‘The box does not exist’

An identity struggle led Ryan Maddick to drugs, but while learning to accept himself he learned he didn’t need them.

Erica Yetman

Eight years ago, he was someone unrecognizable, even to family and friends.

Today Ryan Maddick is a happy and healthy 23-year-old man, a kind person, a loving partner to his boyfriend and a supportive friend.

For years, he struggled to accept the fact that he was gay. Although, it was something he says he has known since he was 10. He always felt like he was different in some way, even before he could point out why.

“I knew when people were telling me when I was eight and nine that I was going to grow up and have a wife that I was not going to grow up and have a wife,” said Maddick.

Ryan Maddick and his younger brother, Liam. Maddick was partly afraid to come out due to his close relationship with his brother and the effect he feared it may have on that friendship. Submitted photo

When he could no longer bare the weight of his secret, he turned to drugs as a crutch. If he was high, and the people he was with were high, his secret would be safe. That was, of course, until the high wore off.

“My family was always very loving and accepting, but I didn’t want to be stereotyped as a typical gay guy because I didn’t fit into that box,” said Maddick. “I always had a lot of friends, but when I turned 16 it became unbearable so I turned to drugs.”

“I ruined everything in my life including my family and I dropped out of school, I didn’t have any self value,” said Maddick.

Using and abusing became a vicious cycle for him. As he struggled internally with his sexuality and externally tried to hide it, he went down a path of reckless and risky behaviour.

“I got into drugs because they were the most accepting people at the time, they weren’t judging, they didn’t care about what was going on. They didn’t live by the same rules as society, as everyone else. They did what they wanted too and that was appealing to me at the time.”

“It made me feel good, like I fit in for once, I was accepted and everything else was ignored,” he said.

“I never fit into the box and I still don’t, because the box does not exist.”

He continued to use drugs as a crutch for two and a half years, before realizing he was who he was, and that wasn’t going to change.

“As time went on, I realized that this was the life (that) was given, and I was going to shine,” said Maddick.

Joanne Letto, Maddick’s roommate of three years and a close friend for five, says the change in him is clear.

“He cares less about what people think, he does what makes him happy,” said Letto. “He’s more comfortable with who he is and loves who he has become, and he surrounds himself with much healthier friendships and relationships.”

Today, Maddick is almost finished his first year of university and on his way to a French degree. He lives a happy life, not without its ups and downs, surrounded by a strong support system of friends, family and his partner.

“I never fit into the box and I still don’t, because the box does not exist.”