with the disease I understand why it was his time to go. He was very sick, hurting physically and mentally. You could hear it in his voice, you could see it from his frail body.

When I think of the dad that raised me into who I am, I feel robbed of so much time. From the time he relapsed to the time he spent in prison for crimes he committed under the influence. The times where the disease controlled him. All that time, where my real dad, the one that gave me countless lessons on how we should help others, that time was so short. So today I woke up after a nightmare.

In my nightmare my dad and I were going for a ride, probably to Boston from our home because we loved to take that trip for a fun adventure in the city when I was young. In the nightmare I remember so vividly resting my head on my dad’s shoulder and him telling me he loved me. We sang in the dream, like we always did together, and I giggled and so did he. A car suddenly jammed on their breaks in front of me and my dad tried to swerve. In the nightmare the part where we were flying through the air from the impact into the guardrail lasted what felt like 3 minutes although I’m sure in a real accident it would last 5 seconds. While in the air my dad looked at me with fear and regret. I looked at him back love and acceptance. Finally after what felt like those 3 minutes the car landed into an empty lot and we were both okay. He looked at me in the eyes and said I’m sorry.

At this part of my nightmare I started coming to. I started opening my eyes lightly to reality. But you know when you’re in that part of your dream where you know you’re self but you still don’t know what’s real? I said to myself, “Wow! That was scary, I have to call my dad tomorrow, I really miss him.” Then in a panic I really jolted awake. Have I not talked to my dad in that long of time or is he really gone? Is he really gone? This can’t be. How can this be?

I have nightmares almost every night. Usually there much more violent. Usually my dad is so high he can’t talk and I try to get him to come with me but he can’t move. They take place in our old house in Carver and someone is always chasing us and trying to kill us. Usually my dad is sick in my dreams. I wake up with a bad feeling but no heartache.

Today I woke up with a heartache that I haven’t felt before. Because of my dads disease I wasn’t able to see him as often as I’d liked. So sometimes we wouldn’t talk for a week or two and still I felt it in my heart that he was with me. I woke up yearning for that call. But the moments when we could talk were so beautiful and up-lifting. I can’t explain to you how wonderful of a man my dad really was. He was so funny and sweet and always spoke his mind. He didn’t tolerate talking bad about others and he always was honest. He would sing and repeat you to be funny, even if he knew it got on your nerves. He’d pinch my ear and make fun of my tiny size. And then he’d hold my hand and tell me how lucky he is that I’m alive. He was everything to me. When we’d talk my energy would rise from a 1 to a 11. If I had a bad day or something on my mind he’d ease all my worries.

All I want today was to talk to my dad. Today I am remembering the man my dad really was and not about his disease and today I have cried a lot and it’s only 8:30am.

 

I miss you dad. One day I’ll tell my children about the man that you were: a smart, intelligent, kind, protective, funny, and slightly annoying (on purpose) dad. There’s a lot of people, including me, working to change the way we view this disease and to show others that this disease isn’t who the person is. Although it’s hard pill to swallow that behind the disease I lost the greatest man in my life, I will continue to remember who you truly were and that that is the person I lost years before you passed away and I’m so sorry we didn’t have a solution for you.

What Society Thinks VS. Who He is to Me 

I wrote this about a year before my dad died. I was going to change this so that it is past tense since now he is gone now. I think the message is even more clear as you read below how much help people like my dad really need before they are gone too and writing is the only thing that keeps another broken heart going. I have been told I don’t know how to ask for help. But that doesn’t mean that inside I was literally exhausted inside begging and screaming for something to make everything a little bit easier.

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I looked people in the eyes and they ask, “How is your dad?” and it made me a little bit angry because it’s as if I could paint it black and white. Not good was never enough to describe how “not good” it was. And so even though sometimes I’d lie and say, he’s doing okay now, I knew I was always one call away from losing him. It made me angry because no matter what my answer was it wouldn’t change how much that person understood. What I really wanted was someone to shake me and say, “Let’s go see your dad. I want to feel your pain.”

