A Minnesota man's incredible story of trauma, hurt, hope and redemption was just featured by Humans of New York.

I follow a Facebook page called Humans of New York, also known as HONY for short. Started in 2010 by Brandon Stanton, HONY is a photoblog-turned-book that features street portraits and interviews collected from random strangers Stanton meets on the streets of New York City. Over the past 11 years, HONY has developed a large following on social media -- including nearly 18 million followers on Facebook -- where Stanton shares his photos and stories. Stanton's interviews are often raw -- filled with heartbreak, hope and inspiration.

His latest photo series is no different and follows the story of a Minnesota man, dad and recovering drug addict we know only as Ryan. Told over the course of eight parts, Ryan begins his story with his son, Red -- short for Redick. "He was born the month I started doing heroin," Ryan starts. "And by the time he was five years old, we were living in a flop house with some serious gangsters." Ryan's story gets more depressing before it gets better.

Determined to provide a better life for his son, Ryan checked himself into a South Minneapolis medical detox facility. After completing 100 days there and another 6 months of outpatient, he found himself employed -- at the recommendation of a therapist -- at a local drop-in training program for other drug addicts. It was there that he met Lizzie.

Lizzie was an intern at the training program. She was smart and beautiful, and -- despite warnings from friends -- Ryan and Lizzie started spending more time with each other. A romantic relationship began to blossom, though not without its own hardships. Ryan shares one story in particular.

One night we were hanging out at Lizzie’s apartment, and we started arguing over something stupid. It was nothing. But I got so angry that I started walking home. I lived almost 25 miles away. And this was January in Minnesota, so the last thing I wanted to do was leave. But I was frustrated, and probably a little scared. Scared to be falling in love. Scared of being abandoned. So I started walking through the dark. Lizzie got in her car and followed me. The snow was coming down hard. But she kept right alongside me, with the window down. She kept saying: ‘Come inside and talk.’ But I’m being stubborn. I’m not responding. And we went on that way for a few blocks. Not too far, but when it’s that cold—it’s pretty far. Finally I gave up and got into the car. And we talked it out. It was special stuff.

 

Ryan knew he needed to introduce his son to Lizzie. They went to the science museum together, and everyone seemed to really enjoy their time together. But that night --after asking Red if they could hang out with Lizzie again -- Red told Ryan "No way." Ryan shares, "I didn’t tell [Lizzie] it was the end, but I think she could tell it was heading in that direction. She was a little hurt that I was taking Red’s side. And she reminded me that we were the adults in the situation. But at the time I was thinking Red’s opinion is all that matters. Because this is all for him, right? He’s the reason I’m sober. He’s the reason I’m getting my life together." But Lizzie continued to be present and patient, and over time Red began to develop a relationship with her of his own.

Ryan and Lizzie married at Como Park Conservatory, and the three bought a house together. "The three of us are like a pack, with each member getting an equal vote," Ryan shares. "And it works. Life is good."

It seems like Ryan's story is going to have the happy ending everyone wants for him. But with one more part to the eight-part series to go, his story takes a dark turn. Throughout, Ryan has made mention of past trauma. He finally opens up about it.

"I got in his face and asked: ‘Why me? Why did you pick me, man?’ And you know what that sick a**hole told me? He said: ‘Because I loved you.’ That creepy f***. I was only nine years old when I met him. But even then I knew it wasn’t right."

To read Ryan's full story as shared by Humans of New York, click on each Facebook post above or click here.

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