Son’s OD leads Tim Ryan to clean up, advocate for drug awareness


Tim Ryan is a speaker and advocate for drug abuse awareness. Tigers for Liberty brought Ryan to campus to help educate students about the opioid crisis and how to better perceive drug abuse. Photo by Amani Canada, photo editor

At a lecture organized by Tigers for Liberty (TFL) and the Kappa Kappa Delta fraternity, anti-heroin advocate and speaker Tim Ryan discussed his life as a former drug addict. Ryan explained how the approach to the national opioid crisis is wrong and neglected.

“[Ryan] is a tireless advocate for long-term recovery and is no stranger to addiction, using cocaine, heroine and alcohol,” said Maddie D’iorio, first-year TFL coordinator. “Currently, he is a speaker on the opioid crisis and addiction, and he has also founded a A Man in Recovery Foundationwhich is a phenomenally successful organization with the sole purpose to facilitate free or reduced cost recovery services for addicts and their families.”

The students who attended the lecture found Ryan’s story powerful.

“To be honest, I want to go and cry because I wasn’t aware of how prevalent the opioid crisis is, but now I realize that it is really prevalent in all scopes of society,” said Kaylie DeLuca, sophomore. “Like he was saying the most common [opioid] addict is a twenty two year old, white, middle-class woman, and that’s me and my friend group.”

According to Ryan, addiction is caused by abuse and brokenness within a person. Ryan has struggled with substance abuse for about 30 years, was sexually abused by his female babysitter when he was 12 and was physically abused by his older brother.

“I did drugs longer than most people have been alive, about 30 years of my life were drugs and alcohol. But they were the solution to all my problems,” Ryan said. “We were up drinking every weekend at 14 years old. At 15 it was cocaine.”

Ryan said he did poorly in high school, only excelling in water skiing. From age 14 to 21, Ryan would be one of the top nationally ranked water skiers in the nation, but his career was destroyed by his addiction.

While working as a recruitment officer for a large corporation, Ryan met his wife. Despite Ryan’s financial success, his addiction to cocaine would continue overflowing into his home life.

“I woke one day after doing coke for a couple nights, and my 14 month old son was crawling towards my home office, so I picked him up and put him in his room, and I opened my office door, and there was cocaine all over the floor,” Ryan said. “If he would’ve crawled into that room and put one of those rocks in his mouth it would’ve killed him.”

After that incident Ryan went clean for a little over year until he relapsed and began using opioids. Ryan explained the moment that caused him to turn his life around.

“[My ex-wife] called me at six in the morning and said [my adopted son] overdosed. … We [rushed] to the hospital, ran into the emergency room … 30 seconds later the chaplain walked up,” Ryan said. “I knew my son was dead. I helped kill my own son. I have to live with that for the rest of my life.”

Since getting clean Ryan has dedicated his life to trying to change the way the United States deals with drug addiction. Ryan promotes his foundation, the funding for which comes from either Ryan himself or the parents of children who have recently died of overdose.

Ryan finished by saying, “That’s fucking reality for you.”