An addict needs to want help before they can get help. My dad was begging for help. Unfortunately, he thought the only help he deserved was to stop being a burden to the world.

Here’s My Dad What Society Thinks vs. Who He is To Me

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For the first 9 months of 2016, the number of confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths was 1,005, with an estimated additional 392 to 470 deaths.

Since Massachusetts began the pilot program seven years ago, there have been more than 2,500 reported overdose reversals.

My dad counts for 4 of those 2,500 reported

He doesn’t even know that I know that, but if it weren’t for Narcan, I would have already buried him.

In 1992, my dad was in prison for crimes he committed under the influence

In 2007 my dad was on the front page of the local newspaper for assault

In 2010 my dad was sentenced to prison for kidnapping, assault, and burglary

In 2016 my dad was released and overdosed 4 times

What does the future hold for my dad?

My dad, by society label, is a criminal

But this is who my dad is to me

The man who wrote me a letter every week to tell me how much he loved me.

The man who taught me how to ride a bike, to ice-skate, to play softball, and to stick up for myself.

And for the things he couldn’t teach me, he made sure someone did.

Singing lessons, dance lessons, math tutors, and appointments at makeup salons to learn the right way to do makeup.

The man that laminated every award I won in school and kept them in a book.

The man that took me to a Britney Spears, Shakira, Missy Elliott and Beyonce concert.

The man who cemented a basketball court in our backyard because I wanted to learn to play but didn’t want to join the team.

The man who sat by my bedside all night and held my hand saying every single great quality I had when my first boyfriend broke my heart.

The man that would come to my high school and leave little notes and flowers in my car window to let me know he cares.

The man that cried the first time he saw me in a prom dress.

My dad has always been my hero. He is just too sick for us to appreciate that together.

The two sides of my dad made me completely aware of people struggling with identity. No one is completely evil. No one deserves to be treated by what they are labeled as. If it weren’t for my dad, I wouldn’t love as hard, or be as compassionate to those in need, or an understanding to those with a broken past.

Some could say my dad is an immigrant who deserves to be deported. But I say my dad is the light of my life, my reason for being, and the only person to keep me strong when I want to give up.

Addiction is an issue that needs extreme attention, especially for kids that are trying to understand their parents’ disease as I struggled to do for so many years. I was fortunate that my dad can fight so hard to always get back on his feet, but I know there are addicts that can’t. It’s not their fault and as a child of an addict, I need to be the voice to say we can we will and we have learned to love and understand those with addiction.

If you know a parent that is struggling with addiction or a child that is witnessing addiction and needs help, please let them know I am their voice, that I am there for them, and that I am always here to talk.


My dad was my best friend and to me- a teddy bear. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know that along with everyone else we’re begging for a different outcome. It’d be such an honor in my dad’s name that instead of children like me saying my dad will either end up in prison or dead, can really have high hopes on saying that my dad will be okay.

Maybe our way of looking at addiction is wrong.

From my dad’s last phone call you can hear his fear of being put back in prison. It was worse than death. And everyone knew he didn’t need prison to help him change his ways. It’s just not a solution. My dad made his bad decisions when using drugs- not because he was a bad person.

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The power of breathing

Sometimes when I think about my dad on his last day I almost feel that feeling. That one that people usually feel when you lose someone. Like that the world is ending and that you’ll never recover and that you don’t have any internal organs just shattered fragments of your heart infiltrating your body.

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Today I was working on something and I noticed my breathing. I was breathing through my nose and became ultra aware of my chest rising and falling. It brought me back to the hospital. Before I saw my dad, I was told that he was brain dead and if it weren’t for the breathing machine, his organs would shut down completely.

It made sense to me. It made sense that because of westernized medicine some people would find it normal to keep their loved ones breathing just so they could feel their presence for as much time as possible. But it didn’t make sense to use that as an excuse for the cold truth that my dad was no longer ever going to say I love you again.

The doctor was so strong as she looked at me in the eyes and told me my dads brain was no longer functioning.

