How many of us struggle with addiction? I will be bold and say the number must be 90% or above. I refer to addiction as anything that we can’t live without or obsess over–including tobacco, caffeine, sugar, drugs, alcohol, sex, bad relationships, negative thinking, impulsive behavior etc—I personally have kicked my diet mountain dew habit (it only took about a year) and like everyone else, I struggle daily with overcoming more unhealthy habits. It certainly isn’t easy! I am honored that my cohort addiction specialist, the infamous Mr. Jim Ryser, has privileged us with his own story to help us understand how diet, nutrition, thoughts, and mindset can heal addictive behaviors.
First-Here is a little background on Jim Ryser:
Jim Ryser began his music career at the tender age of 5 years old, learning to play violin to ease long hours spent in the hospital. Born with Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele and expected to live a poor quality and short life, Jim beat the odds due to a loving and caring family combined with an Irish tenacity that continues to this day.
Jim honed his musical skills during the recovery from over 50 surgeries he has had to correct problems associated with the original corrective procedure on his spinal cord when he was 9 days old.
He played Madison Square Garden as a solo violinist when he was 9, but it was picking up the guitar at 14 that took him down the music path of rock and roll dreams. “I played a lot of Rush and Pink Floyd, but I loved Fleetwood Mac and other more mellow rockers as well,” he says, “and I think that combined with my classical background made for some interesting stuff over the years!”
He signed his first record deal with Arista Records in 1990. Music legend Clive Davis was heading up the label at the time and told Jim – then known as Jimmy – that he had hit songs and wanted Jim on the roster. “Same Old Look,” the first single released in 1990, reached #6 on the Billboard chart and sent he and his band on a wild summer tour with The Moody Blues, Henry Lee Summer, REO Speedwagon, and John Mellencamp. He has played on some wonderful albums with John Mellencamp, Hall and Oates, and Tracy Chapman. He has guested with James McMurtry, Henry Lee Summer, and Bob and Tom over the years.
His health issues forced him to find another path; he had become addicted to his pain killers to combat the daily chronic pain associated with his spina bifida and related kidney, back, and orthopedic issues. Jim went through a pain program at the Cleveland Clinic and was able to learn new ways to deal with pain, such that he was inspired to acquire his college degree. His addiction, however, lay hidden and by the time he graduated Indiana University Summa Cum Laude, he was on some of the same drugs that led to Michael Jackson’s demise, using up to 500 mg of IV Demerol and taking 10-20 percocet pills a day. He hit bottom when he started drinking.
He went back to Cleveland and got sober in the summer of 1999, which led him to his graduate degree and an internship with addiction and pain. His specialty is rare in that he knows both chronic pain and addiction personally and professionally, and this combination led him to his current position as the program manager for pain services at Indiana University Health Methodist Hosptial in Indianapolis, Indiana. He runs a pain rehabilitation program there and he also helps people with acute pain issues while further helping others who have become iatrogenically addicted.
He got back into music quite by accident, and he says, “I got into hunting with my son-in-law Troy, getting a turkey on my very first day in the woods – an hour after he got his. I found that hunting did more for my pain management than anything else I ever did, so I spent time learning about deer hunting as well.” This journey led him to Bill Winke, one of the best known hunter-writers in the business. “I sent Bill a CD of my music in appreciation for the amazing work he does, and he asked if he could use some songs for his show, Midwest Whitetail. I told him I would go one better and write some songs…Now I am the principal writer for most of Bill’s projects!
This match created a great relationship with the entire staff and lots of new songs, which then led to Jim updating his recording studio and investing in some more gear to custom design songs for Bill’s shows exclusively. These songs hatched more ideas, and a new CD was born. The new disc highlighted on this website is a culmination of Jim’s musical life, and he says, “Having many years of sobriety now, a deep love for both work and my hunting/music passion, gave me something that very few folks get – and I wasn’t even supposed to live. I have remained on an incredible journey that makes me grateful for my pain and addiction, because they made me who I am today.”
Jim Ryser is a nationally recognized performer and speaker for both his musical and personal journey, and his expertise in managing pain for those who desire education about it. He has spoken all over the country and has consulted with several health care systems on various ways to manage pain without the use of mood altering drugs.
Here is Jim’s personal story that he chose to share with our followers that are empowering themselves to overcome disease–
“I wish I could say I “beat” addiction, but I can no more do that than stand on my toes unaided today. I have myelomeningocele. Long story short, I have damage to my spinal cord that resulted in neural connections being cut due to the original birth defect. There ARE no connections so it is physiologically impossible for me to stand on my toes unaided!
As to my addiction, we have assumed in society that we can change unaided too; telling a drug addict not to use is the same thing as saying “Just don’t breathe!” The addict has a compulsion to use and a craving once started that makes it impossible to stop on the basis of self-will. There is no connection just like with the nerves!
I have been fortunate to have stopped using drugs aberrantly. The thought process of the disease never goes away, but it can be managed. I found that out after I got sober and gained 50 pounds. My addiction switched seats on the titanic in many ways. So – for me, addiction is less about substance and more about the thoughts and the spiritual malady that goes with it. Moderation is not part of the addict’s vocabulary. With help, however, I have been able to stay sober for the past 14 years. I have also lost the weight and am continuing, a day at a time, to manage the unmanageable. Having a proper diet helps keep me on task with my pain pill addiction and chronic pain because I learned in proper eating habits I might sacrifice a “feel good” with food (sugar) that results in a crash that makes me feel bad in the long run. Today I have learned to slow down, do the RIGHT thing, and be rewarded over the long haul (and more consistent haul) with good health and overall good feeling.”
Please visit Jim’s website http://www.jimrysersongs.com
You may want to purchase a copy of his latest release “Lubricate my MoJo”
His next performance will be:
June 29, 2013
I can’t thank Jim enough for his honesty and committment to helping others in similar situations. I have come across a few other different resources for anyone who would like to learn more on the topic.
This video by Paul Chek is helpful in learning why we become addicted to things—
It’s a bit long but helpful to anyone wanting to learn more about the etiology of addiction.
Also, a great resource is well-known psychiatrist’s Dr Hyla Cass’s book—
Dr Hyla Cass—Overcome Addiction, Fatigue, Anxiety, and Depression Naturally