July 11, 2016 | Stories & Profiles

My Story: Matt & John Ryan

Matt & John Ryan are both sales representatives for Burlington Labs, representing Massachusetts and Georgia, respectively. 

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Matt (left) received the Regional Sales Manager’s Award and John (right) received the Toxicology Acumen Award at Burlington Labs’ 2015 year-end sales meeting.

Nancy Brooks, Burlington Labs’ writer, interviewed the Ryan brothers recently about their experiences with addiction, recovery, and coming to work at Burlington Labs.

John, why don’t you set up the story.

JOHN: Our story starts out very similar to everyone else’s. We grew up in an intact, upper-middle-class family in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Ours isn’t a story where we lost our parents at a young age, or barely had enough food to eat, or anything like that. But, you know, addiction doesn’t discriminate.

Matt and I are 3 years apart, and we’ve always been really close. While we fought like typical brothers growing up, we also played all kinds of sports together.

As a teenager, I started partying, and I was probably 19 or 20 when the consequences from my drinking and drug use started piling up. Our parents tried to think of every other potential reason for my behavior besides the possibility that I was an addict. Even though we have a history of alcoholism in our family, I think they were in denial, like a lot of other parents.

I left school, then started using oxycontin and heroin and getting really sick with withdrawals. That’s when my family finally realized I needed to go to a hospital.

So you entered treatment?

JOHN: I did several treatment programs. I would go through detox, do a short term IOP, and I’d make it maybe 2 days. Then I would test positive and they would kick me out. I was going through the motions, but I had no intentions of staying clean.

When I was 23, Matt brought me to Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts and checked me into a 9-month program. I couldn’t even walk…Matt had to carry me in. Or maybe he dragged me – probably a little bit of both.

MATT: Yeah, I remember that day. I actually had pneumonia, and I had to check myself out of another hospital to go get him. I obviously felt pretty miserable myself, but I knew John was in worse shape. He was in no position to drive or get anywhere. In fact, he had probably lost his license by that time.

JOHN: I remember sitting there with Matt in the hospital waiting room. That’s when things started to click. I realized the toll this was taking on my family. But even after I completed that 9-month program, I still had bumps ahead of me. After I had been clean for 2 years, I slipped up, during a time when I was working at an outpatient treatment center. Being around patients who were so new in their treatment process was really triggering for me. I took the work home with me. And while I was attending meetings with the kids I was supervising, I felt more like I was babysitting them than doing it for me. I lost track of my own sobriety.

One day I got up and came face to face with having to go into work after using…and I just couldn’t do that. So I checked myself in to another 9-month program, this time in Georgia. I’ve been clean now for almost 8 years – 8 years in November, the day before Matt’s birthday.

John, how important was Matt’s presence throughout all of this?

JOHN: By the end, it was really just the two of us. Matt was the only one who would go to bat for me. He was the one who would push to give it one more try at another treatment center. He said, “this is worth doing.” And when I was in treatment, he flew down to Georgia for family therapy sessions. Not just once, but often – once every couple of months. He never gave up on me.

Matt, what are your memories of this time?

MATT: When I checked John into that first long-term treatment program, I was only 25 years old. I remember thinking, I’m not ready to deal with this. But sometimes you don’t have a choice. I had to save my brother’s life.

Seeing John now, I think what he’s done to overcome his addiction is just amazing. I can’t believe he’s alive today, to tell you the truth. The fact that he’s healthy and part of my life means so much to me. He was the best man at my wedding, and he’s the godfather of my daughter.

JOHN: We’re both so grateful for the gifts we’ve given each other. Including my job now at Burlington Labs.

Yes – tell me how you both came to work here.

MATT: My background after college was in social work. Then I did sales for another medical lab, then for a software company – but the work wasn’t fulfilling. Then I saw the posting for the sales position at Burlington Labs. The ad said they were looking for people with a personal connection to addiction. I updated my resume that night, and I started in August of 2014.

I kept talking to John about how great a company it was. And when they were looking for a sales rep in Georgia, I really pushed him to apply.

JOHN: But I kept saying, working for a lab? How is that at all personally rewarding? When I finally read Michael’s story and Mickey’s story, I remember being just shocked, how much I could relate to their experiences. What resonated with me was the mission statement -- “We Help Save Lives” – and profit came afterward. I realized I needed to be a part of this in some way. So I applied, and started work in December 2014.

I can’t believe I have this incredible opportunity to work for a place that wants to foster my well-being, personally and professionally. I’ve never been so happy to work for a company. Connecting me with Burlington Labs is one of the many, many gifts my brother has given me.