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Surfside Alumni Spotlight Addiction Recovery Story

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these hectic times. For those of you in recovery, we know that the COVID-19 crisis has brought its fair share of challenges. But do not fret, recovery is still possible… even during a world pubic health epidemic. Take a break from the chaos and enjoy another incredible addiction recovery story from Surfside.

In this month’s edition of the Surfside Alumni Spotlight, we sat down (via telephone, of course) with Ryan P., a Surfside alum who, with a little help from family and perhaps some divine intervention, found his way to Surfside and transformed into a man of high character that plays a massive role in the Surfside community. Enjoy!

Addiction Recovery Story: Ryan P.

Life wasn’t aways easy for Ryan while growing up. A short, overweight child with a slight speech impediment, he had a difficult time fitting in and making friends. Raised by a single mother and his older bother, Ryan moved around a lot as an adolescent; sometimes even once a year he found himself in a new environment, a new school, and new friends to make. The constant migration left Ryan feeling utterly alone, and he found himself spending most of his time with his brother, who in his mind, more or less raised him.

At around 12 years old, Ryan introduced himself to alcohol. But in a noble quest to be accepted, about a year later, he found himself smoking weed. And in another year, he kicked it up a few notches with heroin, coke, and crack.

He attended Atlantic City high school, but his enrollment did not last very long. His freshman year, Ryan would check in at homeroom in the morning, then bounce to go drinking with the locals on Martin Luther King Boulevard.  It proved to be a pretty easy operation: throw the locals a few a dollars and they would supply all the booze Ryan and his friends needed.

Later that year, Ryan dropped out of his school.

Craving some discipline and brotherhood in his life, Ryan decided to join the military.  He received his GED and visited the local recruiting station to officially join the United States Army.

In his mind, Ryan had finally found something that could save him; something that could provide him with everything he wanted since he was a child. Unfortunately, like many alcoholics and addicts, trouble followed him everywhere.

While on base, Ryan would sneak off into town to buy tobacco products, only to return to base to resell the products to his comrades and make a few dollars. An entrepreneur, indeed!

Ryan’s side hustle, however, led to his discharge from the Army.  He then had to do the unthinkable task: face his friends and family and tell them what happened.

He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t handle the guilt, shame, and remorse for ruining another opportunity in his life. To save face, he lied… and told everyone that his discharge came as a result of a knee injury. The lie did not sit well with him for many years.

For the next few months, Ryan blew every dollar he had on gambling, drinking, and tattoos. All of it gone in about four months. Around that time, he moved back home to Atlantic City.

Then, a downward spiral.

To feed his addiction, Ryan started selling drugs and stealing from his family, including $20,000 from his grandfather. He found some harder drugs, and recalls slowly starting to lose his mind.

More trouble followed, as Ryan found himself in and out of jail.

“I was getting arrested more or less every month,” he remembers.

At age 22, out on bail, with a felony on his head, Ryan packed up and moved to South Carolina. He was officially a wanted man on the run.

In fact, he did well at first down in South Carolina. He truly wanted to be better and turn his life around. However, the demons would not release their grip on Ryan’s mind, and he lost his fight once again.

Ryan found meth amphetamine, which he cites as the turning point in his active addiction. He completely ran his life into the ground.

He found himself homeless, on and off a meth farm, for the next three years.

One day, Ryan’s brother, the man who Ryan had looked up to for so long, arrived for a visit. Upon his departure back home, his brother left him with one gift of hope: a Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The seed had been planted.

Time went on, and Ryan flirted with the idea of killing himself. He begged and begged for this to all be over.

Then, he picked up the phone. He called his brother.

“Tell me what to do. I’ll do anything.”

“Get a bus ticket to New Jersey. Turn yourself in. We will start there.”

So he did.

Ryan detoxed on a 25 hour bus ride from South Carolina to New Jersey in unrelenting fear of what was to come. He had absolutely nothing to his name.

But he held true to his word, and turned himself into the New Jersey authorities on arrival.

In a series of divine events, the state of New Jersey released Ryan after only five days.

“It was unheard of. That’s not usually how it works,” Ryan claimed.

Ryan admitted to a sober living house in Pleasantville, and immediately plugged himself into Alcoholics Anonymous. In his second meeting, he found himself a sponsor. As it turns out, the fellow he had asked to sponsor him was a resident at a program called Surfside.

The next few weeks were tough, as it usually is in early recovery. He had no money and absolutely no idea what the future held. His network suggested he continue to pray, and so he did. He didn’t know who or what he prayed to, or even why he prayed. But he did.

One day, he went to see his sponsor at Surfside to do some step work. While going through the Big Book, a man named Ian, who introduced himself as the owner of Surfside, pulled him aside.

Ian asked him if he wanted to be a resident at Surfside.

Ryan, a 6’1″ 145 pound young man, had been given a bit of hope. He entered Surfside that day, and has been a sober man ever since.

Interview with Ryan P.

What is your sobriety date?

October 6, 2017

What do you do for work?

I am a restaurant manager.

What are some of your hobbies?

I love working out and doing Crossfit, and spending time with my family.

What were some of your biggest concerns before coming to Surfside?

The future was my biggest concern. I had never done recovery before. I was scared what Surfside would and could do for me. I was scared of success, in all honesty.

What was your biggest takeaway from Surfside?

The brotherhood, absolutely. It’s a family at Surfside. It doesn’t matter where you are, if you’ve been through Surfside, you are family.

How is Surfside different than the previous programs you have attended?

The structure, for sure. The chores and cleaning and cooking. The staff actually care about what is going on in your life. They are there to help you because they have been through the same experience. You can’t find that anywhere else.

What are some of the best and most challenging parts of living independently after Surfside?

If you would’ve asked me before Surfside if I knew how to cook, clean, and take care of myself, I would have said yes… but it would’ve been a lie. I know how to actually live on my own now. I can live by a budget, make a resume, and go to job interviews. I have confidence to do anything now.

The most challenging part in the beginning was being away from Surfside. Being away from the brotherhood and structure was a challenge at first. I came around a lot right after I left the program. There was definitely a bit of separation anxiety in the beginning, but Surfside gave me all the tools to get through it.

Now that you are out of the program, how do you stay involved with Surfside and your recovery?

I sponsor guys at the house. My best friend is a Surfside alum… he came to Surfside a few days after me and we have been inseparable ever since. I am very involved to this day.

I am a part of NINJYPAA and other service commitments. I am very involved in service today. The cool part is involving the Surfside guys and bringing them to events. In my eyes, Surfside and recovery are not two separate things. I like to show the guys all that recovery has to offer.

Any final thoughts on Surfside?

If it wasn’t for Surfside, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am so thankful for that. Life can get “lifey” sometimes, but Surfside has always been there for me. I am so grateful.

What is your five-year plan?

I want to have a family and buy a house. I want to own part of the restaurant where I currently work. And most importantly, I want to be sober for seven and a half years at that time!

Incredible! Ryan will be a beacon of hope for many that will follow in his footsteps. We are so incredibly proud of the man that he has become. Thank you, Ryan!

As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please give us a call. Like Ryan, the road to recovery can start with one phone call.