Kris Kancler got high on heroin in a seedy motel room in the worst part of Chicago and woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed, his twin brother standing beside him.
Kris was told he’d come close to death. He’d picked up some heroin and got himself the cheap room to get high, something he did fairly often. But this time, unbeknownst to him, the drug was laced with the narcotic pain reliever Fentanyl.
“My then-girlfriend was driving around looking for me and spotted my car,” said the 1992 graduate of Marion Junior-Senior High School in Wayne County.
She recognized it, parked in the motel lot, because it was covered in bumper stickers bearing the logo of his computer consulting business. Frantic, she looked in the motel room windows, hoping to find Kris.
“She saw me laying there on the floor,” he said. “I was blue. She got the courage to knock down the door — she totally saved me.”
The paramedics that took Kris to the hospital told him he would have died within minutes from the overdose had he not been found.
That story from 2006 is but one of many Kris amassed in his 15-year struggle with drug addiction. He’s been sober for three-and-a-half years, thanks in part to the unending support of his twin, Marc.
Hoping to help others struggling with addiction, the brothers launched the Rock Star Super Star Project in which Kris visits schools, drug treatment centers and more to share their experiences and promote sobriety.
Kris has been making the rounds at area high schools, hosting assemblies in Newark, Marion and Williamson in Wayne County this past spring. Last Thursday he shared his story at a forum in Red Creek, and this week he heads to Seneca County: On Tuesday he’ll host an assembly at Waterloo High School and Mynderse Academy, and on Wednesday he’ll visit Romulus and South Seneca schools. Assemblies are also planned for the public both evenings.
Waterloo High School Principal Jeramy Clingerman saw the assembly in Marion and was determined to bring Kris to talk to his students. But organizing the visit and coming up with the funding was no easy task.
The effort became a collaboration of the various districts as well as organizations like the Seneca County Youth Bureau and the Seneca County Substance Abuse Coalition, said Kathleen Bremer, social worker for Waterloo schools. Waterloo school resource officer Sgt. Rod Kraft also pitched in.
“I think there’s a whole lot of peer pressure out there, and we want to be as proactive as possible to try to help these kids make positive choices in their lives,” Bremer said. “We’re thrilled the opportunity has arrived for us to collaborate and get him here.”
The timing couldn’t be better, as it is Red Ribbon Week, a nationally recognized anti-substance abuse initiative for schools.
Rock Star Super Star Project is a fitting title given the twins’ longtime love of rock and roll. Both are musicians, and in addition to their other ventures, they have just launched a CD, “Serenity.” Beyond that, there’s the matter of their names: To show how serious they are about the cause they legally changed their names — Kris is Super Star and Marc is Rock Star.
The names seem to resonate with their audiences. They often have lines for autographs after appearances.
Proof of their popularity also is evident on Facebook, where as of last week they had almost 3,500 fans and plenty of comments from teens inspired by their message. Moments after Kris spoke in Red Creek, a student posted this note on the site: “my friends appreciate the fact that you came to our school in the information to help fight for sobriety of the people of our community (sic)…”
To Kris, that’s what it’s all about.
“I feel that sharing my weaknesses gives me the strength to carry on another day sober,” he said. “Also it gives other people the courage to speak.”
And it’s not just about drugs. Kris and Marc hope to empower teens to open up about everything from self-mutilation to bullying.
It was the latter that pushed Kris toward drugs and alcohol when he was growing up in Marion, he said. He didn’t feel like he fit in.
“I didn’t have the tools back then to learn how to deal with my emotions,“ he said. “When I did finally pick up that first cigarette I couldn’t put it down.”
Then came the marijuana and booze.
“I remember being one of those kids proudly telling my parents I was never going to get into drugs,” he said. “In just a few years I’d be almost dead from a heroin overdose.”
After high school, Kris set out to follow his favorite band, KISS, and wound up moving to Chicago, where his brother and mother had already laid roots. While Kris wound up launching a successful computer consulting business there, his addiction went into overdrive. He was doing crack, heroin, “anything I could get my hands on,” he said.
Ultimately, he lost his business. And, after the overdose he entered rehab with the encouragement of Marc. But sobriety didn’t last long. Marc eventually moved to Malibu, Calif., and Kris followed. He found Los Angeles and all of its drugs.
“I smoked crack in the Beverly Hills Hotel, in the darkest, seediest motels to the most world-renowned motels, I’ve done it all,” he said. “I didn’t care for anybody — I just cared about me and my drugs.”
Kris — who now lives in Chicago — wound up in the well-known rehab center Promises but relapsed shortly after his release. He returned for a second stay and, as soon as he was released began a journal tracking his struggles with sobriety. He hasn’t touched a drug since.
His brother Marc, who still lives in California, couldn’t be happier, having watched on helplessly for so many years.
In addition to the speaking engagements and musical aspirations, Kris has turned his journal into a book titled “The first 30 days to serenity” that’s now for sale on Amazon.com.
Plans are in the works, too, to take the school assemblies beyond New York’s boundaries. The brothers are lining up appearances everywhere from Texas to New Mexico for the months ahead.
“It’s great because kids are so enthusiastic about the Rock Star Super Star Project,“ Kris said. “There’s something cool about inspiring others to do the next right thing.”