New ‘Sober Bar’ Aims To Provide A Safe Space For People Recovering From Substance Abuse

A photo of a meeting at The Other Side from the group's Facebook page

22-year-old Chris Reed of Algonquin wants to give young former addicts a place to indulge in some R&R — recovery and recreation, that is. The former heroin addict and president of the recovery nonprofit New Directions Addiction Recovery Services has — with the help of some fellow recovery patients — led the charge in creating “The Other Side,” a completely volunteer-funded “sober bar” set to open in Crystal Lake, Illinois at the end of the month.

Although alcohol and substance abuse are often stratified in everyday conversation, they are rooted in similar dependencies and have a fair amount of interplay. Substance abusers are much more likely to have an alcohol dependency than vice versa, and young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are at the highest risk of having co-occurring alcohol and substance abuse problems. That’s why The Other Side aims to be a space in which young Americans recovering from a drug habit can take a breather — without the temptation of booze and its potential to cause a relapse. “If you’re choosing a sober lifestyle, this will be a healthy atmosphere. It’s an important place for people in recovery,” Reed told the Daily Herald. “We’re still young, and we want to hang out. You can’t hang out with 40 people at your house.”

The whole effort is not-for-profit, intertwined with other recovery groups, and will hopefully become an additional therapeutic resource for recovering addicts:

The Other Side is not a business — everyone involved is keeping a day job, and it’s only open four nights a week, Thursdays through Sundays. Any money raised will fund drug education and treatment initiatives by their nonprofit and others, including Wake the Nation, a Facebook-based drug awareness group led by New Directions board member Cassandra Wingert, 23, of Western Springs. […]

Falling somewhere between “nightclub” and “rec center,” The Other Side is opening in the warehouse loft space behind Reed’s construction company on Berkshire Drive. It has room for people to relax on couches, watch TV, play pool or video games, listen to live bands, or dance along with a disc jockey. There will be security, and people will be carded at the door to make sure they’re at least 18 years old — and sober. […]

The Other Side’s creators hope their bar will help people in various stages of recovery by providing them a place to go, and a place to be with others who understand the struggle of addiction.

The space also features photographs of late addicts who succumbed to their struggles with drugs — a solemn reminder of what can happen without a robust support system for Americans who are trying to get clean. Social exclusion, loneliness, and isolation are all significant risk factors for both mental illness and substance abuse, making group-based recovery efforts particularly important. What makes efforts such as The Other Side promising is that they close the gap between the social and therapeutic spheres of recovery, giving former addicts a place to be with both non-addict and addict friends.