Building a Healthy Community, Inspired by Ryan Gamage’s Life
Ryan Gamage touched many lives. As his family wrote in his obituary: “For those who knew him and accepted him as he was, there is a void in the lives of those people that simply will never be replaced. Addiction took many things from Ryan over the years, but never his love of family. Ryan was blessed with a family that accepted his faults, no matter what, and had an unconditional love for him, a love that few like him can say they had. He truly only ever wanted his family to love him, and love him they did. Even on his very worst days, if a family member needed him, he did everything, he could to not let them down. His countless friends were blessed with that same dedication.”
I only knew Ryan for a very short time but he touched my life and the lives of all the men in recovery, living at The Friends House, a recovery residence that Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition opened last summer in Rockland.
He was always helpful and supportive of The Friends House, donating time, labor, furniture and supplies to help it get off the ground. He also wanted to build a stair tower, needed to meet to fire code requirements, which would allow 8 more good men have a chance for meaningful recovery. This tower, now under construction, will be dedicated to his name and his memory, will help more men benefit from safe, sober and supportive housing, so important for many in recovery. It is a tower he wanted to build and, in a way, he will still help to build it by inspiring the community to support its construction.
When he lost his own battle with addiction, dying of an overdose on January 6, 2019, he left in his wake so many lives that he touched so dearly, that the number cannot be counted. In fact, he has touched EVERY life in our community directly or indirectly. For those who knew him, they would know that he would want whatever good could come from this tragedy. His struggle, his fight, his love of others, his dedication to the cause of recovery and the fact that so many loved him should remain a lasting memory and a dedication to him, as a true hero.
Truly, the greatest good we can attain in the wake of his tragic loss would be to recognize the reality that the widespread addiction epidemic in our community affects ALL of us and requires ALL of us to help in some way to rescue more precious lives from needless daily suffering and from untimely deaths. We all need to pitch in somehow to make this a better place that endures for each and every one of us. The loss of a great man like Ryan should, and can, inspire all of us to come together as a community to support recovery. Let us not miss this opportunity. Let’s not briefly reflect on another sad statistic and then to go about our days as if nothing was wrong. It is time we stop this madness. Please join with us for the health our community.
Details will be announced in newspapers, Facebook, email announcements and on the Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition website (www.midcoastrecovery.org) soon about how community members can support the dedication and completion of the Ryan Gamage Stairway to Recovery. A community fundraising pancake breakfast is planned, as part of honoring his memory, on Saturday, March 2, from 8-10 a.m., at the Rockland Congregational Church. Announcements of more community meetings will follow to help the community respond in a lasting way to make it a better place for everyone. Please join us for as many events as you can.
For more information about “The Friends House” and “The Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition, please visit https://midcoastrecovery.org/the-friends-house/ or call 207-701-1182.
Ira Mandel, president of Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition, lives in Rockland