Warrior Spotlight: Meet Christopher Olson, Center Manager in Waukesha, WI
Nov 30, 2021
Christopher Olson celebrated six years of recovery on October 27, 2021. When you speak to the Waukesha, Wisconsin, center manager about his work, it is apparent how much his personal experience in recovery for alcohol use disorder has impacted his outlook and commitment to helping others. “I love recovery,” he explains. “I love talking to people about this. It gets me emotional.”
Chris grew up in a middle-class family in the Waukesha area and had everything he needed growing up, including a solid group of friends. He married and moved out of his parents’ home at age 18, then started a family shortly after. He built a career in the financial industry working in banking institutions for about eight years. From the outside, it appeared everything in his life was going smoothly but, in reality, Chris felt unfilled in his professional career and took to drinking on the weekends to blow off steam. His drinking started to take over and bleed into his workdays, but Chris didn’t realize he had a problem until friends, family and even members of his church intervened.
He first sought treatment from an outpatient facility but relapsed after three weeks. He tried treatment a second time at a residential facility that incorporated behavioral health treatment in its approach and that time it stuck. “I was always comparing myself to other people and judging them, and because of that, I was slipping into depression,” recalls Chris. Through his recovery he was given the opportunity to learn about gratitude, mindfulness, and the importance of being present in his life.
“Recovery takes a holistic approach to treatment,” he explains. He credits his recovery success with getting involved in community resource organizations, which helped him learn about gratitude and humility. “There are so many people who want to help you,” he says. “You just have to be ready to ask for it and put in the personal work it takes to work on yourself and make yourself better.”
In his role as center manager at CleanSlate, Chris continues to work closely with community resource organizations in Wisconsin to help patients with food, transportation, mental health support, nutrition and more – all parts of life that impact recovery. He sees CleanSlate’s partnerships with community resource organizations as vital not only in helping patients along their recovery journeys but also in combatting harmful stigma against them. “This is a disease,” he says, “not a choice.”
Today, Chris puts his background in finance to good use analyzing data and developing formulas for patient recovery. He’s spent time researching different variables in recovery and identifying milestones that can signal long-term success. “Once you reach five years of recovery, your chances of continued recovery are 82% — that’s huge,” he explains. He’s currently working with other members of the CleanSlate team to develop special programs to help aid patients in achieving this sort of long-term success.
Chris is committed to growing his skills professionally so he can continue supporting people in recovery. He completed recovery coach training in March 2018 and went back to school to obtain his alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) certification. He served as a substance abuse counselor in training for about a year before joining the CleanSlate team. Currently, he is running for president of Recovery and Addiction Professionals Wisconsin, a network providing community resources and education. He firmly believes in the importance of people in recovery continuing to learn, develop themselves and connect with others to fight against stigma and other barriers to treatment.
When asked about how families can support loved ones in recovery, Chris emphasizes the importance of patients being transparent about their recovery progress. He says having an action plan is critical, but that these important documents shouldn’t be created in silo. “Share the plan with the family so they can be a support resource for you,” he explains. Family continues to be a big part of his own recovery, so he stresses the importance of keeping them engaged in your life, even though repairing relationships can take time. “Once I was exposed for my alcohol use disorder, I was no longer hiding,” he explains. “It was such a sense of relief. I didn’t have to lie and hide anymore. Now I’m an open book. I have a clean slate.”
One of his favorite parts about working with patients in recovery is their endless potential. He loves seeing them progress, build their networks and regain confidence in their lives. “There are more than 23 million people in recovery in the United States, so there are currently more than 23 million different pathways to recovery. No two journeys are the same. You just have to take the first step and ask for help.”
If you or someone you know needs help with substance use disorder, we’re here to help. Text 615-471-7655 or call a location near you.