Ryan grew up playing sports. “I played baseball in college at CSUN. I graduated with a speech and communications degree. I’ve had 16 knee surgeries since then,” recalls Ryan. “I was partying and taking pain medications for years. I grew up in the church. I kind of knew how to say the right things, do the right things to appear that everything was OK. I don’t know if I was ever saved.”
Ryan coached women’s volleyball at a couple of Christian colleges for 25 years. “I continued to drink and use pain medications because I could access the medications at any point in time. It got so bad that I was seeing five doctors at the same time. I could take the pills during the day and drink at night,” Ryan explained.
Ryan was keeping up appearances, but the addiction was taking its toll. “In the beginning, no one knew. I could hide behind my accomplishments. It was crazy. This went on for 13 years. I was forced to resign my coaching job. I couldn’t hide it any longer. I was suffering the consequences.” Ryan suspected God was trying to get his attention.
Ryan got sober for a while, met a girl and got a job. Things were beginning to improve for Ryan until someone at work introduced him to heroine. “It’s crazy how, in the depths of your addiction and sin, you’re running from God, never really satisfied. Because the task of fixing yourself is so daunting, you go from one pleasure to the next. You live on these little kind of highs but there is no lasting fun in it,” says Ryan.
The heroine use went on for 2 ½ years and the consequences were piling up. “(My girlfriend) found out I was using drugs and wanted me out. Then I was pulled over with heroine,” Ryan said.
Ryan had never been in this much trouble before. “I was sent to jail for four months. That was the most awful experience I’ve had,” he said. “I talked to God in a way I have never spoken to Him before. I was crying on my knees, in desperation. This went on for days.
I was praying God would take me out of this place.”
God heard Ryan’s pleas for help. “I met the chaplain at the jail and he knew someone at the Rescue Mission. He offered to drive me to the Mission when I got released,” Ryan said.
Ryan remembers his first day at the Mission. “I showed up at the Mission in a jumpsuit with nothing else. I was so happy to be here. I hadn’t seen daylight in four months.” That wasn’t the only light Ryan was seeing. “I always had felt I had to work for my salvation. Looking back, there was a lot of people-pleasing. God reached in and turned me toward Him supernaturally, in a way I couldn’t have done.”
Ryan hasn’t been sober this long since he was 16 years old. “I don’t have anxiety about the future. Every day I find joy in what God has done for me. I don’t know what’s next for me, whether to go back to coaching or something else. I want to get married and have a family someday,” says Ryan.
The love and support Ryan has received at the Mission has made a permanent mark upon his life. “You can tell God’s hand is here by the people He has in leadership. I’ve never felt that they didn’t have my best interest in mind. They care about what happens in my day to day,” says Ryan.