- Friends & Family
Hi, I’m Ryan N. Some of you may know me, and some of you may not. To be honest, what I’m about to say isn’t for everyone; I understand this, and I’m okay with it. The saying goes, “It is what it is.” Also, I’m not a good public speaker nor am I a literature major. (It’s funny how most people see the best in one another, yet it’s hard for ourselves to see the best we have to offer one another.) With that being said, I am sober and committed to staying sober. I’m a recovering addict and alcoholic.
Some of you know I have struggled with substance addiction in my past. I am going to share a part of my life journey with you in hopes that this can change, inspire or save a life. And if this doesn’t change, inspire or save a life, I will be able to live with the knowledge that I am trying to help someone while I’m still alive and here.
The part of my life story that I will be talking about starts when I was 17 years old. That’s around the time I was first introduced to alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes. At that time, I didn’t think much of the harm I was doing to myself or to others. I only felt that when I used any of these substances, all of my problems and pain went away in the moment.
A few of my problems and pain at that early age were pretty normal, I believe. Some of those problems included my parents going through a lengthy divorce, not having a girlfriend, and having major insecurities that I needed to work through. Using alcohol, drugs and tobacco were how I coped with almost everything that was going on in my life at that time. Looking back, by coping through those means, I only created more problems and more pain internally and externally. Sure, I had days when I used less than other days, but alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes were my instant gratification.
When I was 18 years old, I was only getting deeper into my substance addictions. I sneaked through my senior year in high school, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. I surprisingly managed to get into all five colleges to which I applied.
I attended Cal Poly with the mindset of partying, not obtaining a degree. My substance addictions were expanding to the point where one night I was drinking a bottle of Listerine at 4 in the morning, because I couldn’t get my hands on anymore regular alcohol. I was also smoking spice in my dorm room, and getting drunk and high on most days when I had class. I didn’t last long there; I ended up dropping out in the first semester.
At the age of 19, I was back to my hometown with no job and no ambitions in life. I ended up hanging out with old using “friends” from high school, and we would experiment with ways to get more fucked up than ever before. We would spend late nights getting high at parks and empty lots, while occasionally running from or dealing with the 5-0.
That continued for a few months, until my parents sold our house. My brother and I had to find our own place. We moved into the apartments right next to a State College. I was 19 at this time, and just about to turn 20 when we moved in.
To be clear, my older brother is NOT an addict or alcoholic, he is a great man who has always stood by me through thick and thin. Still, with my own place, I was able to throw as many late night parties as I did. Sometimes these parties would continue for three days straight with little to no sleep at all.
I can’t tell you how many times I made a complete fool of myself in front of my brother and “friends” at the time. The reason why was that I was always blacking out from alcohol and the different drugs I took. I am not proud of those moments, and unfortunately I have made a fool of myself many more times after that apartment experience.
The drugs I had already been exposed to by then were: alcohol, spice, cocaine, ecstasy, meth, marijuana, Xanax, Adderall, Vicodin, and oxycodone. I also was a pack a day cigarette smoker, mainly menthols. I was going to raves at the time as well. To be blunt, I’m lucky I never had an OD.
Also lucky for me, I had met a girl there at the beginning of my stay in that apartment complex, who truly had an eye-opening impact on what I was doing to myself. She tried her best to help me as much as she could, but with the many “friends” I had at the time, it was impossible to break away from that chaotic lifestyle I now call hell. (Side Note: I have lost true friends, girlfriends, and family members over the years of my drug and alcohol use. That’s what substance addiction WILL do to your life.) And so after a few months, I eventually lost her because of my drug and alcohol use. When I lost her, that was when I truly realized I had a drinking and drugging problem and that I needed serious help.
Though I knew I needed help, I wasn’t prepared to give it all up just like that. A few weeks passed, and I got a knock on the door. To my surprise, I found my dad and mom standing outside. I opened the door, and they walked in to an atrocious looking apartment. I mean, there were dirty dishes all over the kitchen, empty alcohol bottles on the floor, and bongs and pipes on the living room table. They helped me clean it all up, and said, “you are going to be living with your dad, uncle, and aunt for now.”
I didn’t really have a choice at the time, but I was willing to try and clean my act up. I stayed with them and was working at a restaurant. For two and a half months I was only smoking cigarettes. This whole “being sober” was all brand new to me, and I liked it. I thought I could do it for a while and maybe forever.
