At 28, Ryan is an upgrading student with a bright future ahead of him.

However, the classroom hasn’t always been an environment that brought out the best in him.

The Road to ARC

As a child, Ryan dealt with bullying at school. Compounded with the toll his parents’ divorce took on him, he often felt depressed. Growing up, he began losing him self in video games to escape his struggles, and this was when the early signs of addiction began to reveal themselves.

“I just got really depressed and eventually, after graduating from high school, I had lots of money from working on the oil rigs, and I found comfort in doing drugs and drinking all the time,” Ryan explains. “And it got to the point where I couldn’t even keep my job.”

Ryan’s drug of choice: crystal meth.

The first time Ryan tried to get clean was at the age of 21. Coming from a small town, he was unaware of the resources available to someone like him going through addiction.

At that point in his life, he had no intentions of going to rehab. However, as a way to keep family and friends off his back, he agreed to detox in Edmonton, away from his hometown. It was a process that would lead him to The Salvation Army’s Addictions and Residential Centre (ARC).

A Keystone Moment

“I quit once on my own and then I relapsed, and then I went through the program,” Ryan says. “I would say that that’s way more effective than trying to do it on your own.”

The journey to recovery took six years and a rock-bottom moment that had Ryan ultimately deciding he would pick up the pieces of his life and put them back together.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve decided to do. I wish I would have done it so much earlier, but that’s just how these things work out,” Ryan says.

He began his treatment at The Salvation Army’s Transformations Addiction Recovery Program, a four-month live-in program at the ARC that is similar to the 12-step program and uses module-based learning, group counselling and individual counselling.

At the age of 25, Ryan completed the program and transitioned into The Salvation Army’s Keystone, a one-year, after-care recovery program where residents live together in a community. They live drug- and alcohol-free while working toward personal goals, such as work and education. Keystone helps men transition back into society and provides guidance to help each person make the changes necessary to achieve their aspirations.

Handling Mistakes

“Ryan took his recovery seriously,”says Doug Schultz, a chaplain at The Salvation Army. “He’s always been growing forward. He would be the first to say that he’s not entirely there yet, but he’s making progress in the direction that he wants to go.”

As chaplain, Doug’s chief role is providing spiritual and emotional care to residents, staff, families and volunteers. He strives to be accessible and journey with people as they travel the road of life.

“In their life experience, they know how to handle defeat and distress. They know how to handle all the screw-ups in life,” Doug explains. “But many of them don’t know how to celebrate success, and because they don’t know how to celebrate, a lot of them will self-sabotage because they know how to handle mistakes.”

Helping Others Heal

Overcoming addiction is one of the most challenging matters one can face in life, and many people will stumble before reaching sobriety. Many individuals healing from their addictions can have difficulty handling their success and finding it within themselves to stay clean.

“Going to rehab is the easy part, and then finding your reasons to stay is hard,” Ryan says. “After you get out of rehab, and there are no more eyes on you, you can do what you want. The hardest part for me has been trying to find a way to get my confidence back.”

For Ryan, that confidence came back when his hard work started showing results. The goals he set for himself were clear and finally attainable, and he began to get excited about the future.

“While he was here, he started having an idea of what he wanted to dowith his education and how he wanted to move on in his life,” Doug says.

There was a moment for Ryan in recovery when he saw a couple of therapeutic students working alongside residents doing arts and crafts, as well as meditation, to heal. He had a conversation with them that led to a moment of clarity. This was what he wanted to pursue with his life; he wanted to help others heal by using his creative side.

Going Full Circle

Ryan is now upgrading and preparing for an educational career at Norquest College in Edmonton as a therapeutic recreation professional. The program explores the impact of recreation and leisure on individual wellness. With the help of Doug, Ryan was able to shadow recreational therapists Sarah Bartkus, from Grace Manor, and Jonathan Buecken, from Stepping Stone Supportive Residence, both Salvation Army programs.

“Today, I have so many community sources to tap into; faces that I know, and they know me,” Ryan says.

It’s still not easy for Ryan. Recovery is now an everyday journey. It’s the shame that can be difficult to overcome, but his support system and self-confidence have him looking a this accomplishments with pride.

“I recommend The Salvation Army. Looking back on it now, it was some of the best times, like going camping with the guys—doing activities, such as singing praise songs,” says Ryan. “My biggest thing for guys leaving the program is to try to stay connected because you can fall off really quick.”

It’s a full-circle moment for Ryan, who looks forward to volunteering with The Salvation Army, which has helped guide him to become the man he is today.

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