The Journey from Struggle to Triumph

By Jessica Parsons


How one CEO overcame addiction

No two stories are quite the same when it comes to addiction and the road to recovery, but there can be similarities, and the guy who knows that all too well is the new CEO of Crossroads, Chris Riley.

“We all have bad days,” says Chris. “We all have times where a drink might sound good, but we push through. We can’t run from fear or anxiety or difficult emotions, we dig down deep, and we stay sober.”

This was a first time change in leadership at Crossroads in nearly two decades. Stepping into the role of CEO, Chris knew it would be challenging but also welcoming, as it seems he’s readied his whole life for the moment, along with 18 years of sobriety.


“I had fallen so far down that the only way I could have lived was to get sober. 
If I didn’t, I wasn’t going to make it.”
— Chris Riley


“Even the worst days I have sober are better than the best days I had high or drunk,” says Chris. “I came to realize over the years that I’m the only person I can rely on, and it’s not worth ever going back.”

Crossroads is one of the largest residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities in the nation, with nine centers across the Valley. In 2004, Chris walked through the doors as a client, desperate, and in dire need of help. Little did he know he’d one day be running the place.

“It’s surreal. I worked hard to get here, and I can relate with our clients on so many levels, no matter where they are in their journey; I get it.”

Like many others, Chris’ story is emotional, and to hear him tell it stirs up years of hurt; what he inflicted on himself and others, and the pain he was trying to numb. That never goes away. “My dad died in my arms. He looked into my eyes and took his last breath right in front of me.” This was the catalyst that propelled Chris down a dark path, but he admits he had set his addiction into motion years before, turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the hardships of life. His dad’s death pushed him beyond control.

“I felt honored my dad spent his last moments of his life with me, but there was also anger brewing. I felt betrayed in some instances. Why did he pick me for that? It affected me; it changed my life forever.”


Get numb, stop feeling

To deal with the grief, Chris says his plan was to stay drunk to avoid feeling anything. “There was this ‘tearing of my soul’ sort-of-thing that still grips me to this day.” But facing his 30s high and drunk without a job or home would not be sustainable.

“I was living on the streets, bouncing from house to house, I was drinking and doing as many drugs as I could put into my body, and then finally my mother shut the door on me.” She took me to Crossroads, and said, ‘I don’t care if you live or die, but I’m not going to be around to watch you do it.’”

As harsh as that moment might seem, he says it was the tough love he needed. It also came after years of stealing from her, and cheating his mom out of the son she deserved.


“We can’t run from fear or anxiety or difficult emotions, we dig down deep, and we stay sober.” 


Initially, Chris thought his mom was giving up on him. Later he realized she was saving his life. “I had fallen so far down that the only way I could have lived was to get sober. If I didn’t get sober, I wasn’t going to make it.”

One of the most unique aspects of Crossroads is that almost all of its employees are recovering addicts, most going through the program just like Chris, who started his tenure as a certified Peer Support Specialist.

“We really see the potential in folks who walk through our doors, and we’ve employed many who weren’t getting that second chance anywhere else. So, when you come share your story with us, you’re doing that with someone who’s been there. No one understands a recovering addict better than someone in recovery; that’s what makes us so special, we’re peer driven.”

Chris has now been with Crossroads for 16 years, but his first job with the organization didn’t happen overnight. After finishing the program, and feeling confident, he called Crossroads every other week, for an entire year, asking for job openings. He had experience in non-profit organizational management and serving as a combat medic with the U.S. Army Medical Corp in the 90s—experience he hoped would give him an edge.

Then, in 2007 the opportunity he had been waiting for finally became available. A new grant helped Crossroads launch a pilot program for meth treatment. At the time, Crossroads only operated as a transitional living facility. This would become Crossroads first ever treatment program.

“This program allowed people to go through 21 days of actual treatment; we did cognitive behavioral therapy, evidence-based practices, and we taught group; it was a huge success.”


The Right Track Program

Today, it’s called The Right Track Program which eventually grew to all Crossroads locations creating opportunities for treatment at every facility. “I was so proud to be on the ground floor of this, and watch it grow, I just knew we were helping so many people.”

As Crossroads opened more centers across the Valley, leadership realized it needed a compliance officer to ensure proper licensing, codes, and policies were met across the board. Chris was approached to take on the challenge and became Chief Compliance Officer, a position he’s upheld for years.

All Crossroads facilities, including its outpatient and counseling centers are licensed and regulated by the state, undergoing inspections every month. “We welcome the inspections,” says Chris. “We have to make sure the men and women we serve have a safe place to get the treatment they need to become productive members of society.”

In May 2023, Chris was faced with a bittersweet opportunity at Crossroads. His long-time leader and friend was stepping down and retiring as CEO. Would he be interested? “It was an absolute honor,” says Chris. “Lee Pioske was my mentor for 16 years, and I couldn’t be prouder and more humbled to walk a day in his shoes at the helm.”

With a lifetime of lessons hard learned, and with a passion to help others, Chris took on the role of continuing the Crossroads mission of helping people. “We serve thousands with addiction therapy, housing, healthy meals, counseling, fellowship and support,” says Chris, “because it’s all about creating a community you can count on no matter what chapter of recovery you’re on.”


Crossroads Scottsdale Campus opened in 2023 to offer transitional and outpatient substance use treatment services and is staffed 24 hours. 1200 N. 77th St., Scottsdale AZ.


Learn more at   602-263-5242