Choose Positive Living with Sara Troy and her guest Ryan Skinner aired June 28th
Dedicated to raising money for children who have been orphaned by parents who lost their struggle with addictions, veterans who are battling those destructive demons and the homeless, The Ryan Fund is one of the ways I have chosen to make good on my second chance at life. I was blessed with this in recovery after struggling for years with multiple addictions. The Ryan Fund is an extension of my mission to be of service, and to show people that despite the great odds, there is always hope.
When I think about how the idea for The Ryan Fund became an essential part of my life, several powerful images come to mind. When I was younger, I would drive down the highway into Boston and see a billboard with a picture of a beat up station wagon and the caption, “Apartment that Sleeps a Family of Six.” It was a wake up call to the homelessness and poverty that I had been blind to. I’ve always been a spiritual person, so I would pray to God to help me find a way to make a difference in the lives of people who lacked what I took for granted. At one point during my downward spiral of addiction, I lost my house to foreclosure and began waking up in sketchy places. This helped me understand their plight in ways I hoped I would never have to. When I entered the recovery phase, one of my goals was to give back and be a blessing to others. I began talking to addicts and those in recovery and donated extensively to numerous charities.
But there was still something more I knew I could do. The trigger to starting my own organisation, The Ryan Fund happened May 1, 2015, when I saw in the Boston Herald a photo of a 10 year old girl who had been orphaned by her parents, who died of overdoses just two weeks apart. I was immediately motivated to act. I reached out and contacted the organisation that was in charge of placing her or finding her a home. I inquired about adopting her. Because of my background of addictions, they wouldn’t let me apply. But I still wanted to give this girl and others like her a better life. That was the start of The Ryan Fund, but I have since expanded its outreach to help veterans and the homeless as well. These are our heroes who fought for our freedom and the system is letting so many of them down. They descend into addiction to help them cope with their problems and then get on a downward spiral intofull-blownn addiction. They need our help. The homeless need our help as well. I’m honoured now to have the opportunity to contribute to helping them find their way out of the darkness.
I just want to do something for these kids, veterans and the homeless – and look forward to working with The Ryan Fund to serve as many of them as possible. Working in the financial service for many years has well prepared me for the journey and challenges that lie ahead.
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Under the leadership of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Bay State has embarked on an extraordinary effort to become a “#StateWithoutStigMA” – using education as a tool to de-stigmatise drug misuse and addiction so that those who suffer from the chronic disease will become more likely to seek help or treatment. In her official message, Sudders writes, “Stigma hurts. Treatment works and recovery is possible.” No Massachusetts native more powerfully embodies the reality of this hope and deliverance from that darkness than Ryan Skinner.
While acknowledging that recovery is a lifelong process, Ryan is grateful that he can now share a harrowing story with a happy ending – because a handful of years ago, it easily could have ended for him in tragedy. He and some other friends he made who made it out – husbands, fathers, business owners, employees – hang out together weekly in a group Ryan and his sponsor Billy began hosting in his living room. They call their group “Dead Men on Vacation (DMOV),” because, he said, “Based on what we did to ourselves as addicts, we should all be dead.
We’re all grateful for second chances.”
People often find it ironic when Ryan tells them that being a drug addict was the best thing that could ever have happened to him, but they understand him once he explains: “I had a terrible fall and thank God now that I can help people who are going through it. It gave me a purpose and a strong connection with divinity and my fellow human beings and in essence, made me bulletproof. When parents come to me feeling hopeless about their addicted child and tell me ‘people don’t recover,’ I tell them ‘I recovered.’ Looking back, I realize that I was a cancer in the lives of my parents, the children of my ex-wife and so many others – but now my only goal is to be a blessing to people. My day to day joy comes from being there for others like so many were there for me. If one less mother can cry herself to sleep because of me and my story, I feel like everything I have been through was worth it.