'Dope Man' Chronicles Day In The Life Of Heroin Interventionist

By Keri Blakinger 07/31/17

The hard-hitting A&E special starring intervention specialist Tim Ryan airs tonight on A&E. 

Intervention specialist Tim Ryan
Intervention specialist Tim Ryan Photo via YouTube

The Dope Man is coming. 

A new A&E special that tracks a fast-paced day in the life of an in-your-face intervention specialist is set to air Monday, just after the new season of Intervention.

“People don’t understand the heartache,” said show star Tim Ryan, who battled heroin addiction for years before getting sober in 2012. “Opiate addiction takes people to very desperate places.” 

Dubbed Dope Man, the hour-long special is produced by Wonder Years star Jason Hervey’s Bischoff Hervey Entertainment, and it came about after the former TV big and Ryan met up over coffee. 

“I’m the type of guy who could care less about being on TV,” Ryan said. But when it comes to recovery and advocacy work, he's optimistic that the special could have a positive impact on the fight against addiction.

“What I want to have happen is, I want the stigma dropped,” the 48-year-old Illinois man said. “So many people still look at someone with drug or alcohol addiction and say, ‘Just have the willpower to quit.’”

Ryan has a firsthand understanding of how far that attitude misses the mark. “Basically, I struggled with addiction my whole life,” he said. “I’m the guy who thought I could get sober through osmosis—if I hung out with sober people, I’d get sober, too.” 

But then in December 2010, Ryan overdosed while driving, crashing into two other cars and netting an aggravated DUI charge in the process. It took two years for the legal process to play out, and in the end Ryan was hit with a seven-year prison sentence. When he was released in late 2013, he had 13 months sober and a desire to spread recovery and save lives.  

In short order, he started as an interventionist and working for rehabs. “I’ve done 1,500 interventions in the past three years,” Ryan boasted. “I help anyone—I don’t care if they have insurance.”

In his own life, Ryan works a 12-step program of recovery, though he encourages people to do whatever works for them, whether it’s medication-assisted treatment or Smart Recovery or Buddhism. “I need to meet people where they’re at and ultimately try to get them into abstinence-based recovery,” he said. 

Though intervention television has been a sometimes-controversial genre in the addiction and recovery community, Ryan is hopeful his special will have a positive impact. 

“This is a must-watch,” Ryan said. “It’s going to really expose what’s going on out there. And that there’s hope. If they’ve got a heartbeat, they have hope.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.