Where We Are Now
Today, New Directions Addiction Recovery Services has a lot to be grateful for.
The Other Side, our sober bar, enjoys great popularity in the local recovery community, providing a safe and supportive space for those in recovery to hang out, relax, and make friends who are going through some of the same things they are.
Wake the Nation, our advocacy campaign to spread access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, has made great strides, and now the life-saving drug is not only stocked by police departments across the state but also available to the public over-the-counter at pharmacies.
And just this year, we opened a new sober living house in Crystal Lake, where those in recovery can live in a stable environment while getting help with personal development as well as resume building, obtaining driver’s licenses, and other things that may fall by the wayside during recovery.
But how did this happen? Far from sprouting full-formed overnight, New Directions has been built up over the years as a collaborative effort, with new partners coming forward and contributing pieces to the puzzle.
Here’s a bit of that story.
How We Got Here
In May of 2010, Tommy Johnson and the Johnson family started New Directions as a 501(c)(3) with the goal of bringing treatment and resources to people recovering from substance abuse and addiction in McHerny County in Illinois. They started the process of searching for and securing funding, but things didn’t fall into place quite yet.
Since the state of Illinois was in the process of cutting spending on addiction treatment programs by 30% at the time, intensified competition for the limited resources available made getting the organization off the ground a more difficult task than it would have been years earlier.
Meanwhile, Chris Reed was running a construction company while also recovering from his own battle with addiction. As his involvement with the recovery community grew, the warehouse that his company operated out of gradually became a spot where more and more of his friends and acquaintances would gather to hang out after recovery group meetings, on days off, etc.
When Chris and the Johnson family became acquainted with each other’s projects, they had the idea of teaming up and turning that warehouse space into a sober bar called The Other Side. Tommy Johnson saw an opportunity to invest in an idea that already had traction, and so The Other Side became the main program of NDARS while preserving the very same mission it had from the beginning.
Soon, sober parties and other events at The Other Side were drawing as many as 150 people, and the city shut it down until they could receive proper zoning.
This proved to be a blessing in disguise, though. At the zoning hearing, a Chicago Tribune reporter who was there for another story grew interested in the sober bar. The story that reporter wrote about The Other Side ran on the front page of the Tribune’s Sunday paper the day President Obama was inaugurated, so NDARS’s story was widely circulated and contributions started coming in.
With the facility rezoned and funding now within reach, The Other Side opened in April of 2013 and remains in operation today.
Since then, NDARS has only been gaining steam. Cassandra Wingert, who since losing a loved one to overdose in 2012 had been building a network of grassroots organizations around the issue, partnered with NDARS to create Wake the Nation. This program has been integral in advocating for the availability of the opioid-overdose-reversal drug naloxone and training first responders in its use.
And most recently the NDARS’s newest program, a sober living house, got the go-ahead from the city and opened its doors in October of 2016.
As NDARS continues to grow and develop, we hope that we can keep finding more ways to serve our community and further our mission. So come work with us, and let’s take our efforts in New Directions.