Hope in recovery: After prison, Marietta native gets clean

Three months of isolated therapy in the hills of Adams County is what it took for Marietta native Tim Ryan to put his chaotic life in order.

Ryan had been crossways with the law since he was a juvenile. His court record shows drug possession, robbery, assault, domestic violence, menacing and arson charges, starting from the time he reached adulthood. He served three years at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio and was sent back several times after release for violating probation.

He is 28 years old. This week, he marked more than 150 days of abstinence from drug use.

“It started with marijuana possession, little stuff,” he recalled. “I started smoking crack when I was 19, robbing people … A robbery charge in 2012 sent me to prison, and I was back and forth on parole violations after I got out. My crack addiction turned to heroin, and I turned to meth to get off heroin.”

Ryan, speaking by telephone from his home in Portsmouth, said Thursday his most recent stay in rehab was his sixth attempt to get clean. This time, it worked.

“I came down here and planned on doing the usual 90 days, but this one worked because I started listening, taking suggestions,” he said. “I never worked the (12) steps before, never even opened up my ears to the possibility of getting out of the system.”

Ryan said the isolation of the facility – The Counseling Center in Adams County – and its distance from his hometown of Marietta helped him focus on getting well.

“It’s hard to heal in the same place you got sick,” he said. “I found a good recovery community here. And in the country, when you’re cut off from people, it’s easier to pay attention.”

Ryan said for him the key to staying clean after being released from rehab is establishing and sticking to a rigid routine. He got a job with a hardwood flooring outfit, where he works 50 hours a week. Every weekday after work he participates in three hours of group recovery counseling, after which he attends a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. The less slack time he has, the better for his recovery efforts.

“You have to have a routine, if not you’re going to wind up using again,” he said.

Being in a fresh environment also has been crucial, he said.

“In Marietta, the only people I knew were users. Here, the only people I know are recovering,” he said. “I think about being back in prison, and I want people from Marietta to see this. I kept reading about people getting out of prison, going back to Marietta and overdosing.”

Ryan is looking ahead to becoming a professional counselor, like many of those who helped him – addicts who turned their experience into an asset for helping others.

“I had a lot of good counselors, fellow addicts – people who haven’t been addicts can’t really help you,” he said. “They went through the same program I did. I’m almost halfway through the steps program, and I’m going to start sponsoring someone soon.”

In the mean time, he’s content to work and recover.

“It’s really satisfying to work a full day, to know you haven’t done anything wrong,” he said.

Portsmouth suffered decades of social injury from the opioid crisis, but the city of 20,000 has transformed its attitudes, a spokesman for The Counseling Center said.

Greg Gulker, community relations director for the center, said Friday he’d just come out of a meeting of the multidisciplinary health coalition board for the region.

“The overwhelming attitude in the room – there were probably about 30 of us – is that the overriding need is stigma reduction,” he said. “Seeing the discussion in the business community about reducing stigma, that’s a huge hurdle cleared.”

Gulker said Ryan’s experience is emblematic of progressive recovery programs.

“He would have been in one of our houses, it just looks like an ordinary house, with a cornfield out the back door, and very near the house is a church, which occasionally invites our people to dinner,” he said. “It’s much less institutional than most people would think, and recovery treatment does not necessarily look like what most people likely believe.”

Ryan still visits Marietta, he said, in an effort to repair some of the relationships he has damaged over the years.

“I talk to my sister a few times a week, my mom every day,” he said. “I’m trying to rebuild relationships that I’ve ruined. You can rebuild those connections. The first year is the hardest, it’s a lot of work, daily work. When you lay down at night you have to take inventory, ask yourself, did I do anything today to harm myself or someone else?”

The 12 steps of recovery

1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for the knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Source: Narcotics Anonymous.