Chris Herren spoke at Stanley Street Treatment and Resources (SSTAR), Nov. 22 to a group of teenagers about the heroin/oxytocin addiction which led him from a $5 million NBA career to rock bottom in record time.
A six-foot-three point guard, Herren really started his career on the courts of Durfee High School where he drew the attention of several college recruiters. He played at Boston College and later moved on to Fresno State. His claim to fame were stints in the NBA where he played first for the Denver Nuggets, and later the Boston Celtics.
Injuries throughout his career diverted him from the court. He covertly (and often publicly) battled drug addiction including heroin and what he called the “gorilla on (his) back,” the prescription painkiller oxycodone.
Though Herren lost his golden ticket to the professional arena, he has become just as popular in his efforts to share the lessons he learned on the court. He trains and mentors young basketball players in his company Hoop Dreams with Chris Herren, Inc; and runs the Chris Herren Foundation, which provides funds for addicted individuals who want treatment but can’t pay for it.
He co-authored (with Bill Reynolds) the book Basketball Junkie; and shares his story in lecture halls across the country. Herren spoke at SSTAR last week, because the local facility started him on the path to sobriety.
“When I pulled in here tonight, I saw the lights of the (detox) building across the street and some strong memories came up. It was just a little over three years ago, that SSTAR opened its doors to me and my recovery,” Herren said.
Herren warned audience members about the dangers of starting bad habits young. Among these were teenagers enrolled in SSTAR’s Adolescent Community Treatment Program (ACT) which provides outpatient treatment to people aged 12-17 who are using or have used drugs or alcohol.
“I look at many of you in the audience now, and I see myself. When I was your age, at Durfee, and took my first hit of cocaine, I didn’t have any idea that the choices that I was making then would follow me throughout my life,” he said.
Herren told heart-wrenching stories which probably parallel the rise and fall stories of many ordinary people addicted to drugs and alcohol---with a few exotic details thrown in. Yet whether he was speaking about smuggling drugs into Bologna, Italy; or being spared arrest in Iran due to the kindness of a fan, a postal guard, who discreetly confiscated his package of drugs; he never loses sight of how this related to the people in the city he grew up in.
“My whole life everyone was telling me, you have to get out of Fall River, don’t go home, it is going to be your downfall. The irony was wherever I was in the world—China, Italy, Tehran, wherever I was, I could find drugs. Eventually I came to realize, Fall River wasn’t my downfall, I was my downfall,” Herren said.
The ACT program at SSTAR provides treatment to teenagers struggling with addiction. In addition to traditional substance abuse treatment the program incorporates family participation; and learning skills such as anger management and communication. Fees are sliding scale, but nobody is turned away if they can’t afford to pay. For more information about the ACT program call 508-558-2490.