When I saw my dad I watched as his chest rose and fell. I heard the sound of the breath. Sometimes I take deep breaths to get through times that make me feel weak and vulnerable and nervous and it just hits me that my dad will never get another breath and that he isn’t there to call to substitute my meditation practice.

If I ever had a tough day where I thought the world was unfair, that people didn’t understand me, I’d call him and he’d just make all my worries disappear because he loved me, he believed in me, and he knew exactly what to say to make me feel like I could conquer the world.

I think a lot of people are surprised at how well I’ve handled the passing of my dad. I guess you could say I’m back to “normal” but when I have these moments like the thought of my dad in the ICU I feel my brain physically moving the feeling of pain out of me. I wouldn’t say I’m in shock but in order for me to go on with my life and do what I’m meant to do in this world, I can’t let the shattering infiltrate me completely. I have a mission in this world. Hope for addiction will be spread through the story of my dad and me.

I get the feeling that once the pain infiltrates my body I will be nothing. I will lose my health. My organs will literally shut down. I will begin the process of death. My dad was truly my everything. My world will end when my mission is over.

For now, I’m here and as I am crying at the thought I just experienced I am slowly starting to snap back into pilot mode.

“Work hard, stay on track. Your dad is dead. You’re okay,” is what my mind is saying. My tears are drying and I am ready to get back to work.

Love is confusing because we don’t know whether to define it as a weakness or a strength. Well, I’d say it’s both. It’s what’s keeping me going but I think it’ll be what kills me too.

The important part is that I remember to breathe. Even if sometimes it brings me back to the most painful moments – just keep breathing. The simplicity of breathing seems a fleeting thought but the power it holds is tremendous. I guess when you see someone taking their last one it reminds you of it’s power.

 

A New Look at Addiction to Consider

Maybe we’re looking at addiction wrong. Would it be insulting or hurtful to the addict if I said I am anticipating their relapse? Maybe not anticipating but maybe I’m sort of expecting it, but not in the way that I am wishing bad things or not believing in the person to fight the battle full force.

Steve Olbinsky Sobriety

In the last months of my dad’s life, I no longer felt a pit in my stomach that my dad was using drugs. I anticipated he was. The scariest part of his addiction wasn’t the drug use anymore, it was his desire to die. He was using drugs not to get high but to feel like he could hold on for just one more day. Physically he was down to almost 100 pounds, and mentally he couldn’t stand himself. I recorded our last conversation we had where he painfully told me his desire to close his eyes while weeping for my forgiveness. He said, “I tried to like lay down and I started to stop taking all the pills and everything.”

I anticipated that my dad would use drugs again but is that really even the issue? Because an addiction is the disease but is the drug use even the day to day issue? We’re all living to find a reason to continue living. With this disease, living becomes a dependency to a substance. So to fight that dependency it takes giving up something that you depend on and that takes a kind of power that we shouldn’t put so much pressure on to achieve unless we’ve been in those shoes before. Why can’t you just stay sober? It’s only like holding your breath from the moment you wake up till the moment you fall asleep. And good luck catching your breath and have a pleasant dream at the same time.

I had 5 years to decide how I was going to handle my dad’s release from prison and his freedom to make good or bad choices with the tough task of re-entering society. We wrote to each other every week just about and we talked about the things we wanted to do and the way we loved each other so full we could take over the world if we wanted to. In a way, I think that’s why it didn’t work out. Our love was way too powerful.

While he was in prison I wrote this blog post, why I won’t be upset if my dad relapses. It was my eternalized emancipation to his addiction. I wrote about the realities. A drug addiction shouldn’t ruin a bond like the one my dad and I had. I knew I couldn’t enable him. I wrote about the emotions. I understood I’d feel a bit heartbroken inside if he were to relapse. But most importantly I wrote what I would hold on as a truth. I would never let his addiction measure how much he loves me and the chapter doesn’t end until the day that I give up. And here I am continuing to write about my dad even after his passing.

I loved and love my dad more than anything in this world. I don’t even fear death anymore. That’s how our strong our bond was. He fulfilled my life and he gave me my riches- his love, his advice, his heart. I hold onto his letters, photos, and notes like treasured artifacts.

