Emily Kochanek – 1851 Staff
DeWitt Hall was filled on Sunday, October 21, as students gathered to see speaker and former Boston Celtics player Chris Herren tell his story about the drug addiction that ended his basketball career and how he recovered.
Herren travels across the country to high schools and colleges to raise drug abuse awareness among athletes and has spoken to over 150,000 students.
In high school, Herren was a basketball prodigy. In 1994, he made the McDonald’s All American Team, was named The Boston Globe’s Massachusetts Player of the Year from 1992 to 1994, and scored 2,073 points during his high school career.
For his freshman year, Herren attended Boston College, where he first encountered hard drugs. Herren told the crowd about how he “sat in [his] seat and checked off the box” during mandatory athlete meetings concerning drug abuse. But the warnings did not affect Herren as after a meeting, two of his friends convinced him to take a hit of cocaine.
“I had no idea… it would take 13 years to walk away from that line of cocaine,” said Herren.
The next day Herren took a mandatory drug test and failed. He was granted two more chances but Herren continued to use drugs throughout the season, failing the next two tests.
Instead of suspension, Herren was asked to leave and his scholarship was revoked. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald ran a story on his addiction, ruining his reputation. Fresno State University was the only college to ask him to play again. There, Herren had what he said was his “best year.” During the season, older players looked after him and curbed his addiction.
In 1999 Herren was drafted by the Denver Nuggets and was later traded to the Boston Celtics where his addiction followed him. His cocaine use evolved into an oxycontin addiction. Herren said he became a “full blown junkie because of a little yellow pill.”
The former Celtics player does not remember playing that year. What he does recall was his inability to play without a dose of oxycontin.
His career with the Celtics ended abruptly when he suffered a collarbone injury. He then went to Europe looking to play and reduce his drug habits. But, according to Herren, “Oxy don’t play that way.”
While playing in Italy, Herren met his first heroin dealer. “At 24 years old,” Herren said, “I became an intravenous drug addict.” His career in Italy ended because he could not get drugs during training.
He went to play in Turkey, and then Poland but each time was sent away because of his addiction. Eventually Herren was sent back to the States and lived in Fresno, CA.
After returning and “shooting” heroin for five days straight, a trip to see his wife and children at the airport turned into a suicide attempt. At his lowest point, a 27-year-old Herren said to police at the scene, “Take me to jail; I can’t live like this no more.”
Herren was released the next day and said, “I’m cutting ties. I’m going homeless.” He spent the night with 17 dollars he used on alcohol and sat with a group of homeless men. One man, after hearing Herren’s story, came up to him and said, “It’s not too late to get your wife and kids back.”
Hoping to turn his life around, Herren forwent heroin to reunite with his family and moved back to Boston. But while in Massachusetts, his addiction to oxycontin resurfaced. “Addiction took all my money,” said Herren. “No more jewelry for my wife, no more Xboxes in the house.” Birthdays, Christmas, even heat for the house was nonexistent.
A near death car crash changed Herren, as the police officer who arrested Herren knew and dismissed him. He was sent to a hospital where a nurse who knew his mother helped him get into treatment.
Herren was in treatment when his wife went into labor with their second son; Herren asked to see the birth sober. After the boy was born, Herren left to take cocaine and heroin. He was asked by his wife and eldest son not to return.
Back at treatment, Herren confessed to using drugs again. A center employee threw him a phone and said, “Promise you’re wife you’ll disappear.”
At 32, Chris Herren used the fear of losing his family to remain sober. August 1, 2008 became his sobriety date. “I thank God for the bad days. The bad days got me here, man,” said Herren.
“One thing I can guarantee from this talk: there are a few of me in here,” said Herren.
“My hope is [to influence] one kid,” said Herren to the students. “If I did that, it was a success. If not, I stayed sober.”