WARREN, NJ - It’s not about the end, it’s about the beginning. That’s what Chis Herren wants us to focus on. Not the end of the road with the junkie with a needle in his arm, but on the 14,15, 16 and 17 year old kids drinking in their parent’s basements on a Friday night- where it all starts, he said.
Herren spoke to parents and kids at Watchung Hills on Wednesday, Jan. 10. The three co-captains of the Watchung Hills boys basketball team, Steven Bressler, Mike Hopwood, and Dan Pilsbury, introduced him.
Herren challenged parents in the audience to ask their kids the “why.” Because, he said, it’s all about self esteem and self worth. Why do your children not feel comfortable in their own skin?
He also challenged educators to include wellness education in the classroom.
Now alcohol and drug-free since August 2008, Herren has been on the road. The kid who was called a truly special athlete fell to drug addiction, ruining his career and nearly his life.
He overdosed four times. The last time, he said Narcan was administered three times before he was revived.
From Durfee High School in Fall River, Massachusetts to the Boston Garden to the streets, Herren was a 1994 McDonald's All-American, played basketball for Boston College and was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, later ending up with the Boston Celtics.
He recalled a childhood with a father who drank heavily, and a mother who had to smell the breath of stale alcohol every day of her married life. Herren broke a childhood promise and became a drinker himself opening and drinking one of his father’s Miller Lites at 14 years old and burying the evidence in his backyard.
On June 4, 2008, a friend offered him four free bags of heroin.
He shot up all four bags in his car. He felt himself overdosing because he knew the feeling and told himself he didn’t want to die there. He was found miles away after crashing into a cemetery gate, non-responsive, not breathing, in effect, dead.
At the hospital, the basketball star was just another junkie to the doctors and nurses but the police officer, there to take him away in handcuffs, instead took off the handcuffs and gave him a summons instead. He told Herren he looked up to him as a child and wanted him to promise to get help and show up in court in 30 days.
In the first row on Wednesday night sat Warren’s police chief, Bill Keane, other members of the department, and the Somerset County Prosecutor, Michael Robertson, all who have seen the effects of drug addiction.
Herren high fiving Robertson after the program
A nurse, who knew Herren’s mother, called him back and offered to help find treatment for him. But no treatment center wanted Chris Herren - a junkie with no way to pay.
Herren said he remembers thinking the nightmare could only end by sticking a pistol in his mouth and blowing his head off.
Chris Mullin, a college and NBA standout who also battled addiction and a mentor of Herren’s, found a bed for him in a treatment center in New York and gifted him a six month stay.
Today, Herren is living a sober life and can look himself in the mirror and most of the time likes what he sees, he said. He is a father committed to his wife of almost 20 years and to his children- 18 years old, 16 years old and 9 years old. His older son and daughter are teens now. He says at this point in their lives it’s still an IF, but he would only ask one question to his children if they were drinking or taking drugs,” why?"
Of the program, audience members said:
“It was great!! Amazing speaker, amazing story! So many kids were there Middle and HS I was glad!”
“Chris was fantastic ♥️👏👏👏”
REBOUND: The Chris Herren Story was hosted jointly by the Watchung Hills Regional Municipal Alliance, the Township of Warren, the Warren Township Police Department and the Watchung Hills Board of Education.
An ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled, "Unguarded," tells Herren’s story and through his organization, The Herren Project, he tries to benefit others by telling his story across the country.
About The Herren Project
Founded in 2011, The Herren Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation established by former NBA basketball player, Chris Herren, that assists individuals and families struggling with addiction. It's mission is to provide assistance in taking the first steps toward recovery and a life of sobriety, educational programs and resources to increase awareness on the signs of addiction through Go Project Purple and bring hope for a better tomorrow. Goals: Positively impact the lives of those suffering with addiction by providing effective treatment navigation. Educate youth and at-risk populations on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and provide techniques to handle pressure within their lives, their community or their family situation. Provide scholarships to programs, clinics and camps to increase self confidence, motivation and develop a firm foundation on which to build success.