Emerge Mission Moment – Ryan Doll

“The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying.”  – John C. Maxwell


Life can sometimes feel like a never-ending thunderstorm, but Ryan Doll is an example of the ways in which we can all weather the storm together.

Ryan grew up in a two-parent household with two younger brothers. “I came from a great family. I grew up playing sports and getting really good grades,” he said, going on to mention that his grades were so good that he won awards within the school. He was a bright and talented kid with a very hopeful future.

Then high school started. At the age of 15, Ryan began hanging out with a group of friends he described as “bad influences.” During this time, he began smoking and drinking. “The school told me that I could stay and likely get expelled, or I could drop out and get my GED,” he said. Ryan chose to get his GED.

At the age of 16, Ryan broke his leg and began what would be a long and hard battle with addiction. The doctors prescribed him Tylenol 3 which is composed of acetaminophen and codeine. “I ran out of my prescription, and they would no longer refill it,” said Ryan. “I felt horrible.” 

His father suffered from a crippling disease and was prescribed pain medication to make him more comfortable. “I told my dad that they wouldn’t fill my prescription, and my dad offered me a few of his pain pills to ease my pain,” he said. “I think it was his way of bonding with me.” Ryan noted that it was during this time that he began to significantly change. “I was just living to get high,” he said.

At the age of 18, Ryan was still hanging out with his group of friends and continuing to use. However, things took an even worse turn when Ryan was introduced to OxyContin  and then heroin. Ryan was in and out of rehab facilities and jail during this time. “I just wasn’t ready to stop; I hadn’t had bad enough consequences,” he said. At age 19, one of his childhood friends overdosed on Fentanyl. After this, more of his friends began passing away from overdoses. “I was mad and angry at God,” said Ryan, “but at the time we would throw a party after a funeral and all use drugs to deal with the sadness.”

In his early 20s, Ryan continued to reside with his parents and still lived to get high every day. But around this time, he noticed that some of his friends had gotten sober. He was introduced to meetings and met a man who wanted to and would help in his journey of sobriety. “It was such a positive experience; I actually felt like people genuinely wanted to help,” he said.

However, recovery is never a single-step solution. “I still hadn’t hit rock bottom, and I felt guilty for the influence I had on my brothers,” Ryan said. It was around this time that Ryan went to The Christopher house. The first two stays at The Christopher house didn’t stick, but on his third stay, he was ready. “I didn’t want to keep living my life this way,” he said.

Ryan said that transitional housing was the thing that saved his life. “I was scared. I had no clue how to live,” he said. With transitional housing, he was able to start living independently and began a new chapter of his life. “I started to find my old passions,” he said. “I grew up fishing, and a week into my sobriety I went fishing with people who were also recovering.”

The most impactful moments of Ryan’s life would happen 60 days into recovery when he went on a white-water rafting trip to West Virginia through the recovery program. “I remember looking out the window on the drive and bawling my eyes out, and again when I went down the river and saw the giant gorge on both sides. It was beautiful,” he said. “It was the first time since I was a kid that I actually experienced something.”

Unfortunately, at six months sober his father passed away after fighting his disease. Ryan remained positive saying, “My dad wanted to see me sober, and I got to be there, at the end, holding his hand completely sober. It meant the world to me.” Ryan remained sober.

On December 21, 2013, Ryan’s younger brother passed away. “It hurt, but I knew there were people out there who cared about me and would help me deal with my grief,” he said. 

Ryan was very active in attending meetings and to this day goes back and joins people on the white-water rafting trips. Through the meetings, he met a woman named Lydia with whom he fell in love. She was an alcoholic who was in recovery, but eventually she would pass away at age 34 on October 6, 2019. “I felt alone, but I knew I wasn’t,” he said. 

Ryan has been clean and sober since July 1, 2014. His youngest brother has now been sober for a year and a half. Ryan is working at Five Star in the plumbing warehouse and got his brother a job at the HVAC warehouse. Ryan’s message is all about persistence and the importance of a support system. “When you have faith in recovery and people around you who love you, nothing is impossible,” he said. “We are all one decision away from screwing up, but having a system of support reminds me that I am not alone anymore.”