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Ryan Michael Greivell’s Story

Sandy Prisak

Presented by his mother, Sandy Prisak

Ryan was 27 when he died by suicide while under the influence of alcohol and marijuana on March 6, 2004.

Ryan was the oldest of our 3 sons. He had a natural way of putting people instantly at ease. A colleague of mine, after meeting Ryan for the first time, aptly described him as “immensely disarming.” Ryan made people feel so comfortable right away. He was so engaging, so attractive in every sense. So kind, loving, gentle and generous. What made Ryan so unique was his giving spirit, love of life, sense of humor, and humility. When he walked into a room, you knew it. Everything seemed brighter. 

He was such a loving son, brother, grandson, cousin, and friend to all who knew him. Ryan had more friends than anyone I have ever known. He was at his happiest when he was surrounded by family and friends, and when he was fishing. He frequently made us laugh, and had the most amazing ability to tell us stories about the unusual things that happened to him in his life. With our mouths gaping open as we would listen in disbelief, we would often say, “that could only happen to you, Ryan.” Ryan touched so many lives.

Once Ryan reached his early 20’s, we had become very aware that he was suffering from the disease of addiction and talked to him about it on numerous occasions over the years, strongly encouraging him to seek treatment and attend 12-step meetings. As hard as we tried, we just couldn’t convince him.

At the age of 27, Ryan’s addiction to alcohol, marijuana and other drugs ultimately created so much havoc in his life that he fell into a depression. In the months prior to Ryan's death, we repeatedly urged him to seek help for his depression and addiction. We offered to help him every step of the way — and to pay for it all. But Ryan refused to seek professional help of any kind. He thought he could handle his problems himself and he tried to convince us that he was “fine.”

I wish we knew about interventions back then. I don’t know if it would have worked for Ryan, but it would have been one more thing we could have tried, one more chance to save him. The real insidiousness of addiction is that the sufferer’s ability to make rational decisions regarding what’s in his or her best interest is severely impaired.

We miss Ryan desperately and will forever hang on tight to everything we had together. Our family will never be whole again, but we cling to the knowledge that beyond a shadow of a doubt, Ryan knew how much we loved him. We also know how much he loved us. And that will have to sustain us for now.


Sandy Prisak’s son Ryan was 27 when he died by suicide while under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. Sandy joined the Board of Directors of Families Changing America to reach out to other families whose lives are impacted by substance abuse and addiction. She hopes to raise awareness that addiction is a disease which greatly impairs the sufferer’s ability to engage in reasoned thinking, thereby diminishing the likelihood of seeking or receiving treatment. She is interested in bridging the gap between the knowledge that a loved one is suffering from an addiction to getting that person into effective treatment.
She is currently the President and CEO of Exterior Surface-Brite, Inc. Previously, Sandy served as the Director of Training and Membership for the American Jail Association, a national nonprofit organization that provides professional training and resources for sheriffs, jail administrators, and others working in a local correctional setting. During her career with AJA, Sandy participated with the coordination of on-site technical assistance to jurisdictions implementing or expanding in-jail drug treatment programs through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice entitled “Drug Treatment in a Jail Setting: National Demonstration Project.”



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