"Timothy Ryan had an ideal upbringing. He was born into a loving family, had many friends, grew up in a nice neighborhood (Berkeley Heights), and received a good education. Still, none of that was enough to prevent him from falling into the clutches of addiction."

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Timothy Ryan, who grew up in Berkeley Heights, wrote his own story of addiction in "Chronic JunkieA Story of Addition, Despair, Unconditional Love, Hope and Triumph." WABC will be featuring his story in an upcoming special "Protect Our Children: Effects of the Pandemic" on Saturday, May 8th at 7 p.m. It will rebroadcast Sunday, May 9 at 5:30 a.m.

Ryan's journey with drugs and alcohol began at age 13, and he shares his accomplishment of how he obtained his graduate degree and is a caseworker helping others in recovery. 

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What many considered to be typical teenage experimentation, such as smoking pot and drinking alcohol at parties, quickly led down a dark path that cost him everything. Ryan went from having the world at his feet to homeless, living on the streets, and addicted to heroin.

"There were times when we were sitting by the phone just waiting for the phone call asking us to come identify the body," said Ryan's father Dennis. "It is a story that can give you hope."

Ryan graduated with his MSW from Rutgers University in 2019 and lives in New Jersey with his wife.

News anchor Shirleen Allicot will host the special that focuses on the continued impact the pandemic has had on youth with advice from professionals on how we can address and improve the mental, emotional and physical health of youth. The special will also feature stories including:

  • The energy of a 20-year-old who has been in multiple group homes since the age of 4 and survived a period of incarceration in Rikers is inspiring; and a tribute to the organizations and social workers who are stepping up to help youth in need. 
  • While the tri-state area has been in lockdown during the pandemic, there’s been an increase of domestic abuse. In addition, child exploitation has dramatically increased with sextortion and child porn. The special shines a light on this issue and provides guidance to survivors on how to reach educators and professionals who can be of help.
  • Confinement at home has led to issues with physical and mental health. A Long Island family shares their intervention experience with their 7-year-old child during the pandemic. Viewers will hear from pediatricians and mental health experts that provide advice to parents on how to help children navigate their health during the pandemic. 

The special features experts include clinicians and researchers from Prevention Links, Union County Star Protram, NJ, GOSO Getting Out & Staying Out, Child Advocacy Center, The Safe Center LI and the Healthy Weight & Wellness Center at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.