Former Philadelphia Flyer Chris Therien Reflects on His Journey to Recovery

This past month, former Philadelphia Flyers Chris Therien celebrated 10 impressive years sober. After 15 long years of struggling with addiction, relapses — eventually making his way to his journey to recovery — Therien is ready to share his story and spread awareness on the dangers of addictions.

From Social Drinking to Compulsive Drinking

In his college years at Providence College, Therien admitted that he really wasn’t a big drinker.

At the time, his main priorities were his education and hockey, so any drinking that he did was more on the social side.

However, it wasn’t until he started his career in the NHL that his drinking habits took an unexpected turn.

A young man is trying to start his journey to recovery but is struggling steering clear of the bottle.

In his first three years as a Philadelphia Flyer, Therien’s drinking was semi-moderate, but he wasn’t a stranger to the ‘work hard, play hard’ mantra that, ultimately, progressed over time. When asked about it, Therien believes a big turning point in his alcoholism occurred during the 2004-2005 lockout. The NHL lockout was a result of a massive labor dispute that canceled the NFL season. It was one of the first times a sports league came to a full stop for an entire year.

During this time, Therien, like many other players, was grappling with the future of his career, but he was lucky enough to return to the Flyers after the lockout was lifted. After the first half of the new season, Therien suffered a serious concussion that later caused symptoms of depression — a very common effect, as 30% of concussions result in long-lasting symptoms. Therien recalled feeling distant, depressed, alone, and completely disconnected from everything, which only fueled his drinking even more. In his final NHL season, Therien’s drinking was completely out of control, and, as a result, his family and career suffered greatly. He knew he needed to get on his journey to recovery quickly.

“My last year, I shouldn’t have even been playing hockey,” he said. “I should have been in rehab. I got a concussion in January, and I ended up drinking. That was my lowest low, and I thought I couldn’t get any lower. I was basically told to get out, that I couldn’t live like this.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the unexpected death of his sister, Sarah Beth, in 2006 that Therien finally saw the dangerous hole he dug himself in with his years of substance abuse. Three weeks after his sister’s passing, Therien checked into the Caron rehab facility with a staggering blood alcohol level of 0.63%. To put it in perspective, any level at or above 0.40% can cause serious health consequences like coma or sudden death. Extremely lucky to be alive, Therien began his journey to recovery.

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The Journey to Recovery

After admitting himself to Caron, Therien worked the steps and completed the recovery program. However, after two years of sobriety, Therien relapsed. He continued to drink but claimed it wasn’t as intense as his former years — even though he took great measures to hide his relapse from his family. He stated, “It was more of a quiet thing, hiding, staying away from people. I’d get a night out somewhere and I’d sneak odd, and that only lasted for a bit, and then I was kind of getting back into the same vicious cycle again…I would go maybe two weeks and then stop for three months.”

Therien admitted that he was back in a bad place and needed to return back to the basics of recovery. On February 7, 2011, Therien decided to put his health and happiness first. For the next four months, Therien attended AA meetings every morning. There he met his sponsor, Rick Halverson, and a few former hockey players he worked with back in the day. His strong support system in AA and at home gave him the strength and willingness to stay sober ever since.

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Giving Back to the Addiction Treatment Space

During his recovery from alcoholism, Therien began dedicating his time to the recovery community. He was even asked to speak at the Enlightened Solutions rehab center in Atlantic City. Therien found fulfillment in sharing his recovery story and giving back to the community that gave him his life back.

Over a year ago, Therien was informed that an intensive outpatient (IOP) facility in Fishtown, Philadelphia, was about to be sold by the owner. After his positive experience at Enlightened Solutions in Atlantic City, Therien was ready to start a new venture that would change the lives of those struggling with addiction. In December, Therien and his group bought Limitless Recovery Center, where he serves as the center’s chief wellness officer. The new and improved facility now accommodates 30 patients with top-of-the-line doctors on-site.

Eventually, Therien and his team have plans to move the facility to a bigger building in order to help more people in the community. Therien’s group also owns a cluster of row homes across the street from the center, serving as a sober home for those who have worked the program and are ready to slowly assimilated back into society.

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By sharing his story and working closely in the addiction treatment space, Therien hopes to break the stigma that follows addiction and provide a helping hand to those who have nowhere else to turn. His recovery has been an inspiration to many, and his work plays an integral role in the future and normalization of addiction treatment.

Help is always out there, no matter how deep into the depths of addiction one is — and Chris Therien is working hard to spread this message and encourage struggling individuals that recovery is possible.