May 20, 2024
Local News

Crystal Lake sober bar, support system key around New Year's for those recovering during holidays

New Year's, and the weekend after, can be seen for many people as a time to celebrate by drinking. While this can be hard for people recovering from addiction, there are ways to combat this.

Chris Reed, president of New Directions Addiction Recovery Services and The Other Side Sober Bar, said they do tend to see more people during and after the holidays.

"The holidays are a hard time for a lot of people," he said. "We really are busier. More people are looking for support over the holidays. Christmas, New Year's (is) a busy time for sure."

The Other Side, in Crystal Lake, offers people a bar-like atmosphere without alcoholic drinks.

During the holidays there's "usually a lot of drinking, and certain family situations are often stressful for people," Reed said.

On an average Thursday or Friday night, anywhere from 20 to 30 people will be in the sober bar. When there's a New Year's event, as they often have, The Other Side can pack in more than double that.

It depends on the time of year, but the place can see about five to 10 new faces over the holidays, Reed said.

The way sober bars, such as The Other Side, can help those in recovery include providing the social support that some people might need.

For instance, there are support meetings at the bar.

"Hanging around people who are kind of going through the same thing is probably the best way to help," Reed said. "That’s a really good way being around people who are going through the same thing or have experience going through that, (but who are) making it through."

Without a plan in place, or the proper support, a lot of people do struggle around this time of year, Reed said.

With a plan in place, if people are going to be in a situation where there's drinking or the pressure to do so, they know how to get out or give an excuse. Going places with someone who also is in recovery is key, as is having someone to call, Reed said. Knowing when to get out of a situation can be crucial. But this plan may be different for everyone.

"The most important thing is, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious ... (or having) racing thoughts about drinking or doing drugs, it's also a sign it's probably time to remove yourself from the situation," Reed said.

"It's just about creating that network of people you can rely on in those times," he said. "There’s a certain camaraderie that comes with having a social circle of people you're close to, you can rely on, specifically in the recovery community. I would say that people who are in recovery from substance abuse or addiction have more of a reliance on that network of people to keep them accountable, (and) just be able to reach out to them when they need to."

Kyle Sweeting, a 23-year-old Crystal Lake resident who has been sober for 7 months after being addicted to heroin and crack, said having this support system has been helpful for him.

"Going out to places like The Other Side, that’s mainly like a sober environment with sober people," Sweeting said. "(It's good) to meet them and find that support."

Being 23, Sweeting appreciates being in a fun environment with DJ's and dancing. Having more of a "younger people atmosphere" is huge, Sweeting said.

Sweeting doesn't usually go home for the holidays, as he says there will usually be people there drinking and partying "all night long."

"It's just not an atmosphere (I want) to put myself in," he said.

Though it was tough at first leaving that kind of environment because it was everyone he knew, now that Sweeting has found new friends through New Directions and The Other Side, it has grown easier, he said.

There are many people who come to the The Other Side after the holidays, when things settle down or, as Reed says, if there was an incident over the holidays.

Reed said sometimes family and friends – who haven't seen someone for a while – will notice they are struggling with addiction or look worse off upon seeing them during the holidays. When the family member or friend sees that an individual with an addiction has been struggling, they can urge the individual to seek help.

"We see a lot of that – people start treatment or go to their first meeting after the holidays," Reed said. "Sometimes, the family will say 'we’re worried.'"

The Other Side is one of few sober bars in Illinois and was billed as the first of its kind in the Midwest when it opened.

Reed said the need for sober bars like his is increasing. Reed speaks from experience, having been sober since 2009.

"It's definitely different for me," he said. "I'm just personally living healthier and just growing."

He remembers the first six months being difficult, especially becoming sober in September, only a couple of months before the holiday season.

"It was difficult being around alcohol," he said.

It grew easier once Reed started living a healthier life, he said.

"I don’t think it's as much maintaining sobriety as it is trying to live a healthy lifestyle," Reed said.