Like most mothers in the 1990s, my mom thought marijuana was evil and would lead to a life of jail and crime. She had seen drug use ruin her brothers’ and sisters’ lives, and she would not stand for any drug use in her home.

The first time she caught me, my friends and I were three hours past curfew. We stumbled into the house around midnight laughing, trying to explain why we were so late.

“It was a flat,” my friend Aaron said. “No, a traffic wreck.”


My mom turned to me for an explanation.

“Don’t remember, but do we have any chips?”

We were busted.

Photo by Ryan Burger.

The next week, I was pulled from public school and placed into a private one and was not allowed to see my friends. To nip my drug problem in the, um, bud, my mom sent me to my first private drug counselor.

The therapist thought my mother was overreacting a little. He gave me an article from High Times magazine that said that marijuana was not bad for your body.

It was here that I created a concept that would get me through 12 more drug counselors over the next six years: “Tell them exactly what they want to hear.” Tell them that drugs are bad and that you don’t want them anymore. Just be an actor, and they will believe you.

It served me well until my mother began giving me random urine tests after finding marijuana in my room for the fifth time. She believed that tough love was going to break my addictions. The drug tests deterred me from smoking weed, but my addictions were already growing stronger.

I began experimenting with other drugs and taking prescription pills. Raiding my friend’s medicine cabinets became habitual. We would frequently mix pills and take unknown ones. We traded muscle relaxers and painkillers like they were candy. It wasn’t long before my teachers caught me with prescribed pills and kicked my butt out of school. This was fortunate timing because the repeated use of Klonopin left me physically addicted. Millwood Hospital, a mental health and substance abuse facility in Arlington, weaned me off the dangerous pharmaceuticals. Seven days there felt like an eternity.

The drug tests continued, and drinking pickle juice the night before mom’s drug tests meant that smoking weed was once again possible.

I felt bad for wasting my mom’s money, but I was smoking weed again, and I wasn’t going to give it up.

Another few years passed, and I gave new meaning to “high” school. The more stoned I was, the better my grades were. From the first day to the last, my senior year at Saint Alban’s Episcopal School was a smoke-filled haze of memories. My best friend Bennett and I would meet across the street from our tiny private school and smoke weed before the morning bell rang. We also would retire to The Smoke Box, a.k.a. my car, at lunch, during afternoon break, and after school, around 4:20 p.m. of course.

After graduation in 2003, I attended Weatherford College Fire Science Academy. These classes were also taken while high on marijuana. I received my Texas firefighter certification in 2004, but firefighters are subject to polygraph tests before hiring. That was the end of that career.

Working odd jobs for a few years made me realize that I was getting nowhere fast.





  1. Ryan was a student in my Anatomy and Physiology course at Texas Wesleyan University. He completely excelled at his studies and is a genuine great guy. He is completely compassionate and cares for all humans. To criminalize people for trying to find peace without harming others is in itself a crime. I hope Ryan is able to spearhead the movement to begin decriminalizing marijuana and other drugs in Texas.

    He served our country and is now paying psychological price. That price is tough and his message should be heard with a kind heart.

    More power to you Ryan. Good luck.

    Dr. Benjamin R. Miller

    • Thank you so much for your respect and compassion. Despite my PTSD my life is flourishing and I will never stop fighting for the right to use my medicine.

      Thank you for all of your guidance and support.

      Sincerely, Robert Ryan.

  2. Great story Robert. I’m glad that you are finding your happiness, no matter what the government says. Once enough people stand up for legalization, we will see a difference. The 80’s really screwed up the world.

    • Ya but the ’80s gave us great music and movies like “The Goonies” so it’s really a mixed bag over all. And it expanded the possibilities of what could be done with hair and hairspray exponentially.

    • The 80s did give us some good stuff, including The goonies, John Hues, and me. I was born in 1984.

      I am finally at a point in my life when I can truly appreciate happiness, but transitioning from sad to happy when I want is still hard. My medicine helps with that and smooths the transition from depression to happiness.

  3. Hammer-heads are going to be hammer-heads, Peckerwoods are going to be peckerwoods, Baggers are baggers….when will we ever change? Nothing new to see here.You are a good man. I salute you, Sir.