PROVO — Ryan Hymas' family had his funeral planned and his casket picked out five years ago.
"I hit rock bottom," Hymas explained. He had been addicted to heroin and alcohol for 16 years.
"It was 16 years of misery," he said. "I just dreaded waking up. Every day the sun would come in, and it was just a nightmare every single day.
"And now I love waking up."
Hymas, five years sober, co-founded Building Beginnings, a Utah-based rehabilitation nonprofit for people wanting to recover from drug or alcohol addictions. And every single employee, from newly hired to upper management, has an addiction background similar to Hymas'.
"Recovery has become a billion dollar industry, and people profit off of it," Hymas said. "Recovery needs to change from being an industry based around profiting off the suffering of individuals and more about taking care of that individual who is in early recovery and giving him the help that he needs."
After Hymas had been in recovery for several months, he decided he wanted to work in recovery himself. But he saw flaws in the treatment center where he began working, and in treatment centers in general.
"The system was just set up to fail," Hymas said. "They get out, relapse and come back in. It was just a cycle of relapse and people dying, and there didn't seem to be an end to it."
Many people who needed help, he said, were being turned away because they didn't have insurance or enough money to cover treatment. And the people who completed the program couldn't find work afterward because of their criminal backgrounds and lack of transportation.
So Hymas decided to start a his own recovery program — one that functions as a nonprofit accepting every person who asks for help despite their financial situation, and one that finds them work, housing and transportation in addition to treatment.
"I go pick up guys who are homeless," Hymas said. "They have no options anymore. If you have $0 in your pocket, how do you get on your feet?"
He said the way to do that is to give them free housing for a week, find them work with one of Building Beginnings' subcontractors, drive them to work, offer affordable treatment, and after a week they can start paying their way for living and treatment expenses.
Building Beginnings is a registered nonprofit, which is the part of the program that "helps everybody walk through the door" and get on their feet, Hymas said. Building Beginnings Housing and Building Beginnings Recovery are registered as for-profit businesses. A for-profit company they subcontract with, Make It Happen Remodeling, is owned by Building Beginnings co-founder Brett Griffiths.
Mady Weight, a manager at Building Beginnings, said they subcontract with for-profits to give those in recovery the opportunity to earn a paycheck. Though their housing and recovery centers are technically registered as for-profits, the money gained from those goes back into the nonprofit, creating a self-sustaining system, she said.
Building Beginnings subcontracts with numerous companies around Utah, including construction, welding, home remodeling and landscape companies. The goal is to move people in their program on to getting hired by one of the companies they subcontract with.
"There's three conditions: They've got to stay sober, they've got to work hard and they've got to support the team," Hymas said. "I ask them those questions when they come in, and if they want the chance, we give every single person a chance."
Building Beginnings ultimately creates a family system where those going through recovery live, work and receive treatment together, he said.
"We went from four people and 38 bucks in the bank a year ago to having 130 plus employees right now," Hymas said, adding that Building Beginnings has helped more than 600 people in recovery.
Building Beginnings celebrated its one-year anniversary June 6, and Hymas doesn't think the company's growth will stop anytime soon.
"It can't stop now," he said. "It has to keep going, because somebody has to give these guys jobs."
It seemed, sometimes, as though the company wouldn't make it to the one-year achievement.
"There were so many times we didn't know how we were going to make payroll or pay our federal taxes, and every time opportunities came through," he said. "We've stayed alive. I feel like in another few years we'll look back and be amazed of what's happened, about the people we helped and how we were able to do it with very little resources."
Hymas said they're spreading to Ogden and St. George within the next year, and he projects Building Beginnings will be a nationwide program within 10 years.
"I'm in recovery, every single person in this company is in recovery," Hymas said, adding that when people with nonprofit backgrounds ask for a job, he turns them away if they are not also in recovery.
Gwen Berriel, Building Beginnings' donations manager, said her childhood was permeated with drugs.
"My dad got me high at 5 years old," she said. "I told myself I was never going to be the mother my mom was to me. And then I became just like her. I got into meth, I got into heroin. I couldn't stay out of jail."
Berriel said she went to jail 39 times and was in prison 2 ½ years. She found out about Building Beginnings about three months ago after getting out of rehab, and working with the organization has helped give her a system of recovery.
"I love this place," she said. "It's amazing because everybody cares and everybody loves one another and they want to see others change. It's not just somebody trying to make another dollar."
Nic Carroll, Building Beginning's housing coordinator, said he began getting involved with gangs and alcohol at age 11.
"I saw the movie 'Scarface' and I thought that was life," he said. "I thought I was going to be the next godfather."
Carroll dropped out of high school and spiraled into a life of crime and drugs and jail time. He said he went to rehab 20 times.
His turning point was wanting to be with his three kids, he said, and he started working and recovering with Building Beginnings, working construction site cleanups and home remodeling.
"It's very humbling to go to a construction site where other people are working, and I'm the guy picking up their trash," Carroll said. "But I was happy, because I was honest. I was somebody I could look at in the mirror and appreciate."
A spiritual work
"The way people stay sober and happy is through spirituality, whatever that means for them," Hymas said. "That's the reason this company has been able to survive — this is a spiritual program."
Hymas said he feels God gives them strength to do things they otherwise couldn't do.
"We pray and we work our butts off in this company, and that's how it works," he said. "I've tried one or the other, and it doesn't work."
Hymas said during his recovery and while running the company, he's stuck to the mantra of: "God doesn't help those who help themselves; God helps those who help others."
Carroll said you wouldn't guess it from his appearance, including tattoo sleeves and a small tattoo under one eye, but he's found his spirituality in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while in recovery.
Hymas said his nonprofit offers Utahns a plethora of service opportunities.
"If there's anyone out there that reads Deseret News that can think of a way they can help us, I would love to hear from them," he said. "Get creative — anything outside of the box. We need everything from toothpaste and shoes to gas cards to funding so that we can scholarship people."
Hymas said he and other management have kept the nonprofit afloat by mortgaging their own houses and running their cars into the ground, but if Building Beginnings can get funding to help with the initial overhead that it costs to get someone on their feet, he feels the program can expand greatly.3 comments on this story
"The people we work with are coming straight out of jail, prison, off the street," Weight said. "They have no money in their pocket, and we can give them a job and they can make minimum wage, but they need at least some money to help them up front. Our goal is for them to be self-sufficient."
Hymas said the current opioid crisis affects everyone.
"Unless we all work together and help these guys by lowering the rent on sober livings, by giving them work opportunities, by giving them affordable treatment, it's just a cycle," he said.
To learn more about Building Beginnings, go to bbrecovery.net.