Despite this crazy love, I can confidently tell you that I anticipated his relapse. And to be honest, it made my life so much easier- and maybe his too. It wasn’t something I ever said to him. It should really go as an unspoken truism if you choose to adopt. I no longer had the ups and downs and celebrations with every day that passed that he wasn’t using. I also didn’t have the disappointments either.

When my dad and I went to Bruno Mars, he was excitedly choosing which outfit he should wear for his big night. He had on one shirt but when he decided he wanted to wear something Bruins related, he threw on another over. His frail body looked as though the shirt was weighing him down, but he was so excited to be back in TD Garden it didn’t seem to bother him much. He went over to his pills and he said, “Leanna should I take my pills?” I didn’t know what to say. My heart was beating fast and I had to take a big deep breath. He was looking at me so deeply and so desperately and yet I didn’t know the answer he wanted to hear. I really think he wanted to hear that if he didn’t take the pills everything would be okay and he wouldn’t be in pain but we both knew that wasn’t true. I calmly, with a choke in my throat, said, “Daddy, take what you need so that you’re comfortable at the concert.” It was such a scary feeling to know that if he didn’t take those pills he could’ve been in agonizing pain. He could’ve had a heart attack or a breakdown.

The day after the concert, he was so happy. The happiest I had heard him since he lost his license and totaled his car. He was singing, celebrating, and appreciating how beautiful life can be. He said, “This is what life is about, Leanna.” About 2 days later, I tried calling and didn’t get an answer. I knew that he was using again because if he wasn’t I would’ve had a text back instantly. Regardless, I continued to text him, “I love you, daddy!” I didn’t feel an ounce of regret, anger, or disappointment. I just wanted my dad to be okay, and I was waiting for his next call.

I was my dad’s reason for living. I gave his life as much meaning as I could. I would’ve given him my life. I would’ve traded my beautiful apartment, all my possessions, all my confidence and learned skills to let help him understand how much he meant to me. I tried articulating it in every way possible. The last letter I sent him I said if I could have the richest, smartest, dad that was a Doctor I wouldn’t trade him for you for even one second.

So what if we all stop putting so much pressure on sobriety as the solution? Could it potentially give loved ones more sleep at night? And more importantly, can it help an addict to feel like it’s as rare as it really is to not relapse? I just think it’s crazy that we ask so much. We think our love is enough to make a person want to be sober. Sobriety is desired by all addicts who’ve seen the pain they’ve caused. Your love is not a measurement of sobriety. Your support is, however, a measurement of love. But maybe we redefine support. Maybe we can accept that helping our loved one find meaning is more of the mission rather than helping an addict be sober. 

In the hospital when my dad was pronounced brain dead, my grandpa with tears streaming down his face said, Leanna. You saw dad different. I never thought he would die, I thought every time he was sober it’d be the last time and he would stay. But you accepted him and loved him for who he was.

Here is another glimpse of the last call my dad and I had. One day you’ll hear the pain and see my reaction as I accepted this nightmare but until I’m ready, read our words and please understand that addiction is more than using drugs. It takes away your life and puts you in a prison of depression.

Steve Olbinsky Last Phone Call

[Dad] I’m just so tired. I’m so… They took my f***ing license. Without a license, I’m like a fish out of water. I have no way of even attempting to even get a job. I don’t know how I’m going to get anything with the way my arm is. I’m… I don’t want to do drugs. I don’t want to have relapses anymore. I don’t want to have nothing anymore. I just like. I was really sick in bed for days. I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t do anything. I just like…

[Leanna] It’s okay daddy I’m here for you

[Dad] if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t even want to live. I can’t do that to you. I just can’t leave you. That’s the only thing that’s stopping me from… from just … it’d be so nice to just go to sleep and not worry about nothing anymore. Not have any more problems. Not have any more letdowns. Not have any more you know?

