CHICAGO (CBS) — You’d never know by looking at him, but Chris Reed is the new face of addiction. He’s clean-cut, fresh-faced, well-dressed, and well-spoken. He grew up in Algonquin and attended Jacobs High School.

“I just thought I was doing what everybody else was doing. We were having fun. That’s what you do. That’s just what high schoolers do. You drink, and you do drugs,” Reed said.

By 17, he was using and selling cocaine.

“I was selling it to support my own habit,” he said.

Chris Reed and his friends set up The Other Side as a "sober bar" for recovering addicts like themselves. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Chris Reed and his friends set up The Other Side as a “sober bar” for recovering addicts like themselves. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

What started out as a way to come down from his cocaine high became a full blown heroin addiction.

“The first time I tried heroin, it did exactly what I was looking for with all the other drugs and alcohol. The heroin soon was ruling my life at that point,” Reed said.

Now 26, Reed said he’s been to hell and back.

“I was in and out of Cook County Jail. My parents eventually kicked me out. I was homeless for months, couch surfing. I overdosed twice, unintentionally, in one week; so this time I end up in a psych ward, because I couldn’t stay alive for more than a couple of days at a time,” he said.

After two years of addiction, he made a commitment to his parents; he’d get clean and go through the 12-step program.

“I think I was just done fighting. I made that internal decision to give 100% and really try it. I’ve been sober since September 20, 2009. I soon realized I could help other people,” he said.

A full-time job and other friends in recovery would lead him to a warehouse in Crystal Lake.

“I worked for a construction company, and we used to hang out at this warehouse where we used to store machinery. It started out as a weekend thing, then we were there every day. People gradually started making improvements to the place, so we named it,” he said.

With that, “The Other Side” was born, a first-of-its-kind ‘sober bar,” located on Berkshire Lane in Crystal Lake.

The Other Side bar.  (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

The Other Side bar. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Ping pong at the Other Side Bar. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Ping pong at the Other Side Bar. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

“We started having these sober parties once a month. 150-200 people showed up, and they were fun.”

Reed said the space has taken on a life of its own.

“We’ve got a bar that serves non-alcoholic drinks. We’ve got a projector. We’ve got a stage for live music, pool table, darts, ping pong,” he said.

Reed said it’s a place for addicts like him to gather, socialize, and get needed support.

“Our mission is to provide a substance-free environment for people to enjoy themselves. It’s an easy way to rebuild your social life that you’ve probably given up, and it’s also an easy way for people to get plugged in with recovery,” he said.

(Credit: Lisa Fielding)

(Credit: Lisa Fielding)

Reed and his friends in recovery also created a non-profit and re-zoned the space for assembly.

“New Directions Addiction Recovery Services is our non-profit, and we’ve gotten a lot of private donations. Now we’re setting up two sober living homes in Crystal Lake,” said Reed.

The space just celebrated its third anniversary, and is now offering memberships.

For Reed, it’s a safe haven.

“I never thought I had the ability to help others like this, and – in turn – it’s helped me. It’s the best part of my life,” he said.

His story had a happy ending, but many aren’t so lucky. He said the answer is simple.

“Surround yourself with recovery, otherwise it’s just not going to work,” he said.

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