‘The greatest things in my life happened after I asked for help and told people how I was feeling, so my biggest piece of advice would be to reach out and communicate because there are more people in this world than we realize who are going through the same thing.’ – R.B.
Chef and published children’s book author, Ryan Bourquin, is speaking out about his experience with drug and alcohol abuse, and significantly, his journey to a sober, fulfilling life.
A very athletic guy, Ryan is currently living in Calgary where he can typically be found in the outdoors hiking and doing activities with his daughter. The father and daughter duo stay busy with projects and spending time with friends and family.
But Ryan is also part of a few different campaigns that aim to promote mental health awareness and communication with families and children. For Ryan, the spiral into drugs and alcohol he experienced as a teenager was due in part to a lack of a father figure and a family that was often in turmoil. Here he shares some details:
“I always had my family around but communication, or at least positive communication, was always fairly nonexistent and because of this I never used proper outlets or coping mechanisms. I was always a very sensitive person and I had it put in my head that that was a weakness. So when things would happen in my life and I would experience hurt, I would turn towards drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, whether that pain was from childhood issues of abandonment or self-esteem issues that developed as I grew.
Along with hurting myself with my habits I started hurting everybody in my life with the choices I made around self-destruction. When I found drugs and alcohol I felt like I was somebody else other than the person who should have been facing the root causes of hurt and learning positive coping mechanisms.”
As he grew out of his teens, Ryan had periods of good healthy living as well as periods of alcohol abuse. Like so many of us, he felt shame about his dangerous habits, which only pushed him to use more. And like so many of us, the shame pushed him to keep his struggle a secret.
“Although I was very successful in my career and doing well I always hid who I was and the use of my habits, so many people in my life didn’t actually know what was going on behind the scenes regarding my struggles. I was constantly running away from who I was and how I felt.
I would have very good experiences with people in my life and then anytime something shifted I would turn back to my old habits and use just to temporarily forget about the hurt; I would always cause so much more pain and carnage during those times and it just kept adding up.”
Ryan wasn’t ready to face his destructive patterns head on until he entered his thirties. The biggest motivators for personal accountability and change were the birth of his beautiful daughter and then, shortly after, the death of his beautiful mother.
“It wasn’t until I had my daughter that I really stopped running from who I was and started facing the things I went through. I dug down to who I was and what I went through beginning in my childhood all the way through my teens to actually discover what the root causes were of the things that I was running from.
After I lost my mom it made me realize how fragile life was and how much I was taking for granted and how selfish I was being with people in my life. It was a time where I felt so much remorse and guilt because there were so many things I always wanted to say and do and share and I never got the chance and then it was too late. I believe through this loss was the beginning of being able to heal and grow to who I am now.”
I was very curious to know how, after making the decision to get better, did he manage to put aside the dangerous habits for good?
“I got to a point in my life where I was tired of hurting and tired of running so I started going into counseling and into programs to discover who I was and how to heal myself.
I found it took only a few simple things to do: communicate with people around me, be completely honest with myself, and get the courage to look in the mirror and work on myself instead of others.
If I were to give any advice to anybody through anything I do it is to not run from emotions and be able to sit and understand why you are feeling the way you do and remember that it doesn’t last forever.
And if you get to a spot where the hurt is overwhelming, pick up a phone and contact somebody you care about and just express your emotions because I always thought that it would be an inconvenience to people to share what I was going through when I was hurting, but the truth is people who love you will always want to be there beside you.”
‘I wanted to have a life of happiness. And there was only one way to get there and that was healing and accepting who I was and realizing that I am a person deserving of love and happiness.’ R.B.
Ryan is the author of Big Bad Dad, and Chef at Tailored Taste! You can follow him here on facebook and here on Instagram. For more information about the mental health awareness project he is part of click here Project Nightlight.