Journey to Recovery is a series of stories or personal journals from residents of Together We Can. All of the journeys we share are presented unedited, written as the author reaches milestones in sobriety, and discuss both life in addiction and life in sobriety.
Journey to Recovery: Ryan A
My name is Ryan Angeltvedt, and this is my story. It’s the story of a young man who had every opportunity to succeed and have a great life. Instead, I went down a dark path no one could have ever predicted. I’ve been blessed with many talents that I managed to hide behind my entire life. Unknown to the rest of the world was a closet lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, and serious mental health issues. I was born on May 13th 1989, and am the middle child of 5 kids, two older sisters, a younger brother, and a younger sister. I can recall at a very young age not getting the attention I craved and needed.
My parents moved around quite a few times before we finally settled down in Langley when I was in grade 3. This is something that I have determined to be a huge traumatic event for me. Bouncing from school to school as such a young boy I found it increasingly hard to make friends every time we moved. I can actually pinpoint my first anxiety attack I was in second grade and had just switched to a new school I walked into the class as all the other kids stared at me, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin I felt alone and scared. I even remember making a decision that I was not going to try to make friends at this school in fear we would move again. The sad part is I was right we ended up moving the next year.
I was born into a family of very talented individuals. My mom her sister and her two brothers are all world champion bagpipers. When I was 7 years old, I was asked by my parents if I wanted to play the bagpipes. I wanted to be like my uncles I really looked up to them, so I said yes. I eventually went on to win the world championships of bagpipes myself in 2005 at the age of 15. I was savagely bullied for playing the bagpipes at school because my parents would organize me to play at the school in full uniform. The other kids would laugh in my face tell me I’m gay because I wear a dress. I was bullied so badly I ended up switching schools in grade 7 to go to the school my dad was the principal of. This is where I found my true passion in life which was to play rugby.
When I got to high school, I immediately struggled to fit in with any of the social groups and became extremely depressed. I ended up completely failing every single academic class that year and was held back a grade. The only place where I felt accepted was in the bagpipe band I was in at the time and on the rugby field. I would wander the halls at lunchtime alone and even hide until lunch was over a lot of times. I’ll never forget how lonely I felt and the depression that went along with it. I struggled to pass any class the entire way through high school until I finally just stopped going to school in grade 11.
The summer after grade 10 I was introduced to alcohol and marijuana for the first time. First of all, I was just happy that people wanted to spend time with me, so I had no problem experimenting with these things and for the first time in my life, I felt accepted. Marijuana took my pain away when I was high, I didn’t think about the past or the future, I was just in that present moment and felt like I had found true happiness. I became an everyday pot smoker immediately. Alcohol was a little more of a slow progression. I tried it a couple of times and the hangover was so rough I left it alone for a while. After I was supposed to graduate the feeling of depression and anxiety started to creep back, this is when alcohol started to become a problem for me. I wanted something to ease my pain and alcohol was it. I drank to the point of blacking out on a regular basis, often waking up in strange places with no recollection of how I had gotten there or what had happened the night before. When I was 19 a friend of mine’s brother offered us what he called weed pills and said they were like herbal ecstasy, it turned out to be MDMA and I was off to the races. This is what started an 11-year struggle with hard drugs.
I started taking MDMA every weekend and just couldn’t seem to resist the effects until my friends started saying I was acting really weird all the time and they didn’t want to hang out with me anymore I knew I was hooked but was not even close to ready to admit it. Around the time I turned 20, a girl offered me cocaine for the first time. I did it and I knew right away that I loved the feeling and just never wanted it to stop. I was immediately addicted to this substance and knew it was a serious problem.
At this time, I had quit playing the bagpipes and quit playing rugby I quit the first job I ever had as a plumber and was collecting EI. I knew something needed to change I decided I would join a rugby team to try and get some structure in my life. Rugby and drinking go hand in hand and this decision turned me into a complete alcoholic with a closet cocaine addiction. My lifestyle was exhausting, I lived it and accepted that I was an alcoholic and closet addict until I was 25 years old.
At 25 I met a girl that made me extremely happy, I was in love and we quickly decided we wanted to have a kid together. I kept my drug and alcohol use very low key from her. On September 5th, 2015 my son Chase Robert Angeltvedt was born. What should have been one of the happiest days of our lives, quickly became an extremely traumatic life-changing experience. Chase had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck twice with a true knot in the cord as well. His life was very close to being over before it even began. He suffered a severe brain injury at birth and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a result. My little boy uses a wheelchair and is non-verbal. He spent the first 19 days of his life in an incubator and this is where things took a turn for the worse for me. I immediately called my friend and demanded he brings me substances. I disappeared the day he was born for hours using drugs and alcohol in the parking lot.
I quickly spiraled out of control after Chase’s birth, I couldn’t stop picking up no matter the consequences. This went on for 3 years and ended up tearing my relationship with Chase’s mom apart. We ended up separating for the first time when I was 28. I fully lost control and plunged right off the deep end I began using every day until I could no longer function in society. I was admitted to TWC for the first time in 2018. I cleaned up, I gained some weight I ended up getting back together with Chase’s mom while I was in treatment and I found a new sense of purpose restored into my life. I felt great when I left, and life was actually really good for us for a while.
I stayed sober for a few months afterward, but I didn’t keep the connections I had gained in treatment. I had no defense for what happened next. On August 26th, 2018 I got a phone call from my parents. They needed me to come to their house immediately and would not give an explanation as to why. So, I went over to their house, as I pulled up, I can see a police car and two police officers standing on the front doorstep with my parents, I knew something terrible had happened. As I approach my dad broke into tears and informed me that my oldest sister Brittany has passed away from a drug overdose. The pain this caused me was unbearable, I tried to stay sober, but I just couldn’t do it, I began using again, and once again I was off to the races.
It was only a matter of time before I destroyed my relationship with Chases mom again and she packed her bags and left me for the second time. This time I had to sign over full custody of Chase which was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It took me two years before I gained the courage to come back to TWC, I hit my bottom when I tried to take my own life in December of 2019. I was left with 2 options, either die in my addiction or get back into treatment and live.
I’m very lucky to have one of my best friends that works for TWC and he was able to get me into treatment on January 26th 2020 at the age of 30. I was completely defeated and knew that this was life or death for me. I needed to change everything about myself in order to have a chance at sobriety, it started with me making that phone call and getting myself into treatment. It was very overwhelming at first, but as I started stringing days together and my thoughts were getting clearer, I knew that recovery is 100% possible for me if I give myself to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I can’t do this on my own, there is an army behind me in my support group. I surround myself with people that truly want to be sober just like I do. Together We Can has given me a second chance at life. I’m not afraid to talk about my feelings anymore, I have no reason to lie or manipulate my way through life. I’ve actually started setting future goals for myself. Something I’m very proud of is the fact that I’ve enrolled in some courses online so I can graduate high school. I have gained the trust of Chase’s mom and she has allowed me back into his life.
I’ve made my family proud and I’ve made myself proud. For the first time in my life, I’m comfortable with who I am, and I have no reason to use drugs or alcohol to mask my pain. Thanks to TWC and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous I have a new sense of purpose restored into my life. Recovery is absolutely possible, never give up on yourself.
Left: Intake Photo,
January 26th 2020
Right: 75 Days Clean,