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.

Meet My Parents: Steve and Angela

As I’ve said before, it’s important to never forget where you come from. Whether you were raised by the two people who made you or you’ve just had someone in your life that is has been there every step of the way since you were little, they are permanently imprinted on your heart and to take the time to cherish those people in your life should take a priority in your life. Mending and maintaining those relationships are so important. After all- you wouldn’t be who you are without them.

I’ve been so lucky to have both of my parents in my life. I’d like to introduce you to them as they have made me into a human and shaped my morals and values so that I love myself.

My life has been filled with love. So much love I could explode. So much love that, even when people are mean, hurtful, or cynical I can still find a bright side and accept a person for who they are. We’re all here to do something extraordinary with our lives. We can take what makes us love hard and live passionately and turn it into an ambition that we’ll let no obstacle stand in our way. Our love comes from something in our adolescence that we’ve embedded in our hearts to love. Our passion stems from what hurts us most. When we hit absolute breaking point, to the point where we don’t think we can live on, but we do that’s when passion is created. The love and pain come from my family. My passion, my love, and my ambitions in life, all stem from my parents.

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We don’t choose the family we’re born into but I wouldn’t trade mine for the world. I’ve written about my dad’s drug addiction and about the pain of not being close to my mom over the years, but I really want to start this 2017 blog revival off with the things that I love about these two amazing humans who each have a story of their own that led them to where they are.

We all come from somewhere and somehow, no matter how hard life starts out, there’s something about our past that we can embrace and take with us on this journey to mold us into who we want to be. We’re a product of our environment and genes. It’s up to us to take what we’re made from, polish it, and embrace the heck out of it.

 

Meet My Parents and What I Love About Them: 

Meet my Mom Angela Lucero

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My mom is the smartest woman I know. She knows every answer to Jeopardy and if you ask her about a movie she will have answers faster than IMDb. She’s never been the type to ask people for advice. Even if she’s conflicted, she sticks by her decisions and doesn’t turn to anyone for approval. I love that about her and I’ve never noticed till my friend recently pointed out that she loves how I just do things when I say I want to. I get that from her and I’ve never appreciated that about my mom till recently. She thrives on getting better. No matter how sick she gets, she loves to impress herself and go above and beyond what the doctors expect of her. I know a lot of people say their mom is the best cook ever but I challenge that. My mom is Mexican but gosh, does she cook Italian well. In fact, I didn’t even realize that most of our meals at Christmas were Italian dishes till I moved to North End and I pieced together lasagna and stuffed shells to Italian. She’ll never sit down to eat with us because she’ll be cooking until everyone has had their dessert and she has cleaned the entire kitchen spotless. I myself love cooking for friends and I now see the enjoyment my mom has when she did this for us. It’s about creating the conversation without even being there. You do it with a meal full of love and that’s the most rewarding part. My mom’s sense of humor is dirty and twisted, just like I like it. Most importantly, the way my mom raised me as a baby is something that will always amaze me. Watching the tapes of her talking to me and telling me to take care of my dolls, taking them for a walk and making sure to tell them they look beautiful. Her voice has more love than a lullaby when she speaks to me.

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My favorite memories are in the car singing down the winding mountains in Washington State and when I really needed a cup of tea to do homework, she was always by my bed side. She made me soup and never forgot to bring me the pepper because she knows I love to spice everything up. Splashing around in the pool was always an adventure for us. She taught me how to swim, which is a bigger accomplishment than I thought! Recently I overheard co-workers talking about how nearly impossible it is to teach your own how to swim. When there were thunderstorms at night we’d hide underneath the plastic row boat and blow bubbles under the water at each other. The pool light made the raindrops glisten and the fun we were having removed any fear of lightening striking us. I remember one night she looked at me and asked if I wanted to make out. It’s now one of my favorite things to tease my friends with when we make awkward eye contact. Thank you, mom.

