When Ryder B. started his freshman year at Cal State Long Beach, he wasn’t planning on joining a fraternity. But a girl he liked joined a sorority and told him that if he didn’t join a frat, then they wouldn’t be able to hang out. The rest was history.
“Some people could separate school and partying, and I couldn’t,” says Ryder, reflecting on how his drinking and drugging career turned from youthful thrill-seeking into a full-blown problem. By junior year, Ryder had dropped out. “It morphed into something I could no longer control. Doing drugs and drinking became more important than my education, and I just gave up,” he says.
After he dropped out, Ryder started working as a bartender—the perfect gig for any budding alcoholic. He’d drink heavily during his shifts but was mostly able to at least give the appearance of being a functioning adult. Things got worse when he started breaking the rules he had set for himself, like never drinking at home, and never drinking alone. “My life was steadily getting worse and worse, and the drinking was getting heavier and heavier,” Ryder says.
Ryder thought that getting out of the bar scene might improve things, so he took a job selling high-end furniture at a shop on Venice Boulevard, across the street from Beit T’Shuvah. Driving past the campus every morning on his way to work, it never occurred to him that he’d one day be a resident.
Selling furniture, Ryder was completely miserable. He’d hit the liquor store at 6 am before his shift and wander around the sales floor hammered. One day, he passed out on a sofa and was woken up by paramedics. His manager recommended Ryder check into the place across the street: Beit T’Shuvah.
Ryder admits that he didn’t take rehab all that seriously at first. “I was tired of life at the time and figured I’ll do three months of treatment, reset, and go back to work,” he says. But he ended up getting really into AA and spent 14 months at Beit T’Shuvah that first time around. He started working as a personal trainer at Equinox and was building a solid book of clients. Things were looking up.
But when Ryder was discharged, he had no plans on staying sober. “I knew months before leaving BTS that I was going to try drinking again,” he says. He thought that maybe his past substance abuse was just due to bad circumstances—a job he hated, a bad relationship. Now that he was stable, he thought that he could drink again.
It was fine until it wasn’t. Ryder ended up back at Beit T’Shuvah in 2019 after a couple of bad binges. Ryder was doing well, diving deeper with his therapist in his one-on-one sessions, and taking real estate classes.
Then, the pandemic hit.
“Everything shut down for me,” he says. “I was supposed to start working at one of the top real estate firms in L.A. I had an interview scheduled for the day after the shutdown order. I missed my opportunity that I was working so hard on, and it broke me.” Being confined to his room for 22 hours a day, Ryder got stir crazy. So he decamped to a vacant Airbnb that his dad owned. Ryder’s pandemic vacation quickly devolved into non-stop heavy drinking. His close friend, Josh Kanter, urged Ryder to re-admit himself, and he checked back into Beit T’Shuvah on June 1st.
Ryder became interested in pursuing a career in clinical work one month ago when he realized he was getting so much out of his therapy sessions. “In my sessions, I liked that I could become open and honest with another person. I wanted to dig into why I am the way I am, and I wanted to change my narrative,” he says. Exploring his newfound passion, he started offering informal counseling sessions to fellow residents and found that he had a knack for helping people through their problems. It was also the thing that gave him the most joy.
Ryder recently started an internship as a Program Facilitator. He is still working on his real estate classes and plans on going back to school to finish his bachelor’s degree and then get his master’s. For now, he’s happy helping others. “For some reason, even though I can’t fix my problems, I can maybe help others,” Ryder laughs.