LIVINGSTON, NJ – Livingston High School (LHS) alumni joined with current students and parents last week to hear 1988 alumnus Darren Prince, a renowned sports and celebrity agent, speak about how his journey of overcoming addiction led to him to share his message of hope, strength and recovery through his internationally best-selling memoir and public forums like the one held at his alma mater.
Inspired by Prince’s novel, “Aiming High: How a Prominent Sports and Celebrity Agent Hit Bottom at the Top,” the Livingston Vision 20/20 collaborated with the Livingston Municipal Alliance Committee (LMAC) and Healthy Community, Healthy Youth (HCHY) to host this community event.
“Livingston Vision 20/20 was pleased to organize the Darren Prince event and support LMAC and HCHY in their shared goal of educating our kids and community about living a healthy lifestyle and the detriments of illegal drug use,” said Mike Ramer, chair of Vision 20/20’s education subcommittee. “We are grateful Darren came back to his hometown to speak about his real experiences of addiction and his message of hope and recovery. To see children ask Darren questions and learn from his life lessons to never go down the path he did was priceless.”
Sasha Pailett Koff, chair of LMAC, said that when Ramer approached LMAC and HCHY about having one of Livingston’s own share his personal story with the idea that it could help prevent Livingston’s youth from following a similar path, both organizations “jumped at the opportunity.”
“We jumped because all too often, this topic of addiction and recovery is told through the lens of someone else’s problem: ‘it’s not in our town,’ ‘it’s not my friend,’ ‘it’s not my family,’” she said. “Our hope is that tonight’s program will help us break through these stereotypes—that by taking and seeking to deeply understand, we can prevent and help those around us.”
Koff noted that both LMAC, whose mission is to "focus on the prevention of the illegal use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in the home, school and community," and HCHY, a community organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of Livingston children, share a common goal of helping local youth thrive.
Alan Karpas, chair of HCHY, said he hopes the kids in attendance took something from this powerful presentation home with them “and that they pass it on to their friends.”
“Our aim with the Darren Prince event was to help our community learn through the eyes of one of its own and how we might leverage Darren's experiences to help prevent our youth from following a similar path,” said Koff. “By all accounts, this event achieved our objective."
At 14 years old, Prince started what became a multi-million dollar baseball card company, and by 25, he was a sports and entertainment agent working with big names like Magic Johnson, Pamela Anderson, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Chevy Chase and Muhammad Ali. “Aiming High,” which was published in October 2018 and named an international best-seller less than two months later, tells the inside story about his life as a celebrity and his “terrifying descent into drug addiction.”
Today, Prince believes his “real purpose” in life is to be an advocate for recovery by sharing his experience of strength and hope.
A little more than 30 years after graduating from LHS, Prince said it was “really a tremendous honor and a privilege for [him] to come back home.”
“I’ve spoken all over the country dozens and dozens of times over the last sixth months…but nothing is as special as coming back to Livingston where it all started for me.
“I look around and I see there’s a handful of teens in the crowd tonight and it’s hard not to think that more than 50 percent of you will misuse drugs and alcohol in these very years…I know this to be true because I was once that person. I would listen to somebody present just like me and say, ‘That would never happen to me.’
“But only 15 years ago, I was invited back here to speak to a senior class—the ‘big-time super agent,’ or whatever they wanted to call me—but I was broken; I felt worthless and I was high as a kite on opiates for that speech because at a very young age I didn’t ask for help.”
On behalf of all involved, Koff thanked Prince for accepting their invitation and for “having the courage to speak.” She also welcomed him back to Livingston after reading in his book that Prince “just wanted to come home.”
“May your story help us understand ourselves a little bit more, and may we talk about your story, reflect on it and use it to prevent our youth from travelling down the same path,” said Koff.
Click HERE to read more about Prince’s journey from LHS, to life as a celebrity agent, to recovering drug addict, to international best-selling author and prominent recovery advocate.