My dad is at peace now

 

Last Thursday my dad called me and said he was tired. He said he was ready to close his eyes and be with grandma. It wasn’t a desperate call for attention, I could tell he felt his body getting tired and he was letting me know that right then on the phone. He said he was tired of being an addict, tired of feeling the way he did, and tired of the guilt he felt. I wanted to take away all of his pain but he told me that he felt like the luckiest man in the world. He talked about Lou Gehrig and how he had ended his career and was in pain and said, “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

This is only a week after the most amazing concert of our lives, Bruno Mars. I didn’t think it’d be possible to get him to the concert with all the factors standing in my way but my dad has never asked me for anything and a few days before the concert he asked me to go with him. With the help and support of my loved ones, I was able to dance and sing and smile and laugh one last time with my daddy.

He was in so much pain. He was skinny as a rail, could barely stay awake, but the way his eyes lit up when we danced together really showed me that love is the most powerful thing in this world.

My dad and I have a love that’ll continue to keep me going because even now I hear my daddy saying I love you, helping me make right decisions, and encouraging me to be a good person to others. My dad believed whole-heartedly that giving to those who cannot give back is a true testament of a person’s character. I know people will continue to tell me that I gave my dad a purpose for living, but to be honest he has given me so much more than that and I’ll never be able to repay him. He gave me the things in life that are invaluable. I will carry with me his spirit, I’ll share all of his love, and I’ll live with his name on lips for the rest of my life. That is the best way that I can make up for what he has given me.

To my grandpa, mom, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, co-workers, acquaintances, and friends, I will love you so much. I will always be there for you just as my dad was always there for me. And I will give and give and give, and I know it’ll make my dad the proudest. Thank you for being here with me to celebrate the life of the man that’ll keep my fire burning. If you ever are wondering “how I do it,” it’s because Steven Olbinsky, my dad, wouldn’t have it any other way.

My Dad has Passed Away

Vyachelsaw “Steven” Olbinsky. On October 26th, 2017 my dad has passed away at age 53. My dad is my hero, my best friend, my everything. He is my reason for living. I will talk about him every single day. I still hear him and I feel him in my heart. I always have because that’s the love he gave to me.

Steven Olbinsky

I am too tired to write all my 1 billion thoughts now but please read his obituary  and if you would like, I am asking for donations for my dad’s funeral in lieu of flowers. All additional funds will be donated to overcoming addiction.

Tomorrow is the funeral. I hope everything goes well and my dad sends me strength.

My dad’s heart was weak but a week before he died, he called and told me he was tired. It wasn’t a cry for help, it was raw honesty. Addiction is a terrible disease but I promise that my dad stayed strong through it all. He is the greatest thing to ever happen in my life and I would never trade him for any other dad. Not for one second.

Our bond was the most beautiful thing in this world. Love is so powerful and I saw it at maximum force.

 

Growing Up with Heroin

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I was told by someone that they wanted to understand what growing up around heroin was like for me and today I woke up with the greatest amount of anxiety I have felt in so long. During these moments of weakness I felt it’d be best to explain what I’m feeling. Please, if you haven’t dealt with addiction and come here to treat me as though I look for sympathy or to criticize me for being weak, you don’t know me at all and I want you to leave. This is something I’m writing to those who can relate to what I am feeling right now and not for you to judge.

I woke up with a feeling that was painfully unclear where it was coming from. I couldn’t tell if I felt it in my heart, in my bones, or in my entire body rushing through my veins and into my brain. It felt a bit like panic. I felt like I couldn’t keep my own head on my shoulders and I still am having that feeling now. I am shaking beyond the normal amount I shake and I have taken more deep breaths than I do during my nightly meditation. When I touch my skin it feels unreal. It feels like I’m dreaming a bit. I feel like I can’t hold a conversation. I feel like I can’t sleep but I can’t bare to stay awake. I feel like everything around me is gone and I’m alone yet everyone is looking at me.

 

I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that made me feel this way. I didn’t have a nightmare which I have very often. And things in my life are going fairly well.

 

Then I stepped into the crisp air of fall and I almost burst out into tears. I was brought back to more than ten years ago. The month of October was the month my dad had been released from prison the first time, the time when my grandma would only have 3 more weeks to live and I felt alone and scared. My dad was released and I felt I had my dad back. Sober, muscular and refreshed.

