Losing a loved one to an overdose is devastating, losing your significant other to an overdose changes every single aspect in one’s life. This is the story of my fiance Ryan, a heroin addict. Ryan was an amazing, caring, funny, loving man. He had the most beautiful blue eyes, that sparkled like diamonds on the surface, a hidden deep sadness inside. If you were lucky enough to catch him in a smile and not his Macho gangster man face, LOL, it was the most beautiful smile you have ever seen. Ryan was very intelligent and full of information. I remember when we first met he and my son would have debates on topics and I just sat there, astounded at how smart the 2 boys were. Ryan’s personality was like no other, he was outgoing, funny, always the center of attention everywhere he went. As a little kid in school, he was class clown, gave his teachers and his mother a run for their money. His good looks and personality made him quite charming.
Ryan had a passion for cars, especially tailoring them to fit his style. Whether it was painting red pin strips down the side of his Envoy, installing a stereo system so loud it would blow your ears out or spending hours trying to find the perfect set of rims, you’d always find him in the garage.
But Ryan battled every day of his life for over 15 years with substance use disorder. Early on in his teen years Ryan started using drugs. Whether it was smoking weed, pills such as Xanax or OxyContin’s, Meth, or Heroin, he had eventually tried it all. Heroin being one of his main doc’s. His drug use lead to legal issues, drug possession charges that resulted in him spending more then 8 years of his life behind bars.
Meanwhile, as he was locked in solitary confinement, Ryan received a phone that would forever turn his world upside down, his best friend, his only brother Eric has died 10/27/13 from a heroin overdose. Ryan was brought to the funeral home in shackles and was given a time with his brother to say his goodbyes, but prison rules are No one allowed in the facility with him. He had to say good bye alone, with no one there for support. Then off back to prison where he was put back in solitary confinement alone. Heart breaking to say the least.
When Ryan came home after his brother died he stayed away from the drugs for awhile but had replaced them with alcohol. He was working full time, not missing a single day, while drinking a liter of whiskey and a 6 pack of Steele reserve every night after work. His depression got worse, as he struggled with the loss of his brother, not knowing how to even begin grieving. His drinking lasted long enough, until the night he crashed his Harley for the 2nd time and totaled it. Then he was back to occasionally using meth and heroin but tried to hide the heroin use as he knew I didn’t approve of it whatsoever as his brother died from it and the last thing we’d ever want to happen would be to lose him too. Life just wasnt the same at all for Ryan with Eric gone. He lied about little dumb things along with his heroin use but it was obvious when he was on it. I knew no matter how hard I tried to stop him, I wouldn’t succeed until he was ready to be done. But I never gave up trying, even if it meant I had to sneak and take his bags of heroin and flush them, he wasn’t going to die off that bag. That created arguments. Sorry, his life was more important then the $300 he had just spent on that bag.
Ryan and I were together for over 5 years, and in that 5 years, he had overdosed at home with me to find him, 6 times, one requiring him to be on life support for a week as he had aspirated vomit and immediately had pneumonia and was deathly ill. But he is a fighter and pulled through. He had suffered an anoxic brain injury from lack of oxygen, affecting a little bit of his memory, which got better over time.
Ryan spent 4 out of the last 5 months of his life in jail. We had such high hopes that things would be better when he came home, after all the tears, pain and struggle we had just dealt with for the 4 -5 months with him in jail because he got kicked out of treatment for using. But it was only a matter of days before he was using heroin with a guy he met while he was in jail. I told Ryan he couldn’t stay where we were living if he was going to be using heroin, we could not afford to get kicked out and I didn’t want him to die. My biggest fear was that I would come home and fine him dead. The countless sleepless nights spent worrying, laying there next to him with my head or hand on his chest making sure he was breathing. He used to always say it seemed like I was happy when he ended up in jail. No, I wasn’t happy, id rather him be out and home with me but when he was locked up, I knew he was safe and alive. I didn’t have to worry about finding him dead.
1:26 am on 11/28/17 Ryan called to tell me that he was on his way home. “I’m on my way home, I’ll see you soon, I love you” he said. I told him I loved him too and waited for him to get home. I had no clue those words we had just spoke, would be the last we’d speak to one another. My life was about to be forever changed.
Shortly after 2am I received a phone call from a friend of ours that was with Ryan, stating that they were home parked out front and that Ryan was passed out in the front seat and he needed my assistance in helping him get in the house. Passed out??? Immediately my stomach grew sick as I went outside, my eyes drawn immediately to Ryan’s face through the passenger window. I knew that very instant he wasn’t just “passed out”. He was overdosing and nearly dead. His eyes open, in a dead state, unable to move, barely a gurgle for a breath. I couldn’t find a pulse. This was not happening, he wasn’t dying, no not happening. I immediately began giving him CPR as I yelled and screamed to call 911. Frantic, a I grabbed my phone and also called 911, yelling for his buddy to get my Narcan kit from my purse. He couldn’t find it, I told him to take over CPR while I run to get it. He stated he didn’t know how to do CPR. This was not happening, I couldn’t let him die. I ran to get the Narcan kit and was back to do CPR within seconds. I administered the Narcan and nothing,
no response. Why is the narcan not working he isnt waking up I kept screaming into the phone at the 911 operator until paramedics arrived. They gave him a 2nd dose of Narcan and still nothing. He was rushed to the hospital where shortly after he arrived he went in to cardiac arrest and his heart stopped. They got it beating again but he had been without oxygen so he had to be placed on a ventilator to breath for him. His prognosis wasn’t good they told me, as I stood next to him in the ER, alone. How could this be happening? A family conference with the Drs was scheduled and 5 days later on 12/3/2017 I stood by his side, holding his hand so very tight, tears pouring down my face, my heart breaking into a million pieces as I watched the man I was to spend the rest of my life with, take his last breath, his heart one last beat. At 1:50 PM 12/3/2017 Ryan was gone. The substance he was sold, I believe was laced with fentanyl, killed him. The hospital didn’t test him for Fentanyl despite my numerous avid requests to have it done. Why didn’t they test him for it? My gut tells me it’s because they screwed up by giving him fentanyl when he was going through a induced hypothermia procedure. He was already overdosing on something, was that something fentanyl, and when the hospital gave him more it contributed to his prognosis turning more grim, resulting in death? After 4 months of waiting for police to call back, they finally did and I was able to give them the remaining baggie of substance and have it sent to the forensics lab and tested. Horrified, heartbroken, and just numb as I try to wrap my head around the question “is this really happening?” I live in denial, refusing to believe he’s really gone. We were supposed to spend the rest of our lives together, I may not get to spend forever with him, but he got to spend the rest of his forever with me.
Today, as I figure out how to even begin the grieving process, I am an advocate/ambassador for a non-profit called Shatterproof, a national organization fighting to reduce the devastation and stigma surrounding addiction, and bring awareness and education to our communities. I was recently awarded a scholarship from the addiction policy Forum to go to Washington DC and meet with Congress and share his story and discuss different roadblocks when it comes to getting somebody into treatment, medicated assistant programs and most importantly education and stigma. I share his story, our story in hopes one day someone struggling listens to it and something from our story is enough to save their life. His death has brought purpose to not only his life but to mine. I love him with all my heart and soul. May you rest in peace until it’s time to meet me at the heavens gate..
Please dont sit and be silent. Stand up and be their voice. Share your story in hopes, too, that yours will save a life.