CINCINNATI (WKRC) – A local elite athlete, an MMA fighter considered one of the best in the state, is fighting a different foe now.

At 24 years old, Daniel Ritchie was at the top of his game: a champion MMA fighter who was on his way to greatness. Then an injury that doctors treated with Percocet, an all-too-common pain reliever that contains oxycodone — an opioid with similar effects as heroin.

Ritchie is now a recovering heroin addict who is using his experience to help others.

“At one time, I was one of the top amateur fighters in the Midwest — if not the country. I was a five-time champion, and then I fell into heroin addiction,” Ritchie said.

They called him Daniel “The Weapon” Ritchie, but no weapon had the strength to beat opioids.

It started when Ritchie was at the top of his game. But then came an injury, a prescription for painkillers and, eventually, a hopeless spiral into addiction.

“It’s hard to understand how something can be that powerful that it could take away everything in your life away from you and you allow it to happen,” he said. “It just started as I’ll steal a couple of dollars out of my dad’s wallet and replace it later…I stole jewelry from my mother. Stole pain medication from my grandmother and my mother.”

Ritchie described how much worse his addiction got:

“My neck was gashed open from putting a needle in my neck. I wasn’t eating regularly because all my money was going towards drugs. I was eating once every few days…I drove around for drug dealers and got involved in some things I really shouldn’t have and I never thought I would, going to places I never thought I would. I had guns put in my head. I was stabbed twice,” Ritchie said.

“I had burned every bridge I had ever built,” he continued. “Some of them more than once. My family wouldn’t talk to me. I was just an empty vessel with no purpose, just walking around. I wanted to die.”

But Ritchie didn’t die. Homeless and broke, he checked himself into rehab three years ago and turned around his life. He now has a girlfriend and they have a daughter: 14-month-old Harley.

“That is something I never want her to see, and I know what I have to do in order to do that and that is to continue to help other addicts and alcoholics that are suffering from the same things I did. Because there is hope out there no matter how hopeless you are,” Ritchie said.

Not only is Daniel volunteering at a local rehab facility and a hospital, he is starting a speaking tour, writing a book and is a personal trainer. And he says he’s still fighting. It’s just a different kind of fight.

Ritchie, incidentally, has truly, in every sense of the word, met his match.

He and his girlfriend plan to get married soon. He hopes his story inspires others to get clean. He is also a peer mentor for the Center for Addiction Treatment in Cincinnati.

If you need addiction information, assistance or you’d like to volunteer or donate, you can visit catsober.org.

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