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.

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?