SUBSTANCE STRUGGLES AND SELF SABOTAGE
From childhood Andy found a passion and aptitude for performance, relishing being the centre of attention, eventually chanelling his talents into a career in acting.
Unfortunately, something that also kicked off at an early age was Andy’s use of illicit substances after he began drinking at 14 then found drugs at around 18/19.
“For one reason or another, whether it was my inability to process emotions or an adverse childhood experience, eg. being bullied or judged or just the pure anxiety of not living up to the expectations of what I thought other people thought I should be, I sought refuge in drugs and alcohol from a very young age,” he explains.
As Andy’s career began to take off, including his turn as Chris Lang in Tomorrow, When The War Began (“Yes, for the one millionth time there will be no sequel to that film,” he jokes), his addiction threatened to sabotage it all.
At one point Andy’s partying caused him to miss an important call time on set (a huge no-no), but the actor was lucky enough to be given a second chance.
In an act of good will, the film’s director Stuart Beattie even organised for acclaimed actor Russell Crowe to write Andy a personal letter.
“I won’t go into the intricacies of that letter but he explained that when a production company believes in you, you owe that production the duty of care to never put yourself before the film,” Andy says.
He adds: “And to perhaps never forget the benefits of a strong cup of coffee rather than any other chemical or liquid enhancement.”
WATCH: Tomorrow, When The War Began stars reunite after 10 years
A LIFE-CHANGING MOMENT
When it came to Andy’s drug and alcohol abuse, something eventually had to give.
For Andy, that tipping point came on April 1, 2018 when he walked out of his bedroom one morning to find his entire family sitting at the breakfast table.
“Something very special happened to me in my life, my loving family, my mother, father, sister and brother-in-law and baby niece staged an intervention. I still remember it clear as day,” Andy divulges.
“Dad just said, ‘Son, sit down. Everyone sitting around this table loves you so much and we can just see you’ve been having a bit of trouble doing life. We were wondering if perhaps you might be prepared to hand us the reins for a little while and put you into a place and see if we can’t rally around you and just get things back on track because we love you too much to lose you, mate.'”
In that moment, the gravity of Andy’s emotions hit hard.
“I just f**king lost it,” he says. “I collapsed with relief and just raw emotion because I wasn’t going to call it. My pride and ego was always going to get in the way. I was so relieved.”
A HEARTBREAKING BLOW
While his family’s intervention changed Andy’s trajectory when it came to his addiction struggles, another blow was yet to come - and this one was unimaginable.
Just three days before checking into rehab, Andy received the devastating news that the woman he had been seeing for the past three months had taken her own life.
“It was way too much,” Andy admits, adding there isn’t a day that goes by he doesn’t think of her.
“In AA they say there’s three options for those who remain in active addiction which is jail, death or institution and all of sudden I was at the front door of a rehab with a girlfriend in a coffin and I was like ‘Oh sh*t, those c**ts weren’t lying’. Here I am at an institution, she got death and the next one’s jail. I don’t want to go there.”
He adds: “That’s why I’m so vigilant now, I do two meetings a day. That’s what I’ve got to do.”
Following the intervention, Andy’s family placed him in South Pacific Private Rehabilitation Clinic, where he remained for the next 21 days as he battled his drug and alcohol addictions.
“The journey was hard, confronting and full-on,” the actor says of his time spent there.
Although rehab was not easy, the journey was clearly worth it and Andy says his life changed for the better. Notably, he was able to restore the fractured relationship with his family.
“Since getting out of rehab a lot of amazing things have happened in my life and not necessarily the things that I thought that defines success and achievement. One of the greatest things that happened was I got a relationship that is functional with my family back again,” he says.
Andy apologised to his older sister Jennifer for what he describes as “selfishness in the midst of his addiction”, an olive branch that was accepted by his beloved sibling.
Grateful for this reconciliation, Andy credits this renewed relationship as being one of the greatest gifts of recovery.
“One of the most beautiful moments that happened in my sobriety was I was able to make an amends to my sister, who although we have had many good times in our lives we have had some quite challenging and troubling times,” he says.
THE RAINBOW AFTER THE RAIN
In November last year, just how far the siblings’ relationship had come was punctuated by a joyful event. Jennifer and her husband welcomed their second daughter, a moment that was particularly poignant for Andy.
“I asked her with tears in my eyes, ‘What’s the gender of the baby?’ She replied, ‘We have a baby girl.’ I said, ‘That’s amazing Jennifer, what’s her name?’ She choked on her reply… she couldn’t even answer,” Andy recalls.
Instead, it was left to Andy’s brother-in-law to deliver the good news.
“He said, ‘Mate we’ve decided to call this baby girl Andy after you,’” Andy remembers, adding that the honour left him speechless.
“For someone like myself that can literally talk underwater I was lost for words,” he says.
“They say if you’re prepared to give sobriety a go you will live a life beyond your wildest dreams, and never in my darkest day did I think that this would be possible. You see, my family now have a brother, uncle, son and friend they can now invest and trust in.”
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Andy is now two-and-a-half years sober and determined to follow a more positive life path, but it hasn’t always been easy - due largely to the Covid-19 crisis and ensuing lockdowns.
Like the overwhelming majority of people working in the Australian arts and entertainment industry, many of Andy’s work opportunities disintegrated thanks to ongoing lockdowns and strict restrictions.
His acting work? Cancelled. His one-man live show? Postponed indefinitely. Even his ethical theatre sports job with sporting organisations (including the NRL, a company which an eternally grateful Andy credits as saving his life) and corporate businesses had the plug pulled.
It’s a story that many actors and crew in the industry can relate to, however Andy is still optimistic for the future and hopes his raw honesty can help those also struggling.
“In times like these with instability and insecurity on the horizon I would like to share a part of my story, not in an attempt to beat my chest or have you shed a tear for me, but to share my courage, strength and hope in order to maybe let the silent sufferer for a night know they are not alone,” Andy says of why he’s speaking out now.
“If we all work together there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I can assure you it’s not a train!”
And while the actor is quick to insist that he knows many others are worse off, he’s opening up about the hard-hit arts industry as it’s one he knows personally.
“My fervent hope for the future of the arts is that we need to recover even stronger than before,” Andy says.
“When this virus somewhat dissipates and this vaccine finally achieves some sort of life that resembles something next to normal, I implore the general public to get out and see absolutely everything. Independent theatre, major theatre, stand-up comedy, live music, and attend bars and clubs that don’t have poker machines but rather have local bands and artists playing for your enjoyment.”
As well as encouraging support of the arts once COVID restrictions ease, Andy urges people to follow actors on Instagram and support them in any other way they can.
“Give them a fighting chance to practise their trade and do what they love and feels like they’ve been born to do,” he advocates.
You can follow Andy on Instagram at @andyryansyd