In September of 2009, Chris Reed was 19 years old lying in a hospital bed -- after his third heroin overdose -- telling his family he wanted to die.
With a raging drug addiction that began when he was just about 14 with alcohol and marijuana, he had hit his rock bottom.
But today, Reed, 22, of Algonquin sees the brighter side of life and endless possibilities in his future.
September 20 marked his three years of sobriety, and he is committed to helping other young adults along on their own path to sobriety.
Today, he owns his own construction company, surrounds himself with supportive, sober friends and is president of The Other Side in Crystal Lake, a nonprofit, alcohol-free nightclub.
Reed operates the club, the first of its kind in the area, with three friends, all in their twenties and each recovering from drugs and alcohol.
“We focus on trying to provide ... a place where people can go that are trying to live a sober lifestyle,” he said. “We draw from a couple of different communities...people who have had drug and alcohol problems, people involved in church (and those) who are just non-drinking people.
“There are so many bars for people to go out and hang out, but there is no where if you don’t want to drink ... .There are not a whole lot of options and you can only go to the movie theater and bowling so many times.”
Reed and his friends say they are still young and want to go out and have fun, but know enough about their addictions to steer clear from bars and other places where temptations may lie.
So, The Other Side provides that safe, clean environment where young adults can go have fun and find fellowship without the fear or relapsing, Reed said.
Reed said he owes his recovery to working recovery programs, sober, supportive friends, admitting that he is powerless over alcohol and drugs -- and trusting in a higher power.
Providing support for those in recovery is a matter of life and death, because without the proper support an addict will relapse and likely die. Yet, he said, this is an area of society in which government funding is failing.
He pointed out one sobering reality of this dilemma.
“We’ve lost four of our really good friends due to relapse, all under the age of 25, within the last six months,” Reed said. “People relapse ... . There is such a huge need in our community for people to have places to go.”
In March, Reed was in Los Angeles where he attended an elaborate sober party
hosted by an LA-based recovery group.
“I had such a good time,” he recalled. “It was one big party, all night long, all sober and so many good people. I came back super motivated to do the exact same thing out here, and that is basically what we did.”
So Reed and his non-drinking, drug-free friends began turning the back end of his construction office at 93 East Berkshire into The Other Side.
“Over the past six months we slowly moved everything construction wise out of the back warehouse and built a bar (where they serve soda and energy drinks only), brought in a pool table, ping pong table, got music equipment and a sound system ... stage lighting, tresses, TVs, couches,” he said.
They began hosting karaoke nights, movie nights and live bands.
One night in October the club had over 200 people arrive, more than any local drinking bar in Crystal Lake had that night, Reed said.
“And Crystal Lake shut us down because we got much bigger than they had ever anticipated,” Reed said.
With dozens of letters of support written by local business owners and parents of young addicts and alcoholics backing them up, Reed and his partners attended a recent Crystal Lake City Council meeting where they were granted a zoning variation.
The Other Side will officially re-open sometime April 27 - now that more than $8,000 in safety improvements are complete, including the addition of a second bathroom, sprinkler system and new electrical work.
This is the only club of its type in the area, said Reed and city officials. Though there are clubs that do not serve alcohol for a few hours on certain nights, there are none geared toward young adults and not serving alcohol at all.
Chris’s mom Charla Reed said her son has come a long way.
“He is an amazing kid,” she said. “Every time we hear of one of his friends dying .... it’s only by the grace of God that we didn’t end up there. It just as easily could have been our family. God must have had greater plans for him.”
Charla Reed, who often helps out at the nightclub said, living through her son’s addiction was “a total nightmare.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “I kept thinking I’m going to wake up and this is all just going to be a bad dream.”
But something happened after that third overdose, and today he is a new man.
“For him to have gotten here and to help so many people with The Other Side is just a blessing,” she said. “Not just for us and our family but for everyone he is trying to help.”
Steve Staley, 27, of Lake in the Hills, vice president of the board of the The Other Side, said he has been “living a clean lifestyle just under five years” free of alcohol and heroin.
“When anything and everything I loved was gone,” he said. “It was pretty much die or get cleaned up.”
Staley said the club, which allows in patrons as young as 17, is an alternative for anyone wanting to be in a clean and sober environment. It is the type of place he wished he had as an option to go to when he was a teen.
“My options would have been much broader at 17 if there was something like The Other Side available,” he said.
If there had been a place like this to hang out with sober friends, he said, then maybe he wouldn’t have spent his 17th birthday in jail after being busted with drugs and alcohol.
“Growing up we got in trouble because there was basically nothing to do,” he said. “Then, when you hit that 21 range there is not much to do for fun outside of those kinds of places (serving alcohol), so we figured there should be some sort of alternative to someone in recovery or one who just doesn't choose to drink.”
Mike Ledvora, 22, of Crystal Lake, a director on the board of The Other Side, is a recovering alcoholic and heroin addict who has been clean and sober for about two years.
Ledvora said the nightclub is a safe and supportive haven.
“It is fine and good for younger people to hang out, but we are all very serious about what our issues are,” he said. “(The club) allows us to basically talk and see what similarities we have going on, and see what things we can help each other with.”
This safe and sober zone the nightclub is providing and the camaraderie between the young people involved, is exactly what is needed for them to stay sober, said Gail Basch, medical director of Rush Addiction Services at Rush Hospital in Chicago.
Basch is “thrilled” that this group of young adults has come together to support each others sobriety.
“Their efforts boost protective factors and reduce risk factors,” she said.
They have learned to protect their sobriety by using peer pressure in a positive way.
“Peer pressure is one of the highest risk factors” in whether a young person will continue on in their addiction, she said.
She added that these young folks are in a good position because the younger you are when you find your sobriety the better your odds at keeping it.
“This innovative group of young people is using one of the most successful ways to achieve health and recovery - group therapy,” she said. “Research shows that a combination of medical treatment and group therapy is most successful in helping people recover from drug abuse.
“In this case, a peer support group with positive health goals and a negative attitude toward drug use, along with community and local law support is ideal,” Basch said.
For Matthew Pearson, 21, of Lake in the Hills, who is sober less than a year, The Other Side is a safe place where he can go after a recovery meeting, keeping him away from old haunts and bad influences that could threaten his newfound sobriety.
“The meetings are nice, but when the meeting is done, (it’s like) ‘now what do I do,’ ” he said. “Being able to come here and hang out with your friends is nice. It helped me a lot.”
Please comment, share, "like" and let me know you stopped by! Until next time, love each other...