But after those two and a half months of sobriety, I had to move on with my life. I had options on where to go, but I made the wrong decision by moving back to the same apartment where I previously used. As I’m sure you can already guess, it only took a couple days for me to start using again. The s**t show once again continued there, until our one year lease was up. We couldn’t renew our lease because we had way too many noise complaints and security visits. Not to mention, the apartment was trashed.
We ended up moving just a block away. I was 21 then and life was really depressing for me. I was doing the same things I knew I shouldn’t be doing. Shortly after moving into the new apartment, I could feel the toll alcohol and drugs were taking on my mind and body.
I knew if I kept it all up, I would die at a young age. I needed a change of scenery, and people that were going in the right direction in life. Thankfully, at the time my best friend Kyle was working in Colorado and he had a place out there. He said, “my door is open for you man”, and I immediately jumped on that opportunity for a life change. (Now, I have known Kyle since I was 13 years old, and he has known my lifestyle pretty well over the years.)
I arrived in Colorado in late October, and in that coming November I was turning 22 years old. My mindset was that I was going to get clean and sober in order to have a successful life ahead of me. However, with all the alcohol and drugs I was still using, I didn’t have a clear head or a clear plan. So to be blunt, when I got there, it didn’t pan out like I intended. I got a job fairly quickly at the a restaurant, where I was working about 4-5 days a week. My drinking was at the point where on an average day I’d have 10-12 shots along with a 40oz of beer. I was trying hard to hide it from my roommate and my co-workers, but they knew what I was doing.
And after five months of being in Colorado and still going nowhere with my life, I had a serious discussion with Kyle about what I should do. He suggested rehab, and I looked into it. It was my best option at the time, and so I admitted myself to to a rehab center.
In rehab, I met every drug addict you could think of. The ages ranged from 18-60 year-old males and females. It was an amazing feeling to see all these people who shared the same goal of getting sober and healthy. We all wanted more out of life.
I’ll never forget when I first got there; this 32-year-old man who was detoxing from heroin. We shared a roof for five days in the detox room. Nurses would come in every four hours to take our blood pressure and check on our mental state of minds. Both he and I were pretty bent out of shape. He was worse off than me, however. In the detox room, he was profusely sweating and his skin was as white as a ghost. I also noticed he could barely sleep soundly. We never talked much those first couple of days, just a simple nod or we’d say “hi”.
After the five days in the detox room we both were moved into the sober living apartments, where we joined all the other recovering addicts. A couple days went by, and I was going to my meetings and doing my recovery homework for the day, when I noticed something different about him. He looked like a completely different person. His personality and body were alive, compared to when I first saw him. That gave me a real sense of hope for myself.
Many great things happened at that rehab center. After my stay there, I was back to the real world with a sober frame of mind. I was going to continue living in Colorado, but I learned from my past that I wasn’t going to be living at Kyle’s apartment anymore. So, I ended up finding my own apartment a few miles down the road from the restaurant where I had worked. Luckily for me they gave me a second chance after getting out of rehab.
Things were going great in my sobriety this time. I was going to meetings a few times a week, I was no longer hanging out with the people I used with in Colorado, and I was reestablishing my relationships with certain family members and friends.
I had about 70 days of sobriety, when I made one wrong decision that led to my relapse. (Side Note: My favorite combo of drugs was alcohol and marijuana.) I made the mistake of telling myself I could control marijuana on the daily and I still would never use alcohol or any other hard drugs for the rest of my life.
Man, if life was perfect, I’d be telling you a story of how I smoke weed every day and I’m a multi-millionaire now. That’s Wiz Khalifa’s life, not mine. For 30 days after that one time use of marijuana, I was smoking weed on the regular.
On my 100 days of not drinking alcohol, I had a trigger that lead to me to make another bad decision. That one night I downed a 375 ml bottle of Smirnoff vodka. Depression kicked in after a few sips, and the next morning, the guilt was overwhelming. I felt that all the hours, days, weeks, and months of staying sober were all for nothing. I knew myself well enough what was going to come next. My family and true friends were going to suffer again with questions of: Is Ryan going to OD? Is Ryan in jail? Is Ryan dead? I’ll never forget what my dad said to me in rehab– he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I got to the point where I wasn’t afraid of you killing yourself, I was afraid that you were going to kill someone else.”
