Written by Vilma Sceusa, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:00
Despite the crowd of more than 400, you could have heard a pin drop, during the recent airing of Chris Herren’s introductory video and live presentation at Garden City high school on March 25. It was a very emotional evening as the former professional basketball player shared his descent from small town hero to drug addict. The ex-Boston Celtic left little to the imagination as he shared his journey and the details that led to his fall. Parents, students, teachers, school administrators and community members sat transfixed as he shared his painful personal odyssey.
Herren told the riveted audience how he made his hometown of Falls River, Mass. proud. His stellar high school career earned him a spot as point guard for the Boston College Eagles. However, that dream came crashing down with one act that Herren wishes he could change. A fellow student offered him a line of cocaine and urged him on by telling him, 'It wouldn’t hurt him.' Herren rationalized his choice by saying, “I’ll try it this one time.” That one time turned into a 14-year-addiction that led to homelessness, near death and estrangement from his wife and three children.
Herren told the audience about how he was given many second chances. Despite being kicked out of Boston College, and continued drug use resulting in a $25,000 a month oxycodone habit, he went on to play for Fresno State. When he finished college, he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets. In October 2000, Herren was traded to the Boston Celtics in what should have been the realization of a boyhood dream for the New England native. Instead of celebrating or appreciating the moment that his name was called for the first time as a member of the Celtics, Herren was consumed with getting a fix.
Herren disappointed many family members. When he recalled how his five-year-old son asked him, “Why don’t you want to be my Daddy anymore?” a visibly shaken Herren paused but continued. Throughout the presentation, audible gasps and sobs were heard among the crowd as Herren pounded home that no one starts out wanting to become a drug addict and that addiction starts with alcohol and marijuana, which most people consider to be harmless. Herren ended his session sharing that he wished he had the courage and was comfortable with himself as a teenager to just say, “No.” He added, “There is no reason to change who you are.”
The following day, the entire study body filed into the high school auditorium and sat in awe listening to Herren’s harrowing experience. He reiterated how most addicts start with red solo cups in a basement or dark fields smoking a blunt. Herren told students that the decision to try cocaine changed his life forever.
“We don’t start off as heroin addicts,” said Herren. “No one says, ‘I can’t wait to stick a needle in my arm.’” He explained a substance problem can start through experimenting with a beer or smoking a joint, and can quickly become a slippery slope toward addiction.
He told students how he rolled his eyes at these types of presentations while he was in high school.
“I sat there just like you, when I was your age and heard all the same speeches,” added Herren. “From the bottom of my heart, I’m here to tell you, I had no idea at age 18 it would take 14 years to walk away.”
Herren advised his teen audience to “Tell yourself, I am good enough to be me. I don’t need to drink or drug to fit in or have social status.” He also encouraged teenagers not to stand idly by and to help friends get assistance for their use of alcohol or other drugs.
The presentation was sponsored by the Jamie and Paige Malone Foundation, Garden City Community Coalition and the Garden City PTA.