Chris Reed made national news last year when he opened The Other Side, a sober bar in Crystal Lake. A former drug addict himself, Reed wanted to give people a fun place to hang out that didn’t involve getting drunk or high.
With The Other Side coming up on its one year anniversary next month, Reed wants to expand services offered to those in the county struggling with addiction. His nonprofit group recently received a license to start an adolescent outpatient treatment program, which he plans to open in April. The program will counsel 13- to 17-year-olds about the reality of addiction and hopefully steer them away from dependency on alcohol and drugs.
Reed recently sat down with Northwest Herald reporter Jim Dallke to talk about his battle with substance abuse, the details of the treatment program and his plan to eventually offer a wide range of addiction services to McHenry County residents.
Dallke: What experiences in your life led you to opening The Other Side and the outpatient treatment program?
Reed: I started drinking and using drugs when I was like 15. I played hockey, and it was just one night of drinking with some of the older guys who played hockey. It was a half day of school, open bar at my parents’ and we just drank. The only thing I remember from that was just I really enjoyed the effect produced by alcohol.
A few days after that I tried smoking weed ... I slowly got into harder drugs. I was doing cocaine by my sophomore year pretty frequently. Ecstasy, mushrooms, LSD, all of that stuff. By my junior year in high school, I was dealing cocaine pretty frequently.
The come-down from cocaine is really bad. You get really up, and when you come down, it’s just really awful. And some of the guys I was with said, “If you just do a little bit of heroin, you won’t come down at all.”
I tried heroin May 26, 2007. I remember that because it was my brother’s birthday that I tried it. From there on I just used heroin every day …
There was a week in September where I overdosed three times. After those three times, they put me into a psych ward in Elgin … I got out of that psych ward, and I continued to get high for like two weeks. And I got high Friday, Sept. 18, and Saturday, Sept. 19. And the next day I made a decision I was going to go and find a 12-step meeting.
I’ve been sober since that day. Sept. 20, 2009.
Dallke: Why did you decide to open The Other Side?
Reed: I started a construction company shortly after I got sober. I had no previous construction experience whatsoever. But I figured I’d start the company because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Basically, we were just hanging out (in the unit we bought) all the time. And then it was like 10, 15, 20 people hanging out, and by the end of two summers ago … we decided to call this place The Other Side ...
So we filed for a nonprofit status, and we got that, so we’re a registered 501(c)3 called New Direction Addiction Recovery Services.
At the end of two summers ago, we started having one party a month. By the end of that summer of 2012, we had one event with 200, 250 people here ... and the city of Crystal Lake and the building commissioner came out and there were like, “No way. This is not going to happen.” It was not safe at all. There was one bathroom. No fire alarm. Construction equipment everywhere. So they shut it down pretty quick ...
So we filed for a zoning variance for this unit and this building and they actually gave it to us.
Dallke: Why did you decide to start the treatment program?
Reed: We thought, let’s just do this, it’s the next thing to do for a couple of reasons. One is because the youth outpatient program is probably the best to start off with. If you’re looking to set up a network of services, you’re going to want to start with the one that generates the most revenue. The youth generates the most revenue because the kids are still on their parents’ insurance.
Dallke: Where do you get your funding?
Reed: Us. We generate it all ourselves. We set up a few months ago a recurring monthly donation. A $10 monthly donation that supports new directions as a whole. The first week we launched it we had over $600 coming in monthly. If the community wants to support us they can do so on our website, www.ndars.org …
Even if McHenry County was like,”Here, here’s $100,000 to do this,” we would say no. We don’t even want it. We don’t want to be tied to the Mental Health Board or any of those places at all because then they can’t say anything. They have no say. We’ve done everything that we need to do. We could become this huge treatment network in McHenry County and they would have no say in that, which is cool.
Dallke: What’s next for you guys?
Reed: After the outpatient program, we’ll probably start trying to get an inpatient treatment program. But that is a two- to three-year project and a multimillion-dollar affair. But that’s the goal at some point … and we want to create a sober living apartment or a halfway house.