Ryan’s Drug Use Experience

Teenagers breaking into a house

The first time Ryan tried alcohol, he got a buzz off a drink a family member gave him. He was only ten years old. A couple of years later, he had a large dark beer in Europe that was quite intoxicating for the twelve-year-old. For reasons that are difficult to understand, this second drink was the beginning of a habit of stealing alcohol from friends, neighbors or family.

He hit many houses in his neighborhood to steal alcohol, sometimes more than once. At one house where the garage door was left open a few inches for a pet, he found he could slide under the door and get alcohol out of the garage refrigerator.

His ability to find alcohol and steal kept him and his friends with plenty to drink. As he and his friends got older, they started vandalizing things in the neighborhood when they were drunk. But he never got caught.

In High School, Drug Use Escalates

As he approached high school, some of his friends had started using marijuana and harder drugs. He heard some positive things from those friends about their drug experiences but he was afraid to touch them. Eventually, his fear wore off and he tried the drugs his friends were using, starting with marijuana and moving on to LSD and Ecstasy.

Pretty soon, he was partying hard every weekend — but he was still able to keep his grades up in school. He started going to school high on marijuana and then progressed to smoking weed at lunchtime. Somewhere in this time period, he started using cocaine as well.

By his junior year in high school, the drug use began to catch up with him. His first consequence came when he was suspended for alcohol use at school. The next consequence came when he was kicked off the soccer team and lost his chance at the soccer scholarship that was supposed to pay for his college.

Ryan’s Home Life Begins to Fall Apart

His home life began to unravel as well, as his parents caught him with drug paraphernalia and began to discover his lies. He said, “I managed to make it almost all the way through high school, right up to the end when I crashed and burned. I got expelled from high school.”

Ryan attended a remedial school so he could get his diploma and went off to Bozeman, Montana for college. Montana is a beautiful spot, but he said, “It’s full of drugs.” He told himself, “You can party but you’ve got to buckle down and get some good grades.” It only took weeks for him to start skipping class and using every drug he could find. He even tried heroin for the first time. “By this time, I was lost,” he commented.

Hand reaching syringe

About this time, he began to get sick, being laid out with pneumonia and mononucleosis and not recognizing that he was harming himself through his drug use. A trip home enabled him to return to a more robust condition. When he was well, he thought he’d go back to school and try it again but immediately fell into the same pattern.

Arizona and Methamphetamine: A Bad Combination for Ryan

After struggling through one year in Montana, he joined a college friend in Arizona. That was the environment that introduced him to methamphetamine. He lost that robustness, dropping more than 40 pounds to “skin and bones,” as he describes it.

To make some money, he joined in with others to start moving small quantities of drugs around the state. A threatening run-in with one of the drug dealers resulted in his having to leave town so he went home. Not surprisingly, his parents were appalled at his gaunt appearance. They started helping him clean up his life.

Ryan Again Loses the Battle for Sobriety

As he got his life back on track, he tried to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He went west again, intending to complete college in Colorado.

But it all rapidly went south again. He started using drugs again but this time, added heroin to the mix. And while he had tried heroin before, this time he was addicted. He was also using cocaine and methamphetamine.

He went through withdrawal from heroin at about this time and thought he was going to die. He tried to restrict himself to heroin use only once every second or third day so he would not have to go through withdrawal again but it would never last. He’d be back to using heroin within a few days. Then he overdosed and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

Rehab and Jail Fail to Help

As unbelievable as it might seem, things got even worse after that. The using and selling of drugs got heavier and he lost more touch with any good values he had as a young man. He went to a couple of drug rehabs but there was nothing there he could identify with. He went to a doctor for help, but he only prescribed Wellbutrin and Ritalin after a short visit.

He started being arrested for drug possession and after pawning a stolen item landed him in jail for a longer period, knew he had to get clean for real. His parents said the only way they would help him was if he went from jail straight to rehab.

Because he had not done well at earlier rehabs, his parents started looking for a different kind of rehab this time. They finally settled on a Narconon drug recovery facility. Ryan liked the fact that you could handle the effects of drugs on the body through the sauna detoxification step, called the Narconon New Life Detoxification Program. The life skills portion of the program helped him begin to confront life again instead of running away from it.

Happy family with two kids

Once he had finished the Narconon drug rehab program, Ryan felt he had a lot to make up for so he spent the next several years working at the center that helped him turn his life around. That way, he could start others on the path to lasting sobriety. He’s been sober for more than seven years and has a beautiful wife and two small children. He now has a healthy life of his choosing, one that he could never have created as long as he was using drugs.

Get more information on how the Narconon drug rehab program helps people like Ryan recover from alcohol and drug abuse.

(To preserve privacy, the photo does not show an actual Narconon student or graduate.)


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.