Ryan H - Belfair, WA


Hello, my name is Ryan and I am 23 years old.  I was born on May 8th 1986 in Tacoma, Washington.  I have two sisters, one older and younger than me.  I spent most of my years growing up in a small town located on the Hood Canal called Belfair.  I grew up under the impression that money was the answer for everything.  Even though my parents were both confessing Catholics, I was never taught about the Bible or the power of prayer.  Mass was just something we attended on Sunday mornings followed by a nice brunch.  My Dad and Mom lived a costly life style when I was younger and I was surrounded by wealthy families.  Money seemed to be the key to resolve everyone’s problems.  If you were in trouble with your kids, go buy them something.  If your wife was mad at you for working too much, buy her something.  My dad, Jim, worked a lot to try and make enough money to keep everyone happy.  This kind of relationship can only last so long and there came a point where I wanted and needed quality time with my Dad.

When I was nine years old my Dad invited me to go on a trip with him.  Finally, my opportunity to spend some time with him came when I joined him on a business trip to Arizona.  He set me up with some of his friends to do some fishing during the day while he was at work.  It was on this trip when my Dad introduced me to his “lady” friend.  She spent most of the vacation with us and I really enjoyed her because she bought me all sorts of things.   When it was time for me to go home I boarded the airplane by myself. When my plane landed my Mom, Caron, was there to pick me up. I instantly told my mom all about Dad’s new “lady” friend.  This was the final straw to their marriage.  This one decision had a tremendous affect on me because life as I knew it was taking a turn for the worse.  My two sisters and I were told by both my parents that they were addicted to drugs and treatment was needed.  Upon receiving this news we were also told that we were going to need to move, change schools, make new friends and live with family that we barely knew.  This huge change was overwhelming to me.  All the attention was on my parent’s getting help… not us kids.  I remember no one would talk to my sisters and me about the circumstances of what was going on.  The constant moving, and not knowing where my parents were, lasted for about five years.  During this time I was under the impression that I was suppose to be unaffected by the situation and that I was still expected to excel and behave normal.

Since I was nine years old I have felt alone, not able to talk to anyone.  There were always bigger problems that needed to be addressed.  It was hard for me to make friends because I would rather isolate.  I thought if I wasn’t around other people no one could get mad or yell at me.  I remember my sisters would have to bring lunch and dinner out on the dock because I would not want to come home.  I spent daybreak to dark fishing by myself.  This caused me to have low self-esteem because I feared rejection and failure.  I would reject people before they would get the chance to reject me. 

I meet Duane DeNotta in the summer of 1999.  Duane had a son named Joe and we became friends instantly.  At this time I was unaware that Duane was interested in my Mom.  Joe and I would hang out everyday for summers on end.  My best memories were of the mischief that we caused in the summers.  I liked Duane because he would take the time to show me valuable things.  He was the closest thing that I had to a dad in years.  He taught me how to work, hunt and play football.  He played college football and had to work hard to get everything in his life.  He explained to me that anything worth value in your life will cost you more then just money.  Duane could afford to have anything done for him yet he refused to pay someone to do something he could do.  Needless to say he became my role model instantly.  He was busier then anyone I had ever met, yet he still took time to teach Joe and me things that were essential towards becoming a responsible adult.  He also helped give me some confidence in myself that I needed. 

Duane would tell me stuff like you have amazing athletic ability for your size and you can become better then anyone else on the football team.  I finally had a dream and a vision to work towards. It was something I wanted to do along with something that I could achieve.  Our starting tight end got put on academic probation so I was put in the game.  I was more nervous then I had ever been before in my life.  I did well that night and got “Player of Game” recognition.   From then on I played Varsity Football and started becoming confident in myself.  After the football games we would all go out into the woods and party.  It was always fun after then games because it gave us an excuse to get crazy.  We would party if we had a victory and also if we lost.  Wherever there was beer in High School there was also girls, fights, and drugs.  I thought that I had found the perfect solution to my problems when I found alcohol.  It gave me confidence to say and do things that I wanted to do all my life.  The fear seemed to disappear whenever I was drunk.  I realized that there were also people around smoking weed at parties and soon enough I became drawn to the drug scene.

Through some family friends I was introduced to the biggest drug dealer in the area.  I started fronting drugs to a couple of people at school.  However, I didn’t stop there.  I would give drugs to the receptionist at the High School office in order to know when the drug dogs were going to be on campus.  Since I was so tied up in sports I would sell drugs but not use them.  This theory didn’t last longer then a year.  Once I noticed how much fun everyone seemed to be having I started getting high on my own supply and everything went down hill.  I was informed that my phone line was tapped and people were getting busted by WESTNET (west sound narcotics enforcement team).  The people that were getting busted were doing 8 plus years in Federal Prison.  This is somewhere I was not planning to visit.  Trying to leave this lifestyle behind I realized that all of my dreams and goals had become distant.  College football coaches started to come to my school requesting transcripts; however, my interest was in easy money and influence… not hard work and dedication.   I felt I had already found everything I needed; people needed me and money was fluent.   

