"The fact that we are still here, and kicking is amazing"
"I used to play drug dealers and drug buyers instead of cops and robbers," stated Ryan Poudrier as he recalled painful childhood experiences. He speaks of his mother's substance abuse, years in the custody of the Department of Children and Families, frequent moves, and the psychological effects of unstable living conditions.
"My parents put drugs first," Ryan explained. He remembers as a young 10-year-old boy thinking drugs were "cool." Despite his mother's warning that addiction was "in your genes" Ryan began using and the intergenerational pattern of substance use continued as Ryan found himself heavy into addiction.
What Ryan also developed was an "instinctive" pattern of moving around - mirroring his experiences in foster care and the multiple homes and facilities where he was placed. Starting at 16 years of age, Ryan lived in Vermont, Maine and up and down the East Coast. He moved 37 times during a 5-year period when he was on probation.
Ryan eventually had a daughter and made the choice to stay out of her life so that child was spared the pain of seeing her father struggle.
Ryan met Megan Dydo in 2016. She as well had a child who was being raised by a relative due to her substance use and early "partying."
The couple traveled to North Carolina, begged for change on the streets of California and lived in a tent held up by tree branches. They endured overdoses, fentanyl use and not knowing when they would eat again.
"I've hit some really low, lows. Being a homeless meth addict was one of them," stated Ryan.
"We met as addicts and are still addicts."
Megan became pregnant and the couple seemingly faced insurmountable challenges. "Just because you are pregnant does not mean you stop being an addict," explained Megan.
Their son Donovan was born and after receiving concerns from medical staff, DCF came to the hospital. Donovan was assessed to be unsafe and with limited family resources, he was placed into a DCF foster home.
"There is no pain like having a newborn taken from your arms," stated Megan. Ryan recalls feeling guilty and knew what he was setting his son up for in his foster care placement. "I did not want my son to go through what I went through," he stated.
Megan advocated to get into a mother/child rehabilitation program. Donovan was placed back with her after a two-month separation only to be removed and placed into foster care again after Megan was told to leave the program due to non-compliance.
The couple continued to use, endured overdoses and the Department filed to terminate their rights with the goal to have Donovan adopted by his current foster parent.
"Why am I using over my own children," Megan asked herself.
"What is making me go back?"
Now their story began to change.
The couple moved to Manchester and had a new DCF team assigned to them. "It was the staff who made all the difference," Ryan stated.
"Let's do this together" was the approach they felt.
Megan engaged in extensive therapy at Wheeler Clinic and was afforded the supports of a Recovery Manager, Samantha Nisler, to not just hold her accountable but assist her in her overall "recovery life." She worked hard on herself while conducting an "inventory" of her journey.
Equally, Ryan engaged with services and speaks so highly of Don Crocker from Fatherhood Engagement Services at the Village for Children and Families. "Don was pivotal," explained Ryan who emphasized that Don visited, called him and was present in his life during some of his most dark and desolate days.
In one poignant moment, Ryan was visiting Donovan at the DCF office, and he was overcome with a panic attack. He even asked the security staff to call an ambulance. Despite Ryan not wanting him to come, Don came to the office anyway to support him and when he saw Ryan lying on the floor, he picked him up to calm him.
Don facilitated groups with other fathers that Ryan attended. "We're not just dads, we're struggling dads," Ryan stated. "We don't have a lot of experience seeing fathers being good fathers."
With both parents now in recovery, Megan again became pregnant and baby Dominic was born. This time, with supports in place, the Department's assessment was much different, and the baby was allowed to come home from the hospital.
The couple progressed well and eventually Donovan was reunified. Who would have imagined that after a TPR was once filed, the end result would be reunification?
“When I was assigned Megan and Ryan’s case a little over a year ago, It was clear that they both had an extensive history but it was also clear that they were motivated and invested in being the best version of themselves for their children. They were committed to themselves as individuals, as a couple and as parents. It was amazing to see their honesty, dedication, and commitment to remaining sober. They never shied away from the tough topics that were addressed at every meeting. They shared stories of where they came from until now and were able to connect how their past has impacted their older children and their younger children. I am very proud of Ryan and Megan’s accomplishments and I will forever remember the dedication, commitment and growth that I was able to witness happens with this family. I am honored to be a small part of their journey and team of people that are cheering and supporting them," stated Social Worker Tiffany Broughton.
What is the message both Ryan and Megan would have for others who are struggling? In her answer, Megan uses the analogy of a flight attendance telling the passengers that if the airplane loses pressure, you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can help anyone else. "If you cup is not full, you cannot help others," Megan stated.
Megan realized that she had tried to get sober for the wrong reasons - for other people and not herself. "If you are not on top of the list, you are going to fall," she explained.
"There is no such thing as an addict without a mind full of guilt and shame," Ryan stated. "Connecticut is amazing in the way we treat addiction and mental health."
Megan also has a message for families involved with DCF. "You can't make them your enemy," she stated. "They are doing their job. The more you hide from yourself, the more they will become involved."
"Don't do it for them, do it for you."
Ryan and Megan want to give back to others in need. They hope by sharing their experiences and story, others will benefit. Ryan desires to open a sober house and a shelter someday as a safe and welcoming place for others battling addiction.
When Ryan looks at his little boys what does he think?
"They are the first Poudrier's to have a great childhood."
"The fact that we are still here, and kicking is amazing," stated Megan.