Rhodes to Recovery
Ryan Rhodes was a born entrepreneur. Unfortunately, trauma and loss as a child – compounded by toxic influences at too young an age – corrupted his entrepreneurial spirit. Ryan made money from other people’s suffering: Dealing drugs and engaging in other illicit activities that earned him millions of dollars but bankrupted him spiritually.
When Ryan’s lifestyle finally caught up with him, he was forced to face the truth about what he had done to other people. What follows is Ryan’s journey from darkness to light. As the co-founder of Manifest Recovery Centers, Ryan now uses his business acumen to lift others up.
The name Manifest is an acknowledgement that we are all capable of manifesting anything we want – spiritual wellness, moral corruptness. It’s in our power to decide how we live,” Ryan said. “To be part of someone else’s journey… there is no business in the world where you’re able to help people create lives of substance in such a powerful way.
Part 1: My Journey from Darkness to Light
It started when my father died. I was 10 when he lost his struggle with cancer, Parkinson’s and AIDS right before my eyes. It was a brutal existence, and like a lot of kids who lose parents at too young an age, I immediately gravitated toward what I thought was “cool” behavior to mask the pain I felt inside.
I listened to music with highly questionable themes. Hustled for money. Smoked a lot of dope.
But I was determined to be more than that sad kid who lost his dad. I was a born entrepreneur, and the first time I bought marijuana for myself, I bought enough to sell. I figured dealing drugs would earn me both respect and remove. Kids would revere me for my badass outlaw identity, but I could keep enough distance from them to avoid getting emotionally hurt.
It worked. My ego was stoked and my wallet was always full. By the time I was 15, I was selling everything I could get my hands on: cocaine, mushrooms, whatever. I watched a lot of gangster movies and listened to a lot of rap, so thought I had a good grasp on criminal behavior.
It’s almost cute to think about it now, or it would be, except it didn’t end there.
I lived in Newport Beach, an affluent, privileged town where it would be very difficult to get into real trouble. But as my drug business grew, I started to gravitate toward people outside my relatively safe sphere. I met the people who supplied my suppliers, and pretty soon I leapfrogged over most of the middlemen.
All the while, I kept up appearances with my family. I have three older brothers, each more accomplished than the next. I always felt that competitive drive to best them – or at least match them. The fact that none of them felt anything close to competitive with me didn’t matter. I had everything to prove.
I enrolled in business school, which looked respectable to my family and proved enormously helpful to my drug business. I might have been the first drug dealer/junkie who used forecasting models. By the time I was 21, I was doing business directly with dangerous people who had access to millions of dollars in drugs.
This all made sense to me. I had seen the movies. I knew the part I wanted to play. I was rolling in money. What I didn’t realize at the time was how spiritually bankrupt I had become. It wasn’t until my family discovered my drug abuse that I was forced to take a hard look at the choices I had made – and even then, I managed mostly to avert my eyes.
My family sent me to treatment in Florida, where I became chemically sober but not the least bit enlightened or repentant. I didn’t do the 12 Steps. I didn’t get a sponsor. I’ve been a hard worker my whole life, but I had never worked toward anything positive or pure, and I wasn’t about to begin.
After 17 months, I started using again. My girlfriend saw the track marks, and I ended up back in rehab. This time was different. I wanted to win back the girl, that was my motivation for taking treatment seriously. A little bit of light was breaking through.
Within the first month of treatment, it became clear that the work I had to do on myself was going to be the hardest I’d ever done. It started with admitting something very painful: I had sold drugs for 13 years straight.
The number of lives I decimated by then was incalculable. I had destroyed people. Versions of those people sat around me every day in group therapy, where I would have to look them in the eyes.
One of the movie characters I’d always admired was Leonidas in “300.” There is a scene in which Leonidas’ army is celebrating a victory, partying hard and going crazy. But as the leader, Leonidas knows he has to keep his wits about him. I wanted to conduct myself the same way.
When I was using and dealing, my version of Leonidas was being the kid who would party all night and then buckle down after everyone else passed out to get that term paper written before class.
In recovery, surrounded by versions of all the people I’d led into ruin, I realized that to truly conduct myself with Leonidas’ discipline meant turning my back to dark energy. I didn’t yet have the tools I would need to succeed, but I had the glimmer of hope that I could get those tools.
I began taking direction from my sponsor. I did the spiritual work that I had always laughed at (I used to think it was a joke, a sign of weakness). I dropped the tough-guy thing and let people and light back into my life.
That’s the philosophy behind Manifest Recovery Centers: Sobriety is joyful and being healthy is deeply meaningful. I’m still on my path, too. But as the years go by, I know I’m on honest, positive footing.