Tim Ryan’s passion is hard to contain. Since announcing last month the start of the Opiate Recovery Group here in the area, the businessman and former heroin addict has received nothing but positive feedback about his aggressive attempts to “help one addict at a time.”
But it’s the one he recently lost that’s “fueling my fire” even more.
Around 7 a.m. Friday, the 45-year-old Naperville man and his ex-wife Shannon rushed to Hinsdale Hospital after receiving news their 20-year-old son had overdosed in a home in Darien.
They’d seen it before. Eight times, as a matter of fact, including the one time Nicholas had overdosed in the family home when they lived in Oswego.
But on the way to the hospital, Shannon, a nurse, told her ex she had “a bad feeling” about this one.
Instead of a doctor, it was a chaplain who met the parents when they arrived.
“I hate to say it, but I was prepared for this … I knew it would happen at some point,” Ryan said when I spoke to him just hours after he learned his eldest of four children had died.
“I figure it was probably the first time he used since getting out of jail,” where Nicholas, who had battled addiction since junior high, had spent six weeks on drug-related charges.
“It’s the nature of the drug. He thought he was invincible.”
Ryan said he’d reached out to his son on Facebook the day before, begging him to come to the naloxone training he was helping to run Thursday at Wheatland Salem United Methodist Church in Naperville.
But like so many addicts, Nicholas only pushed him further away.
Like so many family members, Ryan had to “love him from a distance.”
Now his son’s death will become part of Ryan’s own tragic back story … and more reason than ever to continue the crusade he started not long after finishing up his own 13-month stint in prison on DUI-related charges.
Ryan’s not afraid to talk about his own 12-year struggle with heroin that included rehabs, relapses, DUIs overdoes, bankruptcy, prison and divorce. Now clean for 20 months, the 45-year-old professional job recruiter has quickly become one of the most outspoken in a growing army of local advocates, many of whom are in this fight because of their own addictions or those of loved ones.
Ryan told me he’s planning on being at a Narcotics Recovery meeting that same evening.
And he was also going ahead with the naloxone training Thursday, in partnership with Caroline Kacena, a Naperville mom who lost her own 20-year-old son, John, to a heroin overdose two years ago.
“Even with so many prevention and awareness programs out there now,” he told me when I wrote an earlier column about his mission, “there’s not much for people struggling with their heroin addictions, especially the kids.”
That’s why Ryan and Kacena are among those determined to get this effective anti-overdose drug into the hands of all first responders, as well as family and friends of heroin addicts. Being able to reverse the deadly affects of the opiates is a proven way to keep them alive, Kacena insists, until they are ready for a better shot at recovery.
Who knows if naloxone would have saved Nicholas on Friday.
Ryan said a doctor told him his son had likely been dead a couple of hours when he got to the hospital. The drug task force from the Hinsdale Police Department, he said, are planning to aggressively go after whoever supplied his son with the heroin that killed him.
And this father, even in his raw grief, is not backing down either.
“I will push even harder, stronger …” he vowed on a Facebook post the morning his son died. “… I’m going to move mountains to fight this evil.”Tags: Heroin
What: Naloxone training session
Where: Wheatland Salem United Methodist Church, 1852 W. 95th Street, Naperville
When: 7 p.m. Thursday