Part 1: Faces of the homeless, RyanLadner

Feb. 5, 2011 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 4, 2011 at 8:05 p.m.

Ladner sits in the lobby of the Fine Arts School at Victoria College, where he is a freshman music major studying saxophone, piano and voice.  Ladner lives at the Salvation Army Shelter.

Ladner sits in the lobby of the Fine Arts School at Victoria College, where he is a freshman music major studying saxophone, piano and voice. Ladner lives at the Salvation Army Shelter.

Ryan Ladner is not ashamed to admit his former drug of choice was marijuana.

The 20-year-old admittedly became dependent on the drug for a number of years as he struggled to cope with the symptoms of his attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

"Like any addict, I would want to smoke every day," said Ladner. "I was so used to marijuana calming me down."

Now, at almost four months drug free, the Victoria College freshman said he is doing whatever it takes to get his life back on track, even if that means living in a homeless shelter.

"You could say it was God that brought me here because I am getting closer to God," said Ladner. "Instead of smoking, I'm reading the Bible."

Ladner was first diagnosed with ADHD while in the second grade.

Although he initially started taking medication for the disorder, his parents took him off of it.

"It scared my parents," said Ladner. "They thought it was turning me into a zombie and it got rid of my personality."

Off the medication, Ladner continued to struggle in school.

Things came to a head in 2007 when he turned 16 and dropped out of high school, he said.

"When I was in class, I could not concentrate. I was anywhere but in class," said Ladner, who said he had a C average. "At the time, the motive I had to drop out of school was that Memorial was a sub-standard school, and I could do a lot better elsewhere.

He had a plan to do home school, but it didn't work out.

Although Ladner did work to get his GED, his ADHD pushed him toward a life of crime and what would become an increasing dependency on marijuana.

"I would steal money to support my habit," said Ladner, who said he left his parents' house and moved in with a childhood friend who partook in the same destructive behavior. "We would smoke, party and find ways to get beer all the time."

The lack of structure in his life, compounded with the marijuana usage, made life unbearable.

"I had the most horrible anger problem," said Ladner. "I had no stability. I kept falling into a trap of self-hate and needed something to cling to."

After what would prove to be an unsuccessful stint in rehab, Ladner moved back to Victoria and back in his parents' house and back to his smoking habit.

At his parent's behest, Ladner decided to look into attending college as a way to bring structure to his life.

He enrolled at Victoria College last summer and quit smoking marijuana.

Ladner enrolled as a music major and was even rewarded a scholarship.

Despite the excitement and drive to succeed, Ladner's ADHD began to be an issue almost immediately.

"I realized it very fast at the beginning of the semester," he said, as he described his then growing desire to smoke again. "I didn't need another diagnosis, I already knew."

Having made the decision to not seek medical treatment for his ADHD, Ladner said he looked for other ways to improve his concentration.

Ladner said he is handling the disorder by taking vitamin supplements for brain support. "I'm choosing to handle it myself. "

In October, Ladner decided to move out of his parents' house where he felt he had too many distractions and into the Salvation Army's shelter as part of its transitional housing program.

"I'm focusing on college and college only," said Ladner. "My parents were happy that I was wanting to stop smoking marijuana. They support me all the way on this."

So far, Ladner said the decision is working well.

"I've gone from a cycle of despair and hating myself to starting college. College is the greatest thing ever," said Ladner, as he shared his desire to achieve a 3.5 GPA this semester. "I'm making an effort to be the best academically that I can be."



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