From Shadows to Summits: one man’s journey from addiction to Mount Everest

Ryan Rivard sets sights on Earth’s highest peak, collaborates with Hazelden Betty Ford to spread message of hope and recovery

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
3 min readFeb 22, 2024
Ryan Rivard

Meet Ryan Rivard — a Minnesotan whose life story is a testament to resilience and transformation. From enduring personal tragedy to conquering addiction, Ryan’s journey is not just about climbing mountains; it’s about overcoming life’s greatest challenges.

Early Life and Challenges

Ryan’s world turned upside down at the age of 7 when he lost his grandfather and mentor to suicide. This loss plunged him into a world of pain, leading to a struggle with addiction that started innocuously with an inhaler and spiraled into alcohol and drug misuse during his teenage years.

Journey Through Addiction and Recovery

Ryan’s path led him through dark valleys, including a near-fatal overdose and a battle with heroin addiction. His turning point came at 19, when he realized the need for change and sought help. His journey to recovery began at Hazelden Betty Ford’s Center for Teens, Young Adults and Families in Plymouth, Minn., where he found the foundation for a new life.

New Beginnings and Commitment to Change

Today, Ryan stands as a beacon of hope. With over 21 years of sobriety, he is a father of four and an active member of his community. His transformation from a life overshadowed by addiction to one of fulfillment and purpose is a powerful narrative of hope and resilience.

The Everest Climb: A Symbol of Overcoming

Ryan’s decision to climb Mount Everest in the spring of 2024 is more than an adventurous endeavor; it symbolizes his journey of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It’s a tribute to his late grandfather, a challenge against his past demons, and a beacon of hope for those still struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

Ryan Rivard (left) and Lex Selig.

Collaboration with Hazelden Betty Ford

In this monumental task, Ryan is collaborating with Hazelden Betty Ford, a nonprofit organization instrumental in his recovery and, in 2024, celebrating its 75th year at the very center of addiction recovery. The collaboration aims to shine a light on mental health, suicide prevention, and recovery, especially among youth and young adults.

Supporting the effort at every step is Ryan’s close friend Lex Selig. He got sober more than five years ago at age 21 and is creating and deploying digital content to amplify the project. Together, the two founded Let’s Fuel Growth to spread awareness and support around the issues of substance use and mental health disorders. Lex’s recovery also began at Hazelden Betty Ford’s Center for Teens, Young Adults and Families.


Ryan’s story is not just one man’s journey; it’s a narrative that resonates with anyone who has faced adversity. It’s about finding strength in vulnerability and transforming pain into purpose.

Maybe, like Ryan, you’re feeling inspired to turn adversity that you’ve experienced into purpose. If so, we invite you to learn more about our Spark Hope campaign, where you’ll have an opportunity to team up with our community of supporters to help more people break through and discover all the possibilities that a life in recovery offers.

Stay tuned and join Ryan and Hazelden Betty Ford on his journey, not just to the top of Everest, but to a place of understanding, acceptance, healing and hope.

Ryan Rivard climbing Ama Dablam, a mountain in Nepal, in 2022.



Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

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