Jim and His Magnetic Smile
Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to meet and get to know some wonderful folks through my work as a pro-staff member at midwestwhitetail.com and now my efforts here at Without Excuse Ministries. This past week presented another one of these opportunities as I met songwriter and musician Jim “Jimmy” Ryser. Jim spoke to several groups of Jr. High and high school students at Crawford County High School located just a short drive from my home. Jim’s overall message covered the dangers of addiction, especially to prescription medications.
Over the years Jim has had the honor of sharing center stage with such groups like the Moody Blues, Henry Lee Summer, and Indiana’s very own John Mellencamp. Along the way Jim has also released several very successful solo albums.
Jim was born in 1965 with a medical condition known as spina bifida. Wikipedia defines spina bifida as, "Some vertebrae overlying the spinal cord are not fully formed and remain unfused and open. If the opening is large enough, this allows a portion of the spinal cord to protrude through the opening in the bones." In 1965 the doctors told Jim’s father that his newly born son would face a life of pain and suffering due to his condition. Their recommendation to Jim’s father was to simply not feed Jim for a few days and eventually he would die. Wow! You could have heard a pin drop as Jim made that statement. I simply thought it is a miracle that Jim is even here with us today. Jim described his father as a strong Irish Catholic who would not hear of his son being treated this way and simply said “if this is the life for Jim then we will move forward this way.” Jim had his first surgery when he was 9 days old and just had his 55th surgery a mere 8 weeks ago.
Through the many surgeries that Jim had experienced, the pain associated with his medical condition, and the road life of a musician, Jim became addicted to prescription medication. Jim described addiction in the following manner “Addiction is a strange disease that tells you that you really don’t have it. It will take you and the things you love the most in life a little bit at a time”. One of Jim’s greatest dreams was to play center stage at Deer Creek in Indianapolis, IN. That dream finally came true shortly after he had signed a 7 million dollar recording contract. Jim said that during the performance all he could think about was “getting back to the bus and his “pills”. At this point addiction had stolen Jim’s love for music and performing. Shortly after this event Jim literally lost everything because of his addiction to prescription medications.
Jim singing the song 'Home'
By God's Grace, and people who were honest with Jim, such as John Mellencamp, on September 8th, 1999 Jim decided he wanted to stop this lifestyle. On September 11, 2010 Jim celebrated 11 years of sobriety! One of the closing statements Jim made really sums up his life of sobriety, “The best gift that has been given to me since I have been sober is that now I am useful.” After Jim became sober he returned to school and earned a master’s degree in counseling and human services. He is a faculty member at the Indiana School of Medicine and manages Indianapolis Methodist Hospital’s pain management clinic.
Jim finished his time with the students by singing a song he wrote about his addiction and recovery called “Home”.
After the event was over I sent Jim an email and asked him the following question, “What role did your faith play in your recovery and now your sobriety?” Jim spoke of his faithful grandmother who prayed for him on a daily basis before, during, and after his recovery. She also took the time to visit Jim while he was in the hospital. Jim ended the email with the following statement:“My sobriety and life, for that matter, is God's gift to me - all undeserved - but truly something to be held as sacred. My remaining sober is hopefully a gift back to God. I meant it in the song "Home" where I wrote - 'I hope that I can give to you, the selfless love that you have sown...' Being able to be a messenger is my attempt.”
As I reflect over meeting Jim and his story of redemption, I believe some of the best days of his story are yet to come as he continues to make his faith in Jesus Christ a daily priority in his life. Jim has begun to write music again and is now providing much of the music that is being used at midwestwhitetail.com. Jim has had the opportunity to get involved in the music industry again, but graciously turned down the offer because he had 5 patients that were facing death because of their addiction. At that moment Jim chose to serve those 5 patients and cancel a trip to Nashville, TN in order to serve them in their recovery. John 15:13 KJV - Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
I am glad to know Jim Ryser as “friend” and I appreciate the real and authentic way in which he shares his story of redemption and hope.
If you would like to learn more about Jim’s role at Midwestwhitetail click here. If you are struggling with addiction you can look Jim up on facebook by searching for Jim Ryser.
Click the audio file below to hear the song "Home" written by Jim as a song of hope and redemption.
Since a young age Pastor Paul has had a love for the outdoors. After he became a Christian in October of 1994 God began to use the great outdoors to demonstrate to Pastor Paul the eternal truths of scripture. In this section he will share some of these thoughts via written or audio devotionals.