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Road to Redemption

Chris Therien: His Sister’s Death, His Drinking, His Cries for Help

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Chris Therien, Philadelphia Flyers

In “Road to Redemption,” Chris Therien and author Wayne Fish detail the former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman’s career, his battle with alcoholism, and his new path to help others recover from alcohol or drug abuse. This third excerpt is from Chapter 22.

Loss of a Loved One

After my sister’s funeral I returned to New Jersey to see my children for the first time in what seemed like forever. They were still young and we did not want to subject them to the sadness surrounding their Aunt Sarah’s passing.

We presented to them a different scenario, since they were quite young. They were just sad because Aunt Sarah wouldn’t be there anymore and they were sad because their dad has lost a sister.

As for me, I was more concerned with my overall demeanor and how I was going to rectify myself of the alcohol that was flowing through my blood on a daily basis. I had called the NHL prior to my sister’s collapse and made a connection with a psychologist, Dr. Brian Shaw, who was affiliated with the NHL. That was in late May when I had a friend actually call and tell him I had a problem. When Sarah collapsed, I had to call the league back. I said, “You aren’t going to believe this but if you could kindly give me more time, something’s happened to my sister and I’m not exactly sure what yet.’’

The NHL doctor told me, “Whatever you do, don’t stop drinking. You could have a seizure.’’

Well, telling an alcoholic to not stop drinking is like telling a race car driver to have the brakes removed from his Ferrari. By the time I got back to Canada, Dr. Shaw was already aware of what had transpired during the week up north. It was the destruction and falling apart of a family over alcoholism and my sister’s death. I knew there was really no choice but to fall on my sword and get the help I so desperately needed. For me and for the family I loved. The whole recovery process had almost nothing to do with me but everyone else.

My misconception

I figured along the way that my recovery would just fall into place. It would be easy I would just stop and the problem would go away. But I now believe it takes 10 years from the time you admit you have a problem to the time you get sober and figure out your path forward.

There I was, so I called him and said it was time. There was no getting around the fact that I needed help and I needed it soon. On July 8, 2006, I got up and had not eaten in three days, no food at all, strictly alcohol. A friend of mine from north Jersey picked me up and drove me to the Caron Treatment Center, one of the biggest such facilities in the nation. (Editor’s note: Therien’s final season in the NHL was with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2005-06.)

I knew I was going to the right place at the right time. The NHL Players’ Association had taken care of it and Dr. Shaw booked me in.

When I went in, I hugged my wife, gave her my phone. Thing is, I had been drinking that morning. Clearly I needed help right then.

“Road to Redemption,” published by Triumph Books, is available at local book stores or on Amazon.

Excerpt 1: Chris Therien: ‘I was an Alcoholic’

Excerpt 2: Ex-Flyer Chris Therien Says Eric Lindros Let Down Team 

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