Ryan’s Story

Photograph of a white young man with dark hair, looking into the camera with a furrowed brow. Behind him, not in focus, are other young men. They are all wearing dark coloured clothesWhen you’re growing up it’s important to be aware of your relationships with other people, from your parents to friends, teachers or colleagues. Sometimes it can be hard to leave friendship circles that don’t make you happy. Ryan realised his local friends were affecting his wellbeing and his attitude to life. He began to recognise that by continuing to hang out with certain groups – which mainly involved drugs, alcohol and repeated offending – would mean a downward spiral for him. He knew he had to distance himself, but this wasn’t easy as they were his only friends and they lived nearby.

Relationships at home are sometimes difficult to navigate, too. If family life starts to become difficult it is really important that people still talk to each other, or find someone to help them. Sometimes, like in the Ryan’s case, organisations like Addaction can help out – getting you back on good speaking terms with your mum or dad, or helping you decide which friends are good for you and how to be confident enough to make life changing decisions.

“Ryan’s story demonstrates very clearly just how much relationships can affect mental well-being.” – Emma, Addaction Keyworker.

Ryan initially came to Young Addaction service after committing an offence of criminal damage within his home. He lived in an area of huge deprivation and poverty which was historically an ex-coal mining village. Ryan was angry a lot of the time and he hadn’t been in school for a few years because he was quite disruptive. Ryan left education with no qualifications.

Ryan lived with his mother, who was separated from his father. In his early years Ryan had a pretty good relationship with both of his parents. However, during his teenage years things started to fall apart.

Ryan’s life became more chaotic after he had acted out and caused criminal damage. He was smoking cannabis and this caused problems at home. Ryan lost his temper frequently, arguing with his mother. He was violent, sometimes throwing furniture around the house and hitting both his mother and his girlfriend. Soon after, Ryan split up with his girlfriend.

Ryan told his Addaction key worker that he wanted his life to change and improve. He was keen to go to college in the autumn and didn’t want to be, “like all the other kids around here”. Given the opportunity, space and time for reflection, and with careful encouragement, Ryan managed to see his life a bit more objectively. He began to think about what he needed to do in order to change.

Ryan’s local friends were affecting his well-being and attitude to life. Over time he began to recognise that by continuing to hang out with certain groups – which mainly involved drugs, alcohol and repeated offending – would mean a downward spiral for himself. He knew he had to distance himself, but this wasn’t easy as he lived amongst them and at the time they were his only friends.

Addaction worked together with Ryan through the difficult process of gradually removing himselffrom his peers. Ryan developed coping strategies and started to hang around with some older, more stable young people. By this stage he was also considering positive life plans and was hoping to go to college in September, so he had the prospect of making new friends there.

Ryan’s relationship with his mother was considered key to changing his life too. Ryan said his mother had developed a habit of finding fault with him and constantly putting him down. Ryan’s Addaction key worker found that although he was becoming calmer and happier through Addaction’s self-esteem and self-awareness training, he would return home to constant criticism which was undoing all the good work that was being achieved. Ryan’s mother was unaware of how difficult it was for Ryan to make these changes in his life, and how hard it was for him to distance himself from his peers and find new friends. She also found it hard to appreciate just how enthusiastic and committed he was to changing his life and how well he was doing.

Addaction and the local Youth Offending Team parenting workers took the time to work weekly with Ryan’s mother and also his father. They were both coached to take a similar, firm, but positive approach to their son. Ryan’s mother, although reluctant to start with, took the changes on board and began to change the way she spoke to Ryan and be more mindful of how she reacted to him in certain situations.

Ryan then enrolled and worked on a fitness programme. Regular attendance made him feel fitter, healthier, more attractive and greatly improved his feelings of self-worth and confidence while his drug taking was reduced.

Eventually Ryan gained a place on a painting and decorating course at college. In the past, negative experiences at school had made him wary of learning and because he had been out of the mainstream education for so long, he had little belief in his own abilities and worried he wouldn’t be able to cope. However, unlike the schools and previous teachers Ryan had encountered, this particular college was very understanding of his behavioural issues and worked with Addaction to help Ryan.

Ryan’s relationship with his father has now improved to the extent that he will have a job in his father’s painting and decorating business when he finishes college. This is a great, motivating factor for him. He continues to keep fit and visit the gym and often says how positive he feels about the changes he has made and how much happier he feels now that he is back in control of his life.

Ryan’s key worker Emma says: “After the initial few weeks, Ryan was very insightful of his own predicament and deserves huge credit for the amount of effort and work he put in to improve his life. However his story demonstrates very clearly just how much relationships can affect emotional wellbeing. We had to work with Ryan’s mother and father too – as well as his college tutors, in order for his life to improve. Ryan himself was savvy enough to know he had to leave his friends behind but with support from Addaction he was able to do so. Sometimes it’s managing the relationships in our lives which can make all the difference to recovery.”