SALT LAKE CITY — Ryan Stream has spoken and performed in front of hundreds of people, spreading addiction awareness, but he’s never forgotten where he came from.
He joined the Project Recovery podcast to talk about his experience growing up homeless, struggling with substance abuse, and how serving in Afghanistan changed his life.
Growing up in a broken household
Ryan grew up in a broken household with his three brothers and parents who battled their own struggles with addiction. His parents would bounce in and out of jail due to their actions that stemmed from their addictive tendencies. As Ryan’s parents began to spend more time in jail, he and his brothers would eventually be taken away to stay in foster care.
But that challenges never stopped there. Ryan and his brothers would ultimately continue to struggle to find their footing in life. They began a vicious cycle of shifting in and out of homeless shelters, foster homes, and even living on the streets.
“I remember watching my mother in jail, yelling for her. To my dad being arrested multiple times and crying for my mom and dad in a foster home and asleep some nights in a homeless shelter,” he described.
He and his brothers eventually found a home with the Stream family. Despite Ryan’s shaky start in life, he began to excel in both school and athletics. He would become the school’s homecoming king with dreams of becoming a basketball player.
Moving forward in life
Ryan’s passion for basketball would only go so far though, due to his height limitations. So instead, he decided to join the military. Alongside his commitment to his country, he would also begin to work for the coal mining industry. After receiving a $20,000 sign-on bonus and making $25 an hour, he thought he had finally made it. Things were starting to look great for Ryan.
Since he was constantly working hard, he would party on the weekends to let loose. But in those times, his childhood traumas began to affect him. He started to mask his sadness and depression by abusing substances. Ryan didn’t quite know how to cope with the pain he was feeling so instead, he numbed it.
Growing up in a broken household full of addiction had finally taken its toll on Ryan.
“I wanted to escape my surroundings and I wanted to get high. I wanted to use the ecstasy and the cocaine, the speed, everything. Just to escape my reality,” he said.
So he began to party harder and for longer periods of time. And then it all started to catch up with him.
Ryan was beginning to succumb to the same thing that had overtaken his parents when he was a child.
Struggling to cope with his addiction
All of the fun weekend nights were starting to add up. His addictive behaviors began to show themselves and in the span of a couple of years, Ryan had become a full-blown addict.
“No one in the world wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to be an alcoholic or I’m going to be addicted to drugs’,” Ryan described. “It’s a path you start down.”
Ryan’s addiction ultimately cost him his job. After that, Ryan would become a completely different person.
“I lost my job at the coal mine because I wanted to go play and I didn’t have an apartment and the bank was looking for my car and I started to go to jail,” Ryan described. “I just started to use drugs because I wanted to numb my feelings.”
Ryan’s addiction was in full control and the positive person he once was, was no longer.
“I was a lowlife. It hurts to say that but I was a nobody,” Ryan explained. “When you have to have something to fix your addiction, that’s scary because you’ll do whatever it takes,”
Ryan hits rock bottom
He continued to be in the military but outside of that, Ryan was running and gunning.
“I would literally go out and party until 4 am and I would be back in my bunk trying to get sleep for an hour before we’d have to go out,” he described.
Alongside his addiction, Ryan began to get in trouble with the law. He was involved in a hit-and-run without insurance, assaulting a police officer, and racked up over $30,000 in court debt.
He had officially hit his rock bottom.
“I understood that if I kept doing this than I’m done,” Ryan said. “It just came to the point where I’m going to die or be like my mom and dad.”
While appearing in front of a judge for a charge against him, he pleaded and begged to let him be deployed to Afghanistan.
“I begged and pleaded, please let me go to Afghanistan,” he said. “I said, please judge, I need to escape my surroundings and go to Afghanistan. That judge got up, walked down, and he gave me a hug.”
The judge ultimately agreed with Ryan. They set up payment plans and allowed him to be deployed to the war in hopes of coming out a better person.
Ryan begins his work in spreading addiction awareness
While detoxing during his deployment, Ryan found himself constantly thinking about music. He turned to music in times of boredom but it also allowed him to push away his addictive behaviors. He realized he could also begin spreading addiction awareness through his passion.
“When I was in Afghanistan, I would rap, I would beatbox, I would sing all over the place when we were on missions all over the place,” he described.
He was finally thinking with a clear head thanks to the power of music and being away from his surroundings.
After serving his time overseas, he knew that he wanted to continue spreading addiction awareness. So that’s exactly what he did. He started writing music to try and increase awareness surrounding addiction.
Since then, Ryan’s performed for dozens of events and has even begun traveling all across the country. He speaks wherever he can to help spread his message in the hopes of making a difference for others who might be in his same position.
“It’s amazing how when we’re able to share our downfalls and then our way back, how other people can grab on and say thank you, I’m trying to do the same,” he described.
Listen to the podcast to learn more about Ryan’s work in spreading addiction awareness
You can learn more about Ryan and his working in spreading addiction awareness using the link here. You can also find his music on YouTube. For more information on addiction or if you or someone you know is struggling, you can find more information on Facebook, KSL TV, or from Use Only as Directed. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.
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