My brother and two old “friends” from high school convinced me to move back to California, and move in with them. I was 22 years old when I packed everything up and moved to California. Back in California, my old lifestyle was back. I was drinking and drugging with old “friends” from high school; and had no ambitions for a successful life. I had gotten a job right away, and was serving tables at a BBQ smokehouse. I always liked being a server because I’d walk out of work with cash, which would support all my bad habits then. My drug and alcohol use had its highs and lows. By that time, it was at its high, because I was driving blacked out more frequently than I ever had been. (Side Note: There were some days during this period where good things happened in my life, but I still knew my life wasn’t stable, nor was it fulfilling.)
There were many times when I wondered to myself, how am I still alive, and why have others died, but not me? In the apartment in California, the late night parties continued. And I was seriously getting out of control again. I can’t imagine the hell I put my brother and two other roommates through while I was there. Finally, one morning, they told me that I had to leave. They were all sick and tired of dealing with a violent, obnoxious, and useless drug addict. They had every right to do what they did. But at the time, I was angry and left with nowhere to go.
No one in my family and no one in their right mind who knew me, would take me into their home. So I slept in motels briefly, but mainly I slept in my car so I’d still have money to use. I did have some old using “friends” at my old school who let me couch-crash for a few weeks.
While I stayed there, there was one night when everyone was gone and I got drunk and high off some kind of prescription pills. Next thing I knew, at 3:13am on March 13th, 2015, I was being arrested for a DUI. That whole night is somewhat of a blur to this day. I blew a 0.18, and spent my first night in jail. Talk about rock bottom– I hit rock bottom more times in my life than home runs Mike Trout hit his official rookie season. (He hit 30 bombs that year, by the way.)
After being released from the police station, I was told I couldn’t crash on the couch anymore at the place I was staying. I quit drinking for about a week after my DUI before I was back to doing the dumb shit I had been doing for more than five years.
I also lost my job at the BBQ smokehouse around that time. So by then, I was consistently sleeping in my car for a few weeks, which felt like years. Around the end of April 2015, I was still sleeping in my car and doing absolutely nothing with my life. I was starting to have suicidal thoughts. I wasn’t ready to die, but with all the things I was taking, my thoughts were going there.
So I searched online for a room for rent in another city and got a job at a seafood restaurant. With a roof over my head, and a well-paying job, my life somewhat improved. I didn’t much care about getting sober; I just wanted to get the heck out of my car and earn a living. (
Side Note: I gave up my habit of smoking a pack a day of cigarettes on January 19th, 2015. That was one of the greatest decisions I made mentally, physically, and financially.)
With a consistent roof over my head, and a job where I was earning a good amount of money, I slowly felt a resurgence in my soul, which had been gone for a while. I wasn’t using hard drugs anymore, and I was drinking less then I normally had been. I still was hanging around the wrong kind of people for me, but I was having serious thoughts of, “I need to get sober and stay sober.”
On the morning of December 9, 2015, after a long night of drinking and smoking weed with coworkers, I said enough is enough. It’s a morning I’ll never forget, because I called my mom, and told her I was done drinking. We talked for a little and she told me, “I’m proud of you.” She has heard me say I was done drinking before, but that time felt different.
Ironically, my dad called two hours later, and we talked for a bit. I was hesitant to tell him that I was done drinking, because I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. But I did at the end of our phone call, he said the words too, “I’m proud of you.”
Everyone knows you want to make your parents proud, and damn was that a forever moment for me. I have always wanted way more out of life then what most others want out of their lives. And, for me, being completely sober is part of getting the most out of life.
As for marijuana, I have learned from my past, and knew I had to give it up as soon as I could. So on January 22nd, 2016, I gave that up as well. I know that for myself, I can’t do any mind-altering substances anymore, because in the long term it will lead me back to a disastrous and depressing life.
I love where my life is today, and I love how I feel at peace with myself every day. This will last and continue as long as I stay sober and surround myself with the right people.
Now to be clear, I don’t have life all figured out just because I’m sober now. Also my story of recovery from addiction is no better nor is it worse than anyone else’s story of recovery from addiction. I feel that living a sober life is more manageable and enjoyable than a drug and alcohol filled life. It’s really that simple. It’s never too late to change.