Meet My Dad Steve Olbinsky

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My dad is the most stubborn and sweet man. It will always seem to me to be the 8th wonder of the world how a man so masculine can have a daughter and instantly melt into a cute teddy bear. I’ve never seen someone who would sacrifice so much for someone. Living in Allston, I remember a woman had locked her keys in the car and was crying and my dad made sure to help. I remember thinking of my dad as Superman from that day. When I scraped my knee riding bikes at the Charles River he told me he’d ride both bikes and I thought he was so silly, but when he rode his bike with one hand and the other hand on my bike, as I hobbled along I thought he was a genius. Whenever I’d have friends over, my dad would give my friends $20. He was so generous with money, he just wanted everyone to be happy and has never had an ounce of greed.

School was the most important aspect of my life and that was because my dad put a value in my accomplishments at school higher than anything else. The only thing that my dad instilled that was greater than my education was my morality. Right and wrong, ironically, was something he didn’t take lightly. I remember sitting on the steps of our basement while he did laundry, explaining to me the importance of being honest and kind. Making sure to only use honesty as a way to better serve someone, and to not take actions that will hurt others. I remember the conversation lasting for two hours and I wasn’t allowed to leave the steps. I really think he enjoyed my company but he really didn’t want me to think dishonesty was ever okay. Brushing stress and negativity off my shoulders has been much easier remembering all the phone calls where my dad has reminded me not to make mountains out of molehills.

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I have a lot of favorite memories with my dad because he was always looking to do anything and everything with me. The amount of concerts, shows, games, parades, and city activities we did were endless. I loved asking my dad to watch hocus pocus three times a day and my dad always agreeing and quoting, “A mok, a mok, a mok” with me. I especially loved when I took him to try on my very first prom dress. I really didn’t think much of it. It didn’t seem like that special of an event until I walked out and my dad started crying his eyes out. My dad will always have a way of making me feel the preciousness of moments in life. When I asked my dad his favorite memory of me he tells me that day will always be it because as I walked out he saw me grow up right there. Thank you for making me feel like the most special girl in the world, dad.

 

 

Reunited with my dad after 5 years in Prison

My dad is free and I was able to see him for the first time in 5 years outside of prison walls. I received the phone call from my grandpa.

“Dads lawyer called, he said ‘congratulations, your son will be released tomorrow’.” I couldn’t contain my excitement, and the whole situation didn’t even feel real. I felt as though there was no way it could be real. I immediately left work and rushed to the liquor store to buy the best, most affordable wine I could. Then I rushed over to my dads lawyers office and hugged him for a solid 5 minutes.

It still hadn’t hit me that he would be free in one more day. The anticipation was killing me. I had to work my typical 12 hour day that day (Thursday) but my mind was wandering the whole time. At 8:45PM the host at the restaurant called me outside and it was time to see my dad again.

It didn’t feel real but his hug was so comforting. In Russian he told me how much he loved me and we went inside and I introduced him to every single person who I worked with. Walking inside felt the realist like, wow I have worked here for 3 years and my dad is here for the first time right now. We had a great night talking and catching up and the next day we explored Boston together.

My dad has freedom now. It is a new start. When I look at my dad I do not have anything but love and appreciation for him. I do not ever hold it above his head that he has been absent for the five years because I feel so lucky that he is still alive. I do not blame him for missing things such as my high school and college graduation because I know that he needed these five years to become sober. He was given another chance and when I look at him I want him to be strong.

My dad has to be strong and I know I have no control over that. It is up to him to choose to stay sober but I will be supporting him on every step of that journey. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his support and love and the least I can do is love and support him back. If something were to happen I would not have any regrets. I can only control myself and I can only hope that my dads see the way I live and how happy I am and want to do the same.

So far things are going great. My dad is sober. He is no longer locked away. I no longer have to pay $50 to answer his phone calls and they will not be cut off at 20 minutes. I get to call him first. I am the luckiest girl in the world and I know that. I took a path of staying sober and I can’t imagine if I used my parents sickness as an excuse for my own because if I did I would not be sharing this beautiful reunion with my dad the same way.