Tim Ryan of Naperville, IL, lost his job, his home and his wife in rapid succession. Then, in 2014, seven months after being released from prison, he also lost his 20-year-old son, Nick, to a heroin overdose. Tim is a former heroin addict himself, who today serves as a "sober coach" and runs opiate recovery groups.
Since his son's death, he has made it his purpose in life to be a part of the solution to America's drug addiction problem. Nobody grasps this hard truth better: Prescription painkillers are gateway drugs to heroin.
Ryan was the invited guest of Illinois Rep. Bill Foster at President Barack Obama's final State of the Union Address. Obama, early on in his address, called for legislative leaders to work together on bipartisan priorities. He pointed to helping people who are battling prescription drug and heroin abuse.
The National Safety Council reports 47,000 people die every year in drug and overdose incidents. Ryan helps individuals and families struggling with addiction through his foundation, A Man in Recovery, and his work as Midwest coordinator of the Banyan Treatment Center.
To see that his objectives are met, Ryan regularly taps legislative leaders. He lobbies for state and federal funding to build more treatment centers. He favors long-term treatment over incarceration for people with substance abuse issues. He also spreads his message – From Dope to Hope – through a variety of speaking engagements.
After leaving Washington, D.C., Ryan met with executives at A&E and the Discovery Channel to talk about a TV show based on his work, his mission and his story. He says his God had him walk through 28 years of hell to gain knowledge and elevate him to his current position as a survivor advocate.
"Nobody wants to be a heroin addict," Ryan said. "They just made a bad choice."
In August 2015, he spoke at the first International Overdose Awareness Day rally, hosted by NSC at the Daley Plaza in Chicago. He drew support from his ex-wife, Shannon, and the rest of his family, who all were in the crowd.
"When I get a call six months later saying thank you, after I've helped someone turn their life around, that's what it's all about," Ryan said.