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My dad and I the day he was released in 2006, three weeks before my grandma passed away.

It didn’t last long as a week after my dad was home, after he had tried making up for lost time and bought me a new wardrobe. I remember sitting at my computer that day when I picked up my phone and my mom told me that my grandma had died. I cried and with my eyes full of tears I was by myself thinking of how painful it was to hear the words that I had been scared of hearing for the past year and a half when I found out my grandma had cancer.

At my grandma’s funeral I remember the leaves were finally falling off of the trees. It was sunny but the air was crisp just like today. It stung more than the anxiety and depression. Is it just me, or is anxiety and depression a feeling of nothingness and everything at the same time. Two very conflicting feelings attacking each other inside of your soul and bringing a numbness to our mind?

My dad showed up to the funeral an hour late and in a distressed condition. My grandma, Anna, was his best friend in the entire world and he had missed out on 9 months of her last breaths in prison. I hadn’t seen my dad for the next two days and I could hardly swallow that he had relapsed and I would experience the frightening sight of burnt spoons in the bathroom and sporadic bursts of anger throughout the house. But when he finally came home in his Outback, it wasn’t the same.

This time my dad wouldn’t speak. He walked like a zombie into the house with his pants falling to his ankles. On my way to school as I walked past his car I glanced inside to see two needles in the trunk.

My first time seeing heroin.

I felt I had lost my dad again but this time he wasn’t paranoid and angry. Now he was soleless. He was gone and yet he stood right in front of me. I was no longer his daughter. I was just another human that couldn’t give his body what it needed.

It was the second time I had seen him transform into something that he wasn’t but it was the first time I felt that I had experienced wanting to not be alive. The unexplainable paranoia and anger when my dad was doing crack cocaine was scary but seeing my dad lifeless and zombie-like was like seeing someone’s life be sucked out of them. It’s like in the movies when they tell you, you shouldn’t bring back the dead because they’ll be a different person. My dad was someone I didn’t recognize and I had never felt so alone.

 

I guess when I first felt the crisp air this fall my mind took me back to this moment. I’m certain of it because I haven’t had this clear of a revision of this memory since. Just like 11 years ago,  I’ll get through this too.

 

So what’s it like for me to grow up around heroin? It’s the spark that reminds me that I can love harder, survive anything, accept everything, and still keep going. It’s the reminder that there is a feeling of real pain, that feeling so down you are numb is the most unique feeling that sometimes feels quite safe. It’s almost like the opposite of love. You’re filled with something that you can’t explain. It’s taught me that we’ll all feel or be alone at some points in our lives even if we have everyone around us. It’s okay to feel alone and sad and confused, as long as you make it through. It’s a reminder of how lucky I am to have a relationship so strong with my dad. It made me passionate and relentless. It made me kind and appreciative. It made me understand that life can be unfair but sometimes the most unfair things in life are what make life so beautiful.

 

I can’t say that I’m happy I am feeling this anxiety today but it’s a familiar feeling that brought me back to the weakest time in my life. I may have a cry but not because I am weak, because I am so proud of myself for making it through what seemed impossible to get through. I’m proud to have this familiar feeling come back and to know that nothing will ever defeat me. Not my own body, not another human, not my own weaknesses.

There was nothing bad about growing up around heroin because my dad is my best friend in the whole universe and I am the most appreciative person for it. Everyday my dad struggles with the disease I know that he is trying to fight to be in my life and that is the most beautiful thing anyone can live for.

If you grew up with heroin tell me if you agree:

  1. We love harder than anyone in the world.
  2. We don’t take things for granted.
  3. We know that life isn’t fair. We know anxiety and depression.
  4. We understand the concept of losing someone more than once.
  5. We push people away who make us feel that we aren’t independent.
  6. We believe in loyalty but know to what extent loyalty jeopardizes our safety.
  7. We know pain.
  8. We’ve seen things we didn’t want to see but makes us strong.
  9. We live deliberately. We stick up for what is right because we know the consequences of not.
  10. We are healers in some way or another.