Today we’d like to introduce you to Ryan Sirois Heller.
Ryan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
That is a meaty question! To summarize a long and bumpy story, I grew up in South Florida and eventually fell down a path of addiction. After many years of struggling with drugs, alcohol, and sexuality I began work as a graphic designer at helium creative. I always had a love for theatre, arts, and writing – so once I graduated with a Bachelors degree in design, I naturally found a love for brand development and storytelling. I was hired in 2010 at helium creative by Christopher Heller. We quickly became friends and eventually found ourselves in a relationship.
However, my addiction continued and within a few months, he gave me an ultimatum to either get sober or we are done. So I went to rehab and worked very hard to turn my life around. It was an extremely difficult and sometimes painful journey to begin loving myself and letting go of many things that were holding me down. I become part of the recovery community and have done a lot of work on myself, both spiritually and mentally. Once I did, my creative side flourished from both a business and personal side. I began writing again.
I started a blog that documented my past, discussing addiction and experiences that oftentimes people are too ashamed to speak of. After a few years, that blog turned into my first book, King Of Stars, which is something like a memoir. The book is about my journey growing up gay, addiction and recovery, and ultimately self-acceptance. The goal has been to help others who are going through similar circumstances, battling the darker side of adolescence and adulthood – to show others they are not alone. I also began to speak for groups on addiction and share my story, as well as podcast and small public events.
I am now the Art Director at helium creative, which has now become well-established brand development studio in Fort Lauderdale. I continue to write and am working on ideas for a second book. Chris and I got married in 2015 and went through the surrogacy process to welcome our twin babies, Connor and Olivia, into the world May 16, 2017. I have been sober for 6 years and am the happiest I’ve ever been.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I don’t think it is ever a smooth road. We are here to struggle, to fight and ultimately to grow. Many of my struggles were rooted in fear. I had a very hard time accepting my sexuality, it was something I was bullied for in school as a kid and never embraced until much later in life. That self-hatred is a large part of what led to a path of drugs. Addiction comes with its own set of struggles and heavy bumps. From about 16 years old to 28 years old I used drugs, sex and whatever I could to fill the void inside.
As a result, I was arrested for a DWI in 2005, had to withdraw from FSU on a medical leave because of mental health issues from drugs and depression. Years of sexual degradation, self-abuse, and mental health struggles made it a very rocky road to where I am today. I wouldn’t change a thing because it made me who I am and I’ve learned so much. But in hindsight, the hardest part is knowing the pain I caused my family along the way as well as almost losing Chris.
Ryan Michael Sirois – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
As a writer and public speaker, I have been able to use my past experiences to help others. Whether writing for my own blog on my website: ryansirois.com, or writing for other websites, speaking on podcasts or in groups, I’ve been able to shine a light on issues that oftentimes are kept in shadow. I’ve been fortunate to come out of what I went through and share these experiences, then hear others say they always felt alone. They never knew someone else went through it or had so much shame for things they’ve done or experienced.
To hear those comments from someone who read what I’ve written or words I’ve spoken, is the greatest achievement. I am able to utilize my background in theatre, writing, and art to effectively engage a reader or listener. I am extremely transparent and raw when sharing because I believe nothing is accomplished through secrecy or shame.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
This is a never-ending definition, as I was trained from a young age to define success based on monetary earnings and material gain. I’ve learned, however, that success is truly defined by my own well-being and happiness. I set a definition for success every day when I make a choice each morning how my day will be, and continue to make choices throughout the day to either live in light or darkness. If I can strike a balance of mind, body, and spirit – knowing that I was my best self, then I’ve succeeded. Even if everything around me may be crashing down and out of my control, if I take care of me and do my very best, then I’ve succeeded.
- King Of Stars, paperback $15 / hardcover, $30
- Website: ryansirois.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @ryansiroisheller
- Facebook: @rsirois
Christopher Heller, Bianca Cordova