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?

Parents Addicted to Heroin: How to Raise Children

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To the parents that are struggling with addiction- don’t give up on yourselves. All your children need from you is love. The pressure of being a parent is already heavy- raising a little human is not easy and you always want to do the right thing for them and there aren’t any black-and-white answers on what that means. We know ourselves, our weaknesses, our flaws and even through parenthood we are still searching for answers while raising a child. When we have the opportunity to mold a child we want to do so in a way to mitigate those negative qualities on our children. That is without a drug addiction. Now you add in an addiction and the pressure is pulling you to the burning core of this earth.

Being a Parent with an Addiction to Narcotics or Heroin

For any parent struggling with addiction, there is no doubt that we love our children and want the best life we can give them, but our brain can only surpass the impulses to use for moments at a time. We love seeing our children smile and we love making our children happy but we also need to get high. When it comes to facing the truth – whether we are ‘there’ for our children or not, we aren’t really there. And that is a burden we must carry with us until the day we die. The burden of feeling like a failure not only in society but also as a parent is one that no one can ever imagine. So everyday that we are there- really, truly, soberly- for our children we feel immensely overjoyed and thankful for the moments we have with the one we created and suddenly we don’t feel like so much of a failure because we have a beautiful product of life in front of us that still loves us unconditionally.

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What We Ask for from Our Parents

That is all a child can ask for in life and it’s something that if you’re fortunate to get you can cherish it for life. It’s something we desire to find with a significant other and it is a feeling that calms the soul and makes us feel invincible to the world especially during tragedy. Don’t be afraid to lose the love of your child because of your addiction because that is not what defines love. We, your children, will stick by you through it all (click the link to why I am okay with my dad relapsing). We will defend you through thick and thin no matter what. All we ask for in return is unconditional love. Even when we distance ourselves, even when we get angry and run away or hide. We want to be loved! And we learn from a young age that our parents should love us and we, without even knowing it, hold you accountable for just that.

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Love is Unconditional and Addiction is not an Exception to That.

My parents couldn’t send me to college. My parents couldn’t always be “there” when I wanted them to be. But my parents never made me forget for one day that they didn’t love me. Do you know how hard that is to do when you have a substance addiction? There are things that they have done that an outsider can look at and say is unforgivable. Even my parents are unforgiving to themselves at times. I love my parents more than anything in this world because they have shown me unconditional, sincere, love. When my dad was in prison, he’d send me 4 pages of reasons he loves me and why and I’d get that letter on a week where I was feeling depressed because I didn’t feel like I deserved to be at a private university alongside kids who were taking advantage of their parents generosity. I’d read his letter and nothing in the world mattered to me anymore except that I had the power of love. My parents didn’t have to stay together. They were never married and they were on different coasts. 3,000 miles away they both made the commitment to live together no matter how toxic they were together. They did that for me and that is unconditional love.

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What We See Our Parents Do Doesn’t Define us and Doesn’t Mean we Aren’t Loved

Not to say I should’ve seen half of the things I saw growing up- Can you imagine knowing the smell of crack-cocaine and burnt tinfoil in the bathroom drawers by age 13 followed by spoons and needles in the backseat of the car that takes you to dance class? Do you think that a parent would wish to make their child a part of that? No. It just happens. You can’t really control it anymore. Maybe if it was your first time using, and you knew that in 5 years you’d have a child to care for  but if you insert the needle that means you can’t actually be there for them and you will probably hurt them so badly you’ll make them feel insignificant– but we don’t know that the first time we use. People can hate us for becoming a parent in the first place but don’t make our children hate us.

We Can’t Give Up On Each Other Even if We Need Distance Apart

So parents – speaking to mine as well because I know you read my blog- please don’t give up. We, your children, we are hurt and we are scared, we are mad, we are confused, but we love you unconditionally. We don’t care what other people say about you. We don’t care if you are going to relapse tomorrow. We don’t care if as defined by society you are a “bad” parent. All we care about is that you love us unconditionally and tell us that. We want to feel loved by you no matter how much we ignore you or run away. We may not be willing to give that 5th or 6th chance to you right now but that does not mean we don’t want your love. We know you are going through pain and it is even harder for you than it is us. Please don’t give up. We want you to feel better but we know we can’t help – you have to do it on your own. That doesn’t mean that we can ever stop loving you. All you have to do is own up to your flaws and tell us you love us.


The Recent Neglected Child from the Heroin Overdose in Needham

-On the video of the overdose in Needham. First of all the person filming this. I do not understand how you and other bystanders could not reach out and hug this little girl. As for this heartbreaking video, this poor little girl has no idea what is going on. She understands her mother is unresponsive but she doesn’t know why. She probably won’t understand for a long time, until it really sets in that she is in a bad situation. I’m not sure the way her life may turn but it alarmed me and sprung me back into my feet that I want to be a hero and an idol for these kids. We seen this one filmed but that doesn’t mean that this is happening everywhere else where heroin is a problem.

The Future Generation of Children with Parents Addicted to Drugs

The gap between high class and low class is only going to become more divided with the amount of children that have parents addicted to drugs that cannot afford to take care of their family. Their are more than 8 million children right now that have parents addicted to drugs. These children are going to come out strong. They are going to make it. But only if it is handled with deep care for both the parents and the children AND the relationship that they have. There are laws that government officials must take for the safety of the child but to alter the relationship between children and biological parents from a young age can be so harmful. These children need someone to look up to and to not feel controlled by the fate of a foster home or the fear of inevitably becoming a replica of their parents. I want to diminish this fear because you don’t have to feel that way and once you don’t it is the most invigorating feeling.