The day after I graduated from High School I got into an Electrical Apprenticeship.  It was during this time that I turned my focus to follow the most successful drug dealer that I knew.  He would buy houses in foreclosure and grow marijuana in them for a year.  During this time the house would appreciate in value and he would sell it for an additional profit.  I now had a  trade that was also valuable to the growing operations because I knew how to steal power and offer it to anyone who wanted it. 

I would work in order to buy drugs and use drugs in order to work.  During this time drug use was no longer something that I did for recreation... it became an everyday routine.  I would always try and run from my drug problems.  I thought that everything was the problem except me.  I constantly told myself: it’s the weather, it’s the traffic, it’s the people you work with, it’s the amount you’re getting paid, it’s your family and the way you grew up.  I would play the “blame game” tape over and over again in my head.  So I would move trying to find an escape from reality only to find my problems followed me.  Sometimes I would move and actually sustain from drugs for six to nine months at a time.  Needless to say my drug use would always catch up to me.  This process continued for over three years. 

Ever Since Jennifer, my sister, was 13 years old she suffered from Crohn’s Disease.  This took a huge toll on her life.  From the progression of the disease the doctors said that she was only going to live into her late twenties.  This was a devastating reality to me because my sisters and I grew close over the years.  In 2006 Jennifer became very sick and it was obvious her condition was worsening.  After hours of pain and agony Jennifer finally decided to attend a church service.  After the service the pastor wanted to pray for Jennifer.  At this point any new options were accepted for hopeful relief.   This was a decision that would forever change her life along with everyone in my family.  Jennifer was instantly healed from her disease.  After being healed she couldn’t go back to her old lifestyle and began serving the Lord with all of her heart.  After the Lord healed her she was able to travel to many different third world countries and show the love of Jesus.  My mom was also healed of a life long addiction problem.  This was hope for me because I realized that God was real and He did want to intervene in my life too. 

I thought God would just fix all my problems for me and life was going to be paradise all of the time.  The truth is there was only one thing that I had to change and that was everything.  Authority, surrender, personal rights, relationships and self-discipline were all words I could spell just fine, but I had no idea what the true meaning was.  I was always quick to agree to all of these concepts; however, the commitment was not there.  I could surrender until I thought the problem was bigger then “GOD” and I would reluctantly take matters back into my own hands.  Sometimes I actually thought that I could do a much better job myself.  My track record proved otherwise.

I always thought rules and guidelines were great for everyone else but me.  I would often think that I was some kind of exception to every rule that I did not like.  After countless times of trying and failing I came to the realization that I needed to be truly broken and rebuilt from the ground up.  This would take some time because I had been doing my own will my whole life.  The enemy would constantly tell me that there was no hope for me and that I had messed up too bad, and because I had failed so many times I began to believe this lie and drift away from what the Lord had done in my life.

I first met the Freedom House Ministries team in April of 2009 at a men’s retreat in Tillamook, Oregon.  My parents have a seafood company and were asked to donate seafood for one of the meals.  At this time I had been sustaining from drugs, but everyday was a battle.  There was something different about the Freedom House students and graduates.  I had been to many “treatment centers” before and this was the first group of people I met that were living a life truly free from addictions.  Before this incident I had stood on the belief of being truly “free” from drugs as a “positional truth”.  I believed that it was possible through the Lord, but I had never actually experienced it in my life.   After hearing a couple of testimonies from the Freedom House guys I knew they possessed something I needed.  I pondered about committing to the program but I did not want to commit to a full year.  I wanted the reward of a transformed life but was not willing to go through the hardship and refining that is necessary for transformation to take place.  Within a couple of months after the retreat I was back to my old ways and heroin was an everyday habit that ruled my life.  I found myself doing things I never dreamed of and finally with no options left I made the choice to commit to Freedom House on November 17, 2009.

Since arriving at Freedom House my life has changed more dramatically than ever before.  It is tremendously different then any other program I have experienced.  God’s love is expressed in everyone around me.  My family has grown closer together since the day I arrived.  My Father and sister live in the Portland area and now I spend more time with them then ever before.

There are also a lot of things I have learned about the Lord in my life.  Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  I have learned that the old man or the person I use to be is no longer who I am.  I can now live my life free from the guilt and shame of my past.  Christ has forgiven me of the sin that I committed.  His word tells me who I am and what I am called to become.  Philippians 4:14 says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Today I have a vision to work towards the prize that the Lord has for me. 

I want to thank all of the generous people who have partnered with Freedom House in order to make this opportunity available to men struggling with addictions and life-controlling problems.  Without Freedom House staff, volunteers and generous donations I would still be stuck in my old addictions that were destroying my life.  Thank you so much and bless you for making this opportunity available to me.                                                              

                                                                                                                    Forever Thankful, Ryan


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