Ryan woke from a near-fatal drug overdose and realized things in his life needed to change
In 2009, Ryan Ries co-founded the Whosoevers, a movement that uses live music, skateboarding, and street art to allow people to openly talk about substance and sex addiction – things Ryan once struggled with.
"At one point in my life, I was in this room at my friends and I was putting ecstasy, heroin and coke together and I was shooting it up while smoking crack, and drinking," he says. "I mean, it got dark."
Now, he says, "I'm doing 20 times more than I was doing before. I'm living. And I'm doing things I never thought I'd be doing."
Ryan poetically likens life to a puzzle of 5000 pieces. His pieces included a house, Harleys motorcycles, lots of girls, playboy mansion parties, travelling the world...
"The porn star girls would host our parties," he says.
"But nothing got me off anymore. I was empty. Nothing made me happy."
Ryan's out-of-control life began when he was introduced to the rave scene as a skateboard-obsessed high schooler in the 1990s, taking cocaine experimentally at first, habitually later, and becoming addicted to pornography.
His life took off when he got a job offer as a team manager for a professional skateboard company.
"I'm traveling the world nine months out of the year, I'm working with some of the biggest rock bands and hip hop bands in the world.
"It feels good for a while, but what happens is this hole in my heart keeps getting bigger and bigger. And I had to keep filling it with more girls, more drugs, and more alcohol.
"My life was wake up, go to work, go skate, go get wasted. I felt like a dog chasing its tail."
Ryan says he saw 16 of his friends die of drug overdose or suicide and that his life became dark to the point where he "didn't care if he lived or died".
"While travelling in Panama City, I used cocaine, Xanax, and alcohol for nine days straight which led to a near-fatal drug overdose.
"One of my team riders found me and I wasn't responding, they thought I was dead."
When he woke up he remembers telling the team, "I've got to change everything. This isn't working, I'm not happy".
"I remember looking at the sky and going, 'God, if you exist, prove that you're real to me'," he says. "I expected Jesus to show up in the clouds of glory— nothing."
Ryan knew if Jesus was real, he would find Him in the Bible. He stole one from the hotel and read it during the entire six-hour flight from Panama City to LA-X. His skateboarding team gave him looks; "The cocaine pirate is actually reading the Bible, are you kidding me right now?"
"When the plane landed I had peace in my life for the first time... in my life, I think. I just felt peace," he says.
"I remember this prayer my dad would say that was, 'Jesus, forgive me for my sins, come into my life, and fill me with your Holy Spirit'.
"I said, 'God, I have serious issues. I need you to remove these things out of my life'.
"It's been almost eight years now and I haven't drunk alcohol, I haven't used any drugs— I don't even smoke cigarettes anymore, that's a whole other miracle. No heroin, no crack, no Xanax. Nothing."
Ryan says God started taking some of the puzzle pieces and saying, "That doesn't belong in your life!" and throwing them away.
"Smoking. Heroin. Having sex with girls. Watching porn.
"And then He starts getting these other pieces that are part of your life and starts putting the corners together. He starts putting these little pictures together and you start to see the picture of your life.
"All the things I loved to do— I loved throwing parties, I loved being around people, uniting people— those were the desires He put in my heart. Next thing you know, He starts opening doors for me to use my gifts— for His purpose."
With the Whosoevers Ryan started doing concerts in high schools and parks, and big music festivals. Anywhere they would let them tell their stories, they would tell their stories.
Anyone and everyone, he explains, president and "bum" and everyone in between, came together in a worldwide movement to reach out to people with the message of Jesus Christ.
"Before, I had a house, Harleys, girls; I was travelling the world, I was living my dream. What could God have for me if I already had this?" Ryan says.
"What I didn't know at that time was He had the dopest plan I could ever imagine.
"Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Whosoever. Anybody. And that's you."•