By John Anderson
By the time Chris Herren graduated from Fall River’s Durfee High School in 1994, he had set a school basketball record with 2,073 points. He was named the Boston Globe and Gatorade Player of the Year, and he was also hiding an addiction problem. Last week, he told the student body and faculty of Auburn High School, “I always covered up my mistakes. I didn’t want to break my Mom’s heart.”
Due to the generosity of Auburn’s Police, Fire and School Departments, Herren brought some powerful messages to the packed auditorium along with his 8 years of sobriety. He speaks 250 times a year to high school students around the country through The Herren Project and figures he has reached about one million kids. “Every high school I walk into, there’s another sad story.”
On the subject of juvenile drug abuse, Herren said, “I don’t consider it part of high school.” But, he admits that the red solo cups filled with alcohol where part of his teenage years along with marijuana. Peer pressure was strong along with an alcoholic father and dysfunctional family. “Drugs are the escape mechanism for issues the child can’t face.” He added, “Those kids who are doing things and are sober are my heroes.”
Failed drug tests got Herren expelled from Boston College, but he did graduate from Fresno State. He played for the Denver Nuggets and then the Boston Celtics during 2 years in the NBA. For the next six years, he played professionally in Europe and Asia, and his drug use escalated to heroin during this time.
Chris Herren was addicted to heroin for 8 years, and he overdosed 4 times. Twice, Narcan was used to revive him, and he finally committed to a recovery program in 2008. He lists his date of sobriety as August 1st of that year.
Herren’s children are a driving force behind his recovery. “I wanted to be their dad. My greatest accomplishment is being the same father. My kids know who is coming home.”
On staying sober, Herren told the audience, “I feel good enough about myself. Not being me has always been the issue.” Additionally, “I surround myself with recovering addicts.”
He also challenged the students, “If you have a friend in here who struggles, help them.” “Don’t be afraid to tell someone why you cry.” “My goal is that you walk out of this assembly and forget about me. Remember who you are.”
Herren considers the current treatment of overdosing addicts reckless. They come from the street, overdose and are treated with Narcan. Then, they are often put right back out on the street. “Sick people deserve to be treated.”
To that end, he considers former Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello to be an angel because he’s caring for sick people.
In conclusion, he told the students, “Everybody here has the luxury of a teacher who cares about them.” Herren challenged each student to believe “I want to be better than I am.” “People are here to help you.”