I’m going to preface this feel-good story with a back-story about drunk Ryan. I loved partying. I lived for it. Going out and getting absolutely hammered was something I loved doing. Over time, the days after the crazy nights out would get worse and worse. Depression would settle in and as well as the horrible feeling of regret in the pit of my stomach. Questions like “why did I do that?”, “why did I say that?” and “what happened last night?” would haunt every second of my day. I would lay in bed for almost an entire day fearing going outside because of some embarrassing event or charade I may have been a part of. This impacted my life tremendously. I had quickly established myself as reckless. Any goals or dreams I had would be put on hold for a day or a week or a month or a year because I had lost my drive and focus. However, the only thing that would help me get out of that feeling was to go out and drink again. It made me feel back on top. Like some kind of King of the World. This vicious cycle would continue for years. Some who have partied with me may say that I was a blast to be around, but it was what happened the morning afterwards and how I was losing sight of the things that mattered that made all the difference. Comedy was also a source of release. Making a room of people who I don’t know or even people I did know laugh gave me the same high. A year and 4 months ago, I made the choice to give up drinking and completely focus on comedy. I figured if I’m not hungover or wasting time getting drunk or wasting time worrying about what I did when I drank I can get a lot more done. I won’t lie. It has been difficult. Very difficult. Giving up drinking when you’re 25 years old and spending the majority of your time in comedy theaters or bars that serve alcohol is tough. I learned to deal with it though because I know that if I were to start up again, I would fall right back into the vicious cycle that I used to know. My own personal booze-filled hell. So, where is this going? Why am I saying all this? Well, in case you were worried, there is a point to all this.
The choice to give up drinking was the best choice I’ve ever made in my life. It set me straight and got me back on course. It allowed me to look at my life and say “this is what I want and this is how I’m going to get it.” I’ve been able to set goals and know that there is absolutely nothing that is going to get in my way of accomplishing them. More importantly, it’s given me confidence that I don’t need alcohol for any reason whatsoever. If I could get over this than I can do anything. Before I started drinking, I had the same mindset. I was successful (in wrestling) because I wouldn’t let anything stop me. Alcohol wasn’t a factor. Once I started drinking I quickly lost sight of all that mattered. This past weekend, I was hit with the best news of my life. Something that I’ve always wanted as a performer ever since I started doing comedy. My group Switch Committee was informed that we get to do a run at iO starting in June. The photo (taken by Lyndsay Hailey) above is the exact moment when we were told by Charna Halpern (the Founder and Artistic Director of iO) that we had just had a great show and we could perform there regularly. Being a team there was always a dream of ours. A dream that finally has come true.
When I went through the program and wasn’t placed on a team I was devastated. So devastated that I almost started drinking again. There was an internal battle going on where I questioned my choice to give up drinking because making that team was all I had wanted in the world. I cried my eyes out because I’d put all my eggs in that basket. It meant so much to me. Then, I reevaluated the situation and noticed how far I’d come. Not only as a performer but more importantly as a person. And that is all that matters. I’d looked at all that I’d accomplished and who was still standing next to me (the boys of Switch Committee and my family of course). They’ve been there for me since the beginning. They’ve seen drunk Ryan and sober Ryan and stood by me with every decision I’ve made. I love these guys. After hearing the news that we were going to be performing as a team there, I was ecstatic. It was a moment of reassurance that I’d made the right decisions in my life to get to where I am right now. I went from looking at life from the bottom of a bottle to standing atop one of the most prestigious stages in comedy.
If you have something you’ve always wanted to do what’s stopping you from doing it? If you can identify the problem then fix it. Nothing is easy and no one is going to hand it to you. You have to go out and get it yourself. We’re constantly saying things like “I’ll do that tomorrow.” Well, guess what, THERE IS NO TOMORROW. If it’s a person that’s stopping you, rid yourself of them. I’ve always found it funny how the people who told you “that’ll never happen” are never heard from again after you’ve accomplished what you said you were going to. You can’t let anyone dictate how you live your life. People tell you that you can’t do something because they can’t do it. “Being a team at iO, yeah not happening.” “Doing a month of comedy? Impossible.” You go after your dreams because it’s something that you want. You don’t do things because you’re trying to prove someone wrong. You do it because at the end of the day, you’re the one looking in the mirror and you’re the one who has to answer to yourself. To look at yourself and say “I did it” is one of the greatest feelings in the world.