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Rick Ridenour: A Survivor Who Wants To Save Others From Addiction

Date: June 6, 2001
By: Dawn Fuller

Photos by Lisa Britton
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Archive: Student Profiles

Rick Ridenour of Gomer, Ohio has overcome obstacles that most of us could never imagine, and in the process has achieved academic excellence. He was selected as marshal by the College of Evening and Continuing Education because of his academic excellence.

Rick Ridenour He's also making history at the university by becoming one of the first graduates to achieve a bachelor's degree solely through distance learning. Ridenour earned his baccalaureate degree with a focus in Addictions Studies by taking distance learning courses through Lima Technical College, where he had earned his associate's degree in human services.

Looking at what the 43-year-old Ridenour has accomplished, it's hard to believe that his future wasn't always looking so bright. In fact, it was the prospect of facing prison time that turned his life around. Ridenour says he was only seven years old when he first tried drugs. "I've been shot five different times and I've been declared legally dead 12 times. It was all drug-related."

"I was caught up in my own addiction for about 30 years, but I wasn't aware I had a problem until I was in my 30s. I got arrested and was told I could choose between prison or the Western Ohio Treatment and Rehabilitation Center. I decided to go to the center, get my head out of my butt and start doing something with myself."

Ridenour's been in recovery five years and strives to help others out of the tragic situation that he was once in. He volunteers at the treatment center that helped him turn his life around, counsels a group of people who suffer from both addictions and mental illness and counsels teens housed at a juvenile detention center, all on a voluntary basis. Ridenour works as a part-time addictions counselor at St. Rita's Medical Center as well as a counselor for a court-ordered school for DUI offenders in Lima. The distance learning degree served Ridenour's needs for a higher education as well as the needs in his community.

"I've been able to continue working here in Lima and stay on a campus I was familiar with. Plus, the degree will help me move up in my job."

Lawrence Anthony and Rick Ridenour

"The degree adds to the expertise of the small community," adds Lawrence Anthony, director of Addictions Studies. "Some of these students are working in community social service agencies, correctional facilities or police departments and they really can't move away from their communities. Many of them have told us, 'If you hadn't presented this program to us, we probably would not have been able to get our degree.'"

Anthony adds the demand for expertise in understanding, preventing and treating addictions will continue to grow as counselors are hired for programs that serve as alternatives to prison. "More of these programs will be opening up nationwide, because a good deal of the money for addictions treatment is going to come through the criminal justice system. The idea is we're going to start treating these people while we have a captive audience. That has created a new demand for more counselors."

Rick and his family

Ridenour already is feeling the demand. "The treatment center where I work is the closest within 100 miles of any direction. Another one closed up in Troy, Ohio. We get people from clear down in Dayton, Ohio."

With the baccalaureate degree, Ridenour plans to go full time as a counselor at St. Rita's Medical Center. "I finally got out of my addiction, now I'm trying to help other people get out of their addiction. Maybe they'll even go to school like I did."

For other profiles of Rick's fellow students, read about:

  • Grandmother Kathy Tryon, and the tragedies she overcame as she continued her education.
  • Debbie Parker discovers she has more than the flu as she works toward her degree
  • Arnett Phipps, a Vietnam veteran, becomes more marketable with the degree

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