Locked In Prison I Found Hope

Locked In Prison I Found Hope

My name is Tim Ryan. I am a grateful recovering alcoholic and drug addict. My journey is just like many others: I let my world be taken over by drinking and drug use.

I first tried heroin in 2001 and that took me down another 12-year road to hell. Many consequences occurred in those 12 years, including a number of overdoses. One of which happened behind the wheel of a car, putting four people into the hospital. Thank God everyone survived. In and out of county jails for a long time finally landed me in prison twice. My last trip to the Illinois Department of Corrections, I was given a 7-year sentence.

For me, prison saved my life. Inside Sheridan Correctional Center in Illinois, confined to my cell 18 hours a day, my cell mate and I studied the Big Book, the NA basic text, bible and read hundreds of books. In the day room, at night, we would have a 12-step meeting.

My addiction caused my family to be displaced. My wife divorced me in prison and we lost our family home. These are the pain factors I will never let go of and will never forget.

I wanted to live a clean and sober life, as I do today. So, I walked out after 13.5 months on 12.16.13 to have my former wife pick me up and take me to the town house her and my mother had set up for me.  I was, and still am, so grateful.

I do not drive. However, I was close enough that I could walk to the Alano club, the train to go to Chicago for work, and to downtown Naperville to shop and hang at Starbucks. As soon as my parole agent showed up, I was at the 5pm 12-step meeting. I picked a new sponsor with 20 years clean and went right into the steps again – just like I did in prison.

Out for three weeks, I was back in the technology space. My commute was 4.5 hours a day total but I made it back for the 8pm 12-step meeting every single night. After three months, I walked away from that business for good. I was being directed to the recovery space.

I asked my mother to lend me some money to set up A Man In Recovery Foundation. Very soon we had a non-profit status. My pastor asked me to start an HA meeting that morphed into a family addiction support group. A place where support is not only offered to those with the disease of addiction but families who have lost loved ones as well. We now have six locations.

With the foundation, we guide and direct people into treatment regardless of their ability to pay. We also speak all over the country with school programs and a program called the Cop and the Convict. Can you guess which one I am? We offer tools for prevention for families.

I lost my 20-year-old son Nick to an overdose on my 21-month sobriety date. I went to a 12-step meeting that night and never looked back.  God called Nick home because my work here is just getting started. Since his passing on 8.1.14, I have attended over 105 funerals.

Nick set the stage for my life of purpose today. My recovery and my relationship with my God is number one. I still hit four meetings a week, work with a sponsor, and sponsor other people. Along with running the foundation, I speak all over the country and share my story to offer support.

God also blessed me and my fiancée Kirsten with Mackenzie, my 19-month-old daughter. This is the first time raising a child clean and sober – and boy what a gift. My other kid Max works with me full time, Tanner just graduated high school, and Abby has two years of high school left.

My life is based in the world of recovery. Getting people to see that hope is out there and we can help guide them down that “recovery road.” For years, I was looking for that high. And today, I have found it in recovery. Give the road a walk and watch the miracles happen.