As a young man, Ryan Hiatt said he felt he had a hole in his soul and he was missing out on the magic of life.
“At the end of junior high school, I was wondering about my future,” Hiat said. “It was the first time I drank alcohol. When I did, I felt comfortable around people. I thought this was my cure. I was the type of person that pushed things to the limit. By the time I was 21, I was out of control.”
Hiatt, who is 36 and was released from prison two years ago, spoke Thursday night at the Tooele Chamber of Commerce at an event sponsored by the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, a group that focuses on suicide awareness and prevention.
Hiatt wrote the book “Addiction is Real — Recovery is Possible.”
“I became addicted to pain killers. It was constant for me,” he said. “At one time, I was wishing I could just bail in front of a semi and end it. I did not want to face the music.
“I got on cocaine and Oxycontin, and would pound liquor to chase it,” he said.
After a huge party one night near Utah Valley University, he said he was running near the freeway, tripped and planted head-first into mud.
“I woke up and a police officer was standing over me,” Hiatt said. “My body was ice cold and purple. I could hear people say ‘we have a dead guy here.’”
Hiatt said a rookie police officer did not give up on him that night and he survived.
“After that, I thought that I had another shot at life, I would never use drugs again,” he said.
Hiatt told the audience that addiction is a disease of the mind.
“I thought that I could still drink. That I could have my cake and eat it, too,” he said. “But later I overdosed and was driving in American Fork and was out of control and ended up crashing into a tree. It was awful. Families were out there driving — it could have been worse. People could have been killed. I was a menace to society.”
He said he was in and out of jails his entire life.
“I tried to quit for years. For me it had to get horrible. I was hopeless, completely broken,” he said.
Hiatt said he committed several crimes to get money to feed his habit. One night his mug shot appeared on television. He was living in Draper near the Utah State Prison.
“I knew it would be over then, and that my marriage would end,” he said.
Hiatt said his mother, sister, brother and other family members always had faith in him that everything would turn around.
Hiatt ended up in prison in Beaver for four years and went through an Addiction Recovery Program and a 12-step program.
While in prison he started to write in a journal.
“I really felt inspired to write the book,” Hiatt said. He asked to be able to stay in prison an extra six months to make sure he was on the right track.
Recently he received his six-year sobriety chip.
Hiatt said that when he speaks at colleges and other events, he always hopes there is somebody in the crowd who will benefit from his experiences.
“It also helps with my own healing,” he said.
Jon Gossett, president of Life’s Worth Living Foundation, said he received a lot of positive comments from people who attended the meeting.
“Some of the people at the meeting have had problems with addiction, and some actually know Ryan,” Gossett said. “They told me he has helped them a lot.”
Hiatt said his main message is that recovery is real.
“Also, there is that human suffering behind it all with that feeling that ‘we’re not enough,’” he said. “We are enough.”
“Nobody has it all together; we all have issues,” Hiatt said.
The speaker had audience members emphatically state to each other at the meeting: “I am enough!”