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Having an Equal Compassion for Both the Addict and the Child

I want to be there for the parents that make the mistakes that feel like they are better off dead. No one should have to feel that way. Learning to love someone else even through an addiction is so important. There is no excuse for abuse but the guilt a loving parent who has a problem with addiction feels is unbearable and it is hard to admit to something so awful especially when you can barely remember and feel like you had no control.

I’m no expert but I have a lot of love for both addicts and children of addicts. Sometimes people need understanding from both sides to help the healing of an epidemic.

If you’d like to learn more about my nonprofit visit Rising Hope’s main page to see how to donate, how to get involved and more about the mission.

Why I smile at Strangers

Do you make a conscious effort to smile at the people you walk by everyday or even give acknowledgment to the life around you? Think about the interactions you’ve had today. The people who made your coffee, the person who opened the door for you. The first person you talked to today. How did each person make you feel? Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our day (or our phones) we don’t feel it’s possible to look up and simply make an effort to show you see the people around us. Think about how many people you’ve interacted with today or if you were caught up in work or social media.

As I walk down the street and there is only me and one other person. I put away my phone and from about 10 feet away I smile. The woman looks like she has a lot on her mind. She glances at me, looks away, and at about 5 feet she looks back at me and smiles back. And those are those kinds of smiles that make me feel alive. It is not a smile that comes from someone giving a compliment. It is not a smile that comes from doing anything particularly special. It is a smile that comes from accepting one another. It is her and I not caring how late we may be to work, not focusing on the stresses of our lives, not caring about our differences. When we are mindful of each other that can be the start to change someones day. Whether you are receiving the smile or giving it.

Because we smiled at each other we walked past each other with positive thoughts on our mind of how strangers can be nice. When she was out of site, I thought of how she might’ve been having a really bad day but she took that one moment to smile at me.

One summer day I was walking down Somerset Street, passed the Suffolk University dorms when a man and I smiled at eachother as we began crossing the road to oposite sides. At the sidewalk island we began chatting! He asked how my day was going and I said great. He said he worked at the State House and I told him how I was in my last semester of undergrad. We talked about the beautiful weather and then he pulled banana chips out of his bag! He began eating them while we were standing their and I told him how delicious they looked. He held them out and said have some! There we were two strangers, sharing a snack, in the middle of a traffic divider, all because of a simple smile. 

You might be missing out on kindness because you are too busy and everyone is in your way. The destination isn’t the greatest part of life it’s enjoying the journey to get there so maybe it’s time to slow down and smile at a stranger.

No Drugs: School Zone

Mon, 26 Feb 2007 

I haven’t stopped crying for 5 hours… this isn’t healthy I just want him back in my life and he doesn’t want to and I have to realise it:/ nothing is going to be the same again. I don’t even want to live anymore.

Continue reading No Drugs: School Zone

Grace of New Beginnings

   Tonight I recieved a phone call from my dad at around 1030pm. It was surprising because in the past five years he would usually only call me before 6pm. I was excited anyway because I had just walked in the door from work and any earlier, I wouldnt have been able to answer. His voice comforts my soul, “Hi Baby-so!” he says. We know our time on the phone is limited so we instantly begin talking about everything important. First off my grandpas health, my health, his health, and about the other people we care most about. Then we talked about new movies my dad has seen which is funny because recently he has seen more movies than I have.
    We talked about my graduation and how proud of me he is and we talked about how proud my grandpa is of me. A couple weeks ago my grandfather compared me to the pope. My dad explained to me that in translation from English to Russian, being compared to the pope is a very big compliment. He explained to me how much my grandpa loves me and how we are all facing reality of his old age and his strength for staying well.
     I told him that I wanted to raise money for kids that have parents addicted to drugs. He told me a story about a family he once helped. He knew a woman with two kids who barely had clothes on their back. He had recently bought me a playstation 2 so he decided to give the kids the playstation 1 that I had now retired for the newest edition. “I have never been so hurt. When I went back to ask the kids how they liked it, the mother had already sold the playstation for drugs.” He told me what I was doing was very special and how important it is for these kids to look forward to something.
    Our conversation suddenly reached a topic I try to avoid. The reality of what is to happen when my father will be released from prison. It has been five long years and of course I am more than estatic to have my dad back in my life but I have become so comfortable with my way of living that it will be a hard adjustment for me to try to understand what he is going through in his head.
    “I want to make money,” he said. I told my dad that the most important thing for him to do is maintain his health and let me worry about the money and that I can help us both. Money comes and goes, and opportunity to make money will always be there, but our health is going to be especially important.
     “I cant believe I have missed out on 5 years of your life,” he said. I told him that he has been my motivation these past five years and that he cannot let his past dictate his future especially since it has felt he has been with me the whole time, in my heart.
    “I don’t want to start smoking again,” he said. This is where I began to feel a drop in my stomach and a knot in my heart. This is a thought my father was having and if this were a thought in his head, I knew that heroin was also.It isn’t to say that I did not know it was something he probably thought of every day. Subconciously we like to put the things that we know we cant change, and want to, in the back of our heads, and that is one thought I always try to bury far down.
    “I just remember when my mom was sick the last time and ….” He didn’t finish his sentence. His mother, my grandmother, was my dads best friend and her diagnosis of cancer was the beginning of my fathers relapse. She passed a week after being released from prison 9 years ago. I like to think he stopped himself because he knows this time will be different.
    “One minute remaining on call”. The prison calls always seem too short for what I must pay. We said our goodbyes and now I will have to wait to hear from him again.
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