My name is Anne, and I’d like to share with you the story of my fiancé Ryan, a heroin addict, who passed away December 3rd, 2017.
Ryan was a fun, charming guy with the most beautiful blue eyes. They were unforgettable. He could make you crack a smile with very little effort by telling one of his, “it doesn’t make sense but they’re hilarious” jokes. His presence lit up a room everywhere he went. Ryan had a very outgoing personality; everyone loved him. Yet, he had such a low self esteem. He loved to go to the race track and race the car he helped his dad build. He loved motorcycles. He bought a Harley from his step mom and he redid it and turned it into his own style, until he was out drinking one night and crashed it. Ryan was always seeking something adrenaline-filled; he had been that way since he was a little kid.
Ryan had been addicted to drugs since he was a teenager -- using heroin, meth, and Xanax. He spent his years in and out of prison and jail. Ryan had done approximately five years of prison time before we even had met.
Ryan and I met back in October of 2012; he was in a halfway house, just out of prison in the work release program, and working at Chipotle - he had such a love-hate relationship with that job. I was living in a sober apartment and attending school to become an addiction counselor, as I myself am a recovering meth addict. Our relationship was good the first three years. We never argued, but on the rare occasion that we did, it was short-lived and then we were back to laughing and loving each other. He and my son Braeden were best buds; it makes my heart melt to think of how close they were. Ryan and his brother Eric were best friends, a relationship so tight no one would ever break their bond. We all had such great times together. I have so many memories it’s hard to choose a favorite, but one is the day Ryan, myself and my son went to Eric’s and we made a video of Eric playing the guitar. He and Ryan sang the song “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses, with my son Braeden dancing in the background. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear that song. I have so many memories that I could probably write an entire book just filled with them.
Ryan had used heroin and meth a few times here and there, experiencing a couple overdoses, one of which put him in the hospital on life support for eight days because he had aspirated vomit when he overdosed. He suffered a minor brain injury from this overdose due to the lack of oxygen, but he was going to be okay, with the exception of having some minor memory issues.
Ryan’s life turned dark when his brother lost his life to a heroin overdose on October 27th, 2013. Ryan was in prison when his brother overdosed and died. Sitting in solitary confinement, alone, Ryan got the horrible news one prays to never hear. Ryan was allowed 1-2 hours of time with his brother at the funeral home, but he was shackled and alone, as no one could be in the facility with him. It was a tragedy. Then Ryan went back to prison, back into that cold, lonely cell. When Ryan came home after Eric died, he began drinking daily. Steel Reserve was Eric’s favorite, and whiskey - he would polish off a liter a day. Ryan worked full-time, never missing a day, but was so depressed over the loss of his brother that no matter what he did, nothing could ever begin to even fill the void he felt in his heart. That’s when I noticed some changes in Ryan and his behavior. The "little white lies," the sneakiness, the shadiness led me to believe that Ryan was using again, and more than just a random occasion. He was heavily using Xanax, snorting it, drinking heavily and using heroin on occasion, but would hide it and lie about it when he did. Our relationship became rocky as the little white lies didn’t stop; then that led to nothing but arguments between us because the solid strong trust that we had was feeling broken. We argued over the most stupid things; I’d give him the opportunity to be honest when I had proof of his lies, but he still chose to lie, especially about his drug use. But I refused to give up on him because I knew behind this person who was addicted to drugs was an amazing man who wanted nothing more than to get sober and live a happy life. And I loved him with all my heart. Not only did he have to battle with depression and anxiety, he did not know how to even begin grieving the loss of his brother, his best friend. It broke my heart to see him suffer in so much pain day in and day out, and no matter how hard I tried, there was nothing I could do to take that pain away from him. How does one take the pain away from losing a loved one? In and out of jail and prison he went. Our relationship was hanging on by a mere strong thread, both of us refusing to give up on one another.
In 2015, I went to prison for 13 months, and when I went to prison, Ryan was in prison as well. He got out six months before I did, and he was a walking disaster from the day he walked out of those prison doors until the day that I came home. But even after I came home, the drug use continued, and Ryan lied about his heroin use because he was so ashamed and didn’t want to disappoint me. However, I told him: “There’s no point in lying about your heroin use because it is very clear and obvious when you are using it.” Ryan would hide his heroin, but I would find it and I would flush it down the toilet - I did not care if it was a $300 bag of heroin or a $20 bag - he was not dying because of that bag. Ryan completed outpatient treatment because he was ordered to do so by the courts. Deep in his heart, Ryan wanted to get sober, but he was afraid and scared to step into a world that he did not know. He had been using drugs since he was a teenager, so being sober was a strange world for him as the only time he was sober was when he was in jail. I contacted probation many times, trying to get them to see that this man needed help, not jail - asking them, pleading with them to please send him to treatment so that he could get the help that he needs that he was not going to get in jail or in prison. But, they never listened, and then they would wonder why he kept ending back up in jail. Finally, they tried to have him go to drug court; however, they treated him like just another "junkie" going through the system while they treated everybody else like humans, giving them a chance and treating them with respect, but not Ryan. Ryan was the first person in the history of Anoka County Drug Court to get kicked out. Ryan then went into inpatient treatment, but 90% of the clients there were using meth; as vulnerable as Ryan was, he wasn't strong enough to say no. He ended up relapsing while he was in treatment and getting kicked out, which led him right back to jail for the last four months of his life.
I never left Ryan when he went to jail or prison; I stuck right by his side - not because I had to but because I wanted to. I did my best to be sure Ryan received mail, money on his books and on the phone so he could call home, and went to visit even if I had to drive an hour or two in a blizzard. I knew being in jail killed him, even though it was from his own doing. It took a great toll on his family; his mom and his dad were so frustrated and fed up with the drug use and him being in and out of jail that they didn't see each other when he was locked up. It was very hard for them, but it was very hard for Ryan as well, as he felt very alone - like he had nobody he could count on, except for me, as he often said. After everything that we had been through in our relationship, here I was still sticking by his side because I knew inside was an amazing man still trying to escape addiction; I was not going to give up on him, was not going to give up hope and just toss him to the curb and walk away like most people probably would have done in my situation. I love that man with all my heart. Our relationship had been through so many hard times - I feel most couples in this world would have never made it through the trials and tribulations we had to go through - and yet here we were, still standing together closer than ever fighting for sobriety, love and life.
Ryan was a loving, caring man, difficult at times, but I loved him with all my heart and soul.
Ryan came home from jail after being locked up for four and a half months on October 30th, 2017. After all the laughter, tears and pain we had endured the past four months, we had high hopes things would turn around. But before that could happen, tragedy struck, and his journey took a turn for the worse. On 11/28/2017, Ryan was given heroin mixed with fentanyl and/or carfentanil. Ryan called me at 1:26 am and said what I didn't know would be his last words to me: “I’m on my way home, I love you baby, see you soon.” Ryan was brought home almost dead, barely breathing, as his buddy thought he merely just “passed out.” He called to say they were home and to come help get Ryan out of the truck. Upon my arrival to the truck, I knew immediately that Ryan was overdosing; his eyes were in a dead glazed-over stare and he was not breathing. I immediately yelled for our friend to call 911 and began giving him CPR. I administered Narcan; it did nothing. CPR continued until the paramedics arrived and gave him a second dose of Narcan; still nothing. Ryan went into cardiac arrest in the ER and was put on life support to help him breathe. After five days on life support, the life support was taken away. At that moment, my life became a horrifying nightmare as I sat there, my heart shattering, watching the love of my life die and there wasn’t anything I could do. I could not save him. Ryan was gone at about 2 PM on 12/3/2017. My heart is numb, living in denial that he isn’t really gone. The pain inside is too overwhelming - this can't be happening. I think of my pain, then stop and think about his mother, and think how she has now lost her only two sons to heroin. It suddenly makes my pain feel so small.
Ryan's life purpose was through his death, to save the lives of other addicts. Today, I'm trying to fulfill Ryan's purpose by being his voice and sharing his story, in hopes it touches the lives of addicts struggling and that something from his story strikes them to seek the help need so they don't die, causing another family to go through the horrifying pain our family is going through.
My forever love, may you finally rest in peace next to your brother Eric. You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten.
Love you always and forever, Anne