When Leah and Zoltan started dating, they quickly discovered that they shared a similar, difficult past. They were both raised by dads who were once addicts. It was this shared experience that inspired their vow to never be like their fathers. Leah could have never known that years later she would lose Zoltan to drug and alcohol addiction.
After over a decade of drinking, Zoltan died in November 2022 of alcohol ketoacidosis – a condition that arises as a result of malnutrition brought on by heavy alcohol use. It was a loss that today drives Leah’s desire to spread awareness about addiction, its stigma, and raise funds Renascent.
“Once my ex-husband (Zoltan) passed away in November, I was looking for organizations in Toronto that focused on rehab and addiction because I wanted to make a difference and lend support. I came across Renascent and their Vision spoke to me,” said Leah. “Renascent, being a not-for-profit, offering many programs – family, aftercare, and alumni care – became an organization I just had to support.”
On June 10, 2023, Leah did just that and was among over 70 participants who took part in Renascent’s Road to Recovery Walk/Run. Leah was the event’s top 2023 fundraiser, bringing in $1,200 of the $12,300 the event raised. She reached out to friends, family members and others in her network throughout June to support her in fundraising for Renascent.
“I loved the Road to Recovery walk. I loved how intimate it was and enjoyed getting to know other participants and hear their stories,” said Leah.
Funds raised through the event, are used toward Renascent’s treatment programs for people who are struggling with addiction, as well as supporting programming for their family members and loved ones.
Zoltan’s passing is still very fresh for Leah, who shared her life with him for over 20 years. She fondly remembers the type of person he was.
“Even before he started drinking heavily, Zoltan was the life of the party. He was an extravert who loved people and loved making them laugh. He had a larger than life personality and was great at playing the guitar,” shares Leah who maintained a very close relationship with Zoltan after they divorced.
Reflecting on why supporting Renascent was important to her, Leah shares how the stigma associated with addiction was a barrier to Zoltan seeking treatment. Despite almost dying from an overdose in 2018, Zoltan still did not seek treatment.
“He was a proud guy. He was widely known, and as a result was worried about his image. I don’t think he thought that he could die from his addiction,” shares Leah. “We had a celebration of life for Zoltan and were open about why he passed. It is my goal to break down the barriers associated with this disease and make having conversions about addiction normal. I want to break down the stigma so that everyone can get treatment when they need it.”
Leah has a strong message to share with those who feel lost in the throes of addiction.
“You are not invincible. Addiction is damaging your health and are hurting you. View it as any other disease where you would normally seek help. Please reach out to a treatment centre